Emerson Kretzer delivers mail on most days, south and west of St. Joseph. Last week, he delivered a message in Washington.
The message, voiced firsthand to members of the Missouri congressional delegation, had to do with the future of the U.S. Postal Service.
“We’re trying to preserve six-day delivery and do something about the pre-funding (mandate), because that’s where the majority of the post office losses are,” said Mr. Kretzer, vice president of the state branch of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association.
The St. Joseph postal worker took part in a Capitol Hill lobbying effort that focused on preserving six-day mail delivery and gaining relief from a requirement to fund in advance future retiree health benefits.
The mandate passed Congress during a lame-duck session in December 2006 and requires an annual payment of $5.5 billion or more. The letter carriers call the obligation onerous and say its financial burden has weakened service to customers.
“Over the last six years, 80 percent of their losses are because of the $5.5 billion payment they’re having to make,” Mr. Kretzer said, noting that the law has the postal service making 75 years of payments in a 10-year period. “We’re trying to see if there is some way we can ease up on that and not have to pay it all at once.”
Mr. Kretzer took the association’s case to Missouri’s two senators and eight representatives. Among those visited was Sen. Claire McCaskill, who earlier this year stewarded a proposal in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee protecting rural post offices from closure.
“These post offices not only provide reliable, affordable service that always goes to the very last mile, but also are a source for good jobs and business opportunities throughout the state,” Ms. McCaskill said after meeting with the rural carriers.
She has also been an advocate for maintaining six-day delivery.
Making his second trip to Washington in the last two years, Mr. Kretzer said most of the delegation gave a willing ear to the association’s positions.
“They realize there’s a problem,” he said. “It just seems like nobody wants to be the first one to step forward.”