Over the past couple of weeks, numerous local news outlets around the country have published op-ed pieces and "letters to the editor" written by District Managers of the Postal Service. The writers argue that Congress needs to give the Postal Service more freedom to act like a business so that it can return to profitability. They advocate going to five-day delivery, allowing the Postal Service to more effectively manage its health care and retirement systems, optimizing the processing and delivery network, and replacing brick-and-mortar post office with postal transactions in gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies.
The interesting thing about these opinion pieces is that, with a few minor variations, they are all the same — word for word. Fifteen District Managers submitted the same editorial to their local newspaper, signed with his or her own name, even though the piece was written by some unnamed person in postal headquarters. A few of the authors took the time to move the paragraphs around or to add a sentence or two of their own, but by and large, it's the same piece, over and over again. (Update: Make that twenty-eight DMs.)
It’s no surprise that District Managers would be handing out the company line like that. They do it all the time at public meetings about post office closings. But putting your name on an editorial that someone else wrote seems odd, to say the least. One wonders how many of those Op-Ed-page editors would have published the piece if they knew that it was written not by a respected USPS executive living in the area served by the newspaper but by an anonymous person in Washington, DC.
It’s sad to see that postal headquarters did not trust its District Managers to express their own thoughts about what’s going on. Was there really a risk that they would go off message or say the wrong thing? Couldn’t these highly paid managers (a DM gets about $170,000 a year) write their own editorials?
If the postal propaganda machine is this clumsy about putting out a message, it makes one question whether they can get anything right. Doesn’t the Postal Service have enough credibility problems already?
A couple of months ago the Postal Service issued a new "Social Media Policy" that limits the freedom of employees to express themselves on sites like Facebook and “Save the Post Office.” These guidelines have had a chilling effect and made it very difficult for postal workers to say what’s on their minds. Now it turns out even District Managers aren’t allowed to speak their minds.
The message from Headquarters to postal employees is clear: Say what we tell you to say, or keep quiet.
That might be fine if the Postal Service were a private corporation, but it’s not. It’s an agency of the United States government, and everyone — including postal workers — ought to be able to express themselves freely and to criticize the government and its agencies if they want to.
Here’s a partial list of the editorials that have appeared over the past couple of weeks. If you know one that we missed, hit the contact link at the top and we’ll add it to the list. It would be interesting to see how many of the country’s seventy District Managers submitted one of these “opinion” pieces. (Thanks to helpful readers, the original count of 15 is up to 28.)
“Congress must allow Postal Service flexibility,” KeysNet.com, by Jeffrey Becker, South Florida senior plant manager
"Postal Service Changing but Cannot Stand Alone," Potomac Local.com, by John Budzynski, District Manager, Northern Virginia
“More flexible model needed to serve nation’s needs,” BuffaloNews.com (also in Tonawanda News and Dunkirk Observer), by Kathleen Burns, District Manager, Western New York
"Take Off Handcuffs," NWA online, by David Camp, District Manager, Arkansas
"Postal Service has to change with times," AlbanyHerald.com, by Eric D. Chavez, District Manager, North Florida
“U.S. Postal Service Says Congressional Action Needed to Ensure Its Survival,” Collingswood Patch, by Joshua D. Colin, District Manager, South Jersey (this one is more unique than the others)
"If Postal Service gets freedom, it can gain financial stability," al.com, by Timothy R. Costello, acting District Manager, Alabama District
"Postal Service needs greater flexibility for the New Year," Asheville Citizen Times, by Angela Curtis, District Manager, Mid-Carolinas
“Op-Ed: Give the Post Office Flexibility,” San Rafael Patch (also in Burlingame Patch and MenloPark Patch) by Rosemarie Fernandez, District Manager, San Francisco
“Guest Column: U.S. Postal Service makes its case,” Times-Herald.com (also in Cleveland.com), by Michael S. Furey, acting District Manager, Customer Service and Sales, Atlanta District
“Reforms would give Postal Service flexibility,” MansfieldNewsJournal.com, by Todd Hawkins, District Manager, Northern Ohio
"Mail service needs flexibility," YumaSun.com, by Lawrence K. James, District Manager, Arizona
"Letters: Postal Service," Sign On San Diego, by Dallas W. Keck, District Manager, San Diego
“Opinion: U.S. Postal Service must modernize its business model to survive,” N.J.com (also in the DailyJournal.com and TomsRiver Patch), by Thomas F. Kelley, acting District Manager, South Jersey Postal District
“Give U.S. Postal Service more business freedom,” thesouthern.com, by David F. Martin, District Manager, Gateway District
"Grant postal service flexibililty to fulfill vital national function," thetimes-tribune.com (also in yorkdispatch.com, pennlive.com), by Kevin McAdams, District Manager, Central Pennsylvania District
“Paying for postal service,” Opinion.Salt Lake Tribune, by Ken S. McArthur, District Manager, Salt Lake
“Remove Postal Service restraints,” AtoonaMirror.com, by Charles P. McCreadie, District Manager, Western Pennsylvania
"Postal Service needs greater flexibiliy," Rockford Register Star, by Charles Miller, District Manager, Lakeland District
"USPS must adapt," San Marcos Daily Record, by William J. Mitchell, Acting District Manager, Rio Grande District
“USPS sends its Christmas wish to Congress,” Herald News (also in GreenwichTime.com, ctpost.com, and stamfordadvocate.com), by Kimberly J. Peters, District Manager, Connecticut Valley District
"The Postal Service still has great value," HollandSentinel.com, by Nancy Rettinhouse, manager, Greater Michigan District
"U.S. Postal Service's challenge ahead," Stardem.com, by William L. Ridenour, District Manager, Baltimore
“Postal Service needs freedom to thrive,” redding.com, by Al Santos, District Manager, Sacramento district
“Remove Postal Service's constraints,” Guampdn.com (also in Maui News) by Frank Santos, acting District Manager, Honolulu District
"Stable Postal Service Can Adapt to Change," Kokomo Tribune (also South Bend Tribune and News Sentinel and Post-Trbune), by Lynn Smith, District Manager, Greater Indiana District
“Postal Service Must Be Allowed to Run Like a Business to Survive,” FedSmith.com, by Kelvin Williams, District Manager, Capital District
“Postal service needs to be lean and mean,” Star-Telegram, by Pat W. Williams, acting District Manager, Fort Worth District
"Postal Service needs flexibility to achieve financial stability," Cal Coast News.com, by Kerry Wolny, District Manage, Sierra Coastal District
(Image credits: Uncle Sam; Write what you're told; Groupthink cartoon)