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Pending Postal

Pending Postal Service Changes Could Delay Mail And Deliveries, Advocates Warn – NPR

Letter carrier Henrietta Dixon, a nearly 30-year veteran, sorts mail to be delivered before she sets out on her route in Philadelphia in May. Changes within the U.S. Postal Service could make some deliveries late.

Matt Rourke/AP


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Matt Rourke/AP

Letter carrier Henrietta Dixon, a nearly 30-year veteran, sorts mail to be delivered before she sets out on her route in Philadelphia in May. Changes within the U.S. Postal Service could make some deliveries late.

Matt Rourke/AP

On his first day on the job last month, new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy addressed the nearly half-million U.S. Postal Service career employees in a video message.

He talked of a “trajectory for success” and said that “we will focus on creating a viable operating model that ensures the Postal Service continues fulfilling its public service mission.”

That message has since been followed by a number of directives and orders that prompt some to wonder just what DeJoy has in mind for the agency, which dates back to the nation’s earliest days.

DeJoy, the nation’s 75th postmaster general — a line that stretches back to Benjamin Franklin — is a major donor to President Trump and other Republicans. He previously headed a North Carolina-based logistics company.

Managers have told postal workers that under DeJoy, the post office is about to embark on what’s been called a long-overdue “operational pivot.” It means that among other things, late-arriving mail will now be left behind by carriers and delivered the next day. Overtime will be eliminated.

Those moves upset some workers, who take seriously the unofficial motto of the Postal Service that holds: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” — a phrase from the Greek historian Herodotus chiseled into the granite of New York City’s general post office.

“There seems to be a sea change here,” says Philip Rubio, a history professor at North Carolina A&T State University and a former letter carrier. Rubio says DeJoy seems intent on making the Postal Service more of a business than a service.

“If they’re talking about delaying mail, if they’re talking about sending letter carriers out to the street, even if the truck is late, that means there’s a lot of first-class mail that’s going to be left on the workroom floor. And there’s an almost cavalier attitude about this,” Rubio says.

Louis DeJoy, pictured in 2017, became the nation’s 75th postmaster general last month. DeJoy’s plans for the Postal Service have generated controversy.

Kim Walker/AP


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Louis DeJoy, pictured in 2017, became the nation’s 75th postmaster general last month. DeJoy’s plans for the Postal Service have generated controversy.

Kim Walker/AP

Agency in difficulty

The Postal Service, which doesn’t receive any tax dollars for its operating expenses, has longstanding financial issues.

It reported a loss of nearly $9 billion last year. Some of that is due to a congressional mandate that the post office prepay the health care costs of retirees. Some of it is due to a years-long decline in the volume of first-class mail.

The coronavirus pandemic has also meant a reduction in some mail. But it also meant an increase in package shipping as people shop online from their homes. That has postponed an imminent cash crisis the Postal Service had predicted might strike earlier this summer.

Trump has frequently criticized the Postal Service, charging that it gives favorable deals to online retailers such as Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, another target of Trump’s ire.

Actually, a government study found, e-commerce package deliveries are profitable for the Postal Service — although not sufficient to offset the decline in other types of mail.

Now, shippers who use the Postal Service aren’t certain what the changes DeJoy is implementing will mean for their businesses.

Art Sackler is manager of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a group of companies that rely on the post office, including Amazon, Hallmark and others.

Voting By Mail Will Increase Dramatically This Year — And It Could Get Messy

“Having a potentially material change,” Sackler says, “without any kind of consultation is a disappointment and hopefully was just, you know, a mistake or a mix-up.”

Sackler says that “it looks as if what they’re proposing has the potential to delay mail,” and that the delayed mail will accumulate.

The unions representing Postal Service employees say they haven’t met with DeJoy or been consulted about the changes either.

Postal Service vs. “postal business”

Donna DeWitt at work at the U.S. post office for Isle au Haut, Maine, where she serves about 70 customers. Advocates worry about losing the service in becoming a business.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP


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Donna DeWitt at work at the U.S. post office for Isle au Haut, Maine, where she serves about 70 customers. Advocates worry about losing the service in becoming a business.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Mark Dimondstein, president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union, says the union is “absolutely opposed to any policies that just slow down the mail in the name of whatever the name is — cost cutting. In this case, it’s about service. It’s not the ‘United States postal business.’ It’s the United States Postal Service.”

Dimondstein says the changes could have real-world consequences, including, he says, delays in delivering medicine, census forms — and even mail-in ballots, adding the notion of leaving mail behind “runs counter to everything” postal workers believe.

One postal worker, who asked not to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak publicly, told NPR of a pharmaceutical company that had complained of delays in picking up its outgoing shipments.

Signed, Sealed, Undelivered: Thousands Of Mail-In Ballots Rejected For Tardiness

“I am sick to my stomach,” the worker said. “How can the United States Postal Service deny the pickup of outgoing mail for any customer — let alone a pharmaceutical company that is mailing medication?”

This worker said the Postal Service used to take pride that every piece of mail went out by the end of the day. Now, the worker says, that’s changed, adding: “It’s crazy.”

For its part, the Postal Service says it is developing a business plan “to ensure that we will be financially stable and able to continue to provide dependable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail and packages to all Americans as a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”

In addition, the Postal Service says that “by running operations on time and on schedule, we will enhance our ability to be sustainable so that we can continue to provide high-quality, reasonably priced service to all people and businesses in the country.”

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Pending sales

Pending home sales staged a historic rebound in May, meaning the worst may have already come for the real-estate market – MarketWatch

Economic Report

Contract signings rose by the largest percentage ever between April and May

The number of Americans who signed on the dotted line to purchase a home increased by a record amount between April and May.


Getty Images/iStockphoto

The numbers: After two consecutive months of decline, the index of pending home sales soared 44.3% in May as compared with April, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday.

The monthly increase was the largest ever since the National Association of Realtors started the index in January 2001. “This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings, and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said in the report. “This bounce back also speaks to how the housing sector could lead the way for a broader economic recovery.”

The index measures real-estate transactions for previously-owned homes where a contract was signed but the sale had not yet closed, benchmarked to contract-signing activity in 2001.

Compared with a year ago, contract signings were still down 5.1%, a sign of how steep the declines in March and April were given the record monthly increase in May.

What happened: Every region saw a monthly increase in pending home sales, led by the West (up 56%) and the Northeast (up 44%). Only the South saw a year-over-year uptick in contract signings.

With the improved outlook on home sales, Yun said the National Association of Realtors now expects existing-home sales to reach 4.93 million this year and new home sales to reach 690,000.

The big picture: The rebound in pending home sales means that there likely won’t be repeats of May’s significant downturn in existing-home sales for months to come.

Together with last week’s new home sales report for May, which also measures contract signings, it appears that home buyers are eager to re-enter the housing market. As such, the typically busy spring home-buying seasons appears to have been delayed for most buyers rather than foregone outright.

Research has shown that the job losses related to the coronavirus pandemic have largely occurred for lower-paid workers who are less likely to be home buyers, so the people looking to purchase a home have weathered the recession well to this point. And record-low mortgage rates are proving to be a major incentive.

Still, buyers will face trouble finding homes to buy. Sellers are still somewhat reluctant to list their homes because of concerns about the coronavirus and the economy. Before the pandemic began, the U.S. already saw a very short supply of homes for sale. For buyers in today’s market, that means they can expect more competition and higher prices for the properties that are available.

What they’re saying: “New home sales took a similar upward turn last week, but today’s pending data is a more important indicator of market activity since it covers existing homes which made up roughly 80 to 90 percent of sales in recent years. This move confirms that May closings could represent a low-point for home sales, with June and July numbers looking much better,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+2.32%

and the S&P 500
SPX,
+1.46%

were both up slightly in Monday morning trading on the heels of the housing data, despite a continued rise in COVID-19 cases.

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