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Latest News - January 2015

January 6, 2015
Postmaster general hits unions on his way out
By: Joe Davidson

Like many other working-class people in Pittsburgh, Pat Donahoe could have ended up toiling in the steel mills that once thrived in the city. Instead, he listened to his Uncle Bob, who rousted the young Donahoe from bed to take a post-office employment test.  He got the job.

Forty years later, the onetime postal clerk is preparing to leave his position as postmaster general of the United States, a job he was appointed to in October 2010. He rose through the ranks to lead an organization that had $63 billion in 2013 revenue and has 630,000 workers, twice the population of his home town. His love for the U.S. Postal Service seems as great as his allegiance to Steel City, where his family remained as he commuted weekly to Washington.

His allegiance to colleagues in the rank-and-file postal workforce, however, appears very thin to those who represent it.  Just as the steel industry was hit by a changing economy, so was the Postal Service. Donahoe has tried, with some success, to steer it out of financial turmoil. But in the process, he has alienated his troops, according to their union representatives. To postal labor leaders, his proposals to put the Postal Service on a firm financial footing feel like a swift kick.

During a farewell address at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Donahoe, 59, urged everyone to take a long view of the Postal Service.  “When you have 40 years of perspective and you’re still working to get out of a tough fiscal crisis, you wonder about that young person who might join the Postal Service today,” he said. “What’s the organization going to look like in 10 or 20 years from now? How will we serve our customers in the future?”  While the future remains a question, the present is better than the Postal Service’s recent past. It had an operating profit of $1.4 billion in fiscal 2014, compared with $2.4 billion loss two years earlier.

But that improving fiscal picture does not translate to improving labor relations. Donahoe’s prescription for a rejuvenated Postal Service makes labor leaders sick. He accused the American Postal Workers Union, the largest USPS labor organization, of having a “nearsighted view” because it demonstrated against Staples stores providing postal services.   “Unfortunately, the APWU’s approach is to keep all transactions at the post office,” Donahoe said. “That’s not convenient for customers, especially in today’s world, and it’s not a smart strategy from a retail perspective for our business.”




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