Duluth mail center to close this spring

USPSThe United States Postal Service is planning to close the mail sorting center in Duluth, Minnesota, on April 18. This according to a Dec. 10 Brady Slater story in the Duluth News Tribune.

Duluth’s closing will be followed by similar closings in Bemidji, St. Cloud and Mankato on July 11, 2015. Mail in those centers will be processed in Minneapolis. All told, there will be 81 facility closings across the country, after the 141 closings that already have occurred as part of the USPS’s “network rationalization” that was first announced in 2011.

The story came to my mind as we prepared our Christmas cards this year. I don’t know how many people my age or younger still send Christmas cards. It feels like we get fewer every year, though that could just be our personalities. Anyway, we’re usually late, because kids, and we’re late again this year. Used to be you could count on a day or two for all the locals, two or three for the metros, and three or four for the cross-countries.

What the closure of the Duluth mail sorting center will do is add  full day or two to that equation. Not a big deal for some things, but certain aspects of small time commerce or freelance work will be affected.

The Duluth facility will stay open as a post office and transportation hub, and the workers affected will be offered transfers. But we see a clear pattern away from what the federal postal service once did toward something else. Only public support for a new direction will avert what seems to be eventual privatization of services, which will come with loss of service to anyone and anything that isn’t profitable.


  1. It comes from a steady push by conservatives in Congress — without any pushback from the White House — to run down the post office in favor of private services like UPS and FedEx, both of whom are big campaign donors. The longer-than-lifetime prefunding requirement of pensions, something not found in even the most cautiously managed private sector companies, was the vehicle to manufacture a crisis at the post office, and now that unrealistic burden is forcing the post office to run down its service. Worse yet, the prefunding pool is not firewalled from the rest of the federal budget; in effect, Congress is using USPS pensions and indirectly service cuts to cross-subsdize borrowing for unrelated government programs and also tax cuts. This manipulation of the pensions started with Republican legislation in the mid 1990s that broke the Post Office’s independent pension plan under the premise that the Internet would wipe the USPS out (it has, in fact, helped it, by legitimizing mail order), and then has continued with the 2006 “reform” that has put us in the current bind. It’s all the more blatant because, prior to the 1990s, the Post Office consistently lost money; since the 1990s it has made a profit on operations, despite Internet competition (or rather because of what the Internet has done to make mail order actually work). The USPS’s troubles are entirely due to conservative games being played with the pensions and with peoples’ jobs.

    The end game is a world in which we are forced to forgo 50-cent postage and sub $5 shipping through USPS in favor of $15-$20 shipping from FedEx and UPS. Is that what we really want, especially in an Internet, mail-order world?

  2. DB: I made several of the same comments to my mail carrier a while back (though not in such granular detail). He was gratified and surprised that anyone knew that side of the story. “Portland, Maine to Honolulu for 49 cents? What private company will provide that?”

    A real cynic might say the Post Office must be run into the ground precisely because it works so well. After all, it’s a rebuke to free-market ideology, according to which the government can’t be relied upon to do anything well.

  3. Yes..the reason private companies are sending mail for $5 when the USPS is sending it for pennies is because it costs $5 to do so!!

    However, it’s not the postal workers fault. The DFL’ers in the US Congress won’t let the USPS raise rates and eliminate Saturday deliveries (which us, the customer, wouldn’t care….it’s a “keep people working for no reason thing”).

    When government won’t allow it to be run like a business should be run, it’s no wonder it’s not only broke, but a $100 billion in the hole! Another dinosaur, social program being crushed slowly, painfully by it’s own weight.

    Associated Press March, 2014 – “The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) currently owes $99.8 billion in benefit payments to its current and retired workers but does not have the money. “At the end of fiscal year 2013,” said the GAO, “USPS had about $100 billion in unfunded liabilities: $85 billion in unfunded liabilities for benefits, including retiree-health, pension, and workers’ compensation liabilities, and $15 billion in outstanding debt to the U.S. Treasury—the statutory limit”.

  4. But no worries mate!
    We the taxpayer will bail you out…as we all slowly sink together.

  5. The USPS financial crisis did not need to happen this way. USPS is not broke.

    USPS was turned into an independent federal agency in 1971 operating more like a business receiving no government subsidies overseen by House Government Reform Committee and a board of governors. IOW, unless a taxpayer uses the post office in any way, it doesn’t cost that taxpayer anything, only his own gas money to deliver his letters, packages himself.

    By the 2000’s, GAO report USPS had been over funding it’s retiree pension fund, Civil Service Retirement System, possibly by as much as $100 billion. 2003 Congress passed act reducing payments to CSRS. USPS paid off over $3 billion in loans for operation expenses, capital improvements from Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank in just 3 years. Thereafter, Congress directed portion of pension savings go toward creating fund for anticipated retiree health benefits, moving from a year-to-year system to pension-like system.

    Prefunding typically is done over decades. 2006 Senate bill stipulated prefunding over 40 years to 2046. However, the Bush administration insisted the PAEA, Postal Accountability Act, be “budget neutral”. USPS preferred using all pension over-payment savings to prefund health benefits, $40 to $50 billion, over decades but the Bush got it’s way for this to be done in only 10 years.

    Pre-funding 75 years of future retiree health benefits in only 10 years burdens USPS-$5.5 billion a year-is responsible for all financial losses posted by USPS since Oct 2012. Without pre-funding USPS would have made a $623 million profit last year and USPS estimates it will make more than $1 billion profit this year. USPS made combined profit of $9 billion from 2003 to 2006 before pre-funding mandate.

    Pre-funding needs to stop. USPS health benefit fund has enough money, some $50 billion, in it now. This alone would restore profitability to USPS.

    USPS and all Americans would benefit from USPS offering more consumer products and services such as notarizing or making copies of documents, cash checks, sell fishing licenses, greeting cards, office products, e-pay bill service, WIFI/public computer access and more. However, Congress banned USPS from doing any of these investments in 2006.

    I hear the postal office should act “more like a business” but no private business would pre-fund for 75 years employees not yet born nor would private business not take full advantage of offering profitable products and services to their customers. USPS is now prevented from acting like a business.

    USPS is a unmatched bargain, truly an American treasure. I have never been unhappy with USPS aside from the rare inept mail carrier. Stamps do go up in price but still a bargain, IMO. I don’t ever remember anything I mailed not getting to it’s destination in a timely way. I have even gotten a neatly plastic wrapped letter that was mutilated in en-route. It was clear that some postal worker(s) along the way made the effort to decipher what was left of my address so it could be delivered to me. I know senior citizens who know exactly what day they will receive pension checks or prescribed medications that they rely on. Closing mail sorting hubs will delay our mail and certainly cause a lot of inconvenience and stress to many senior citizens and rural residents. I did not realize that USPS made a point of hiring veterans estimated up to 25% of workers meaning many vets are unemployed when post offices and mail sorting hubs close.

    This has been a totally manufactured and unnecessary crisis. USPS ability to deliver quickly, cheaply, efficiently to even far flung areas of the country is amazing and invaluable to us. USPS could be even more valuable to our communities if their hands were not tied.

    Call your representatives and tell them to save our post offices. Stop the pre-funding and allow USPS to add more services.

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