Two days after more than 300 people packed Sen. Bernie Sanders' town meeting in Montpelier, Vt., on how to save the U.S. Postal Service, the senator brought Vermonters' concerns directly to the Senate floor.
Sanders spoke about how legislation he was introducing would help the postal service thrive in the 21st century. His plan allows the postal service to adapt to the digital age, in part, by changing the law to allow post offices to develop innovative business plans to offer new services. The changes would prevent the need for drastic cutbacks in service or massive layoffs. Some of the new services embedded at post offices throughout the country could include photocopying and print services, having documents notarized, getting hunting and fishing licenses quickly and easily, and giving people the ability to have a printed copy of an e-mail delivered to a home address the same day it is sent.
Sanders called last weekend's town meeting at Montpelier High School in response to Postal Service proposals to end Saturday deliveries, lay off 120,000 employees, close almost 3,700 post offices -- including 15 in Vermont -- and close 300 mail processing centers, including two in Vermont. Vermonters who filled all of the seats and lined the hall outside the Montpelier High School cafeteria said the post office is essential in rural communities. "Look at the people here today," said Bill Creamer of Bradford, Vt. who has worked for the post office for 24 years. "Senator, you take this back to Washington, Vermonters want their Postal Service."
This week in Washington, Sanders introduced his legislation which allows the Postal Service to resolve its financial woes without resorting to drastic cutbacks in service and massive layoffs. Sanders blamed the Postal Service's money troubles largely on accounting issues, including a law requiring it to set aside retiree health and retirement benefits far in advance. Sanders also criticized Postal Service management for not focusing on smarter ways to solve their financial problems.
"Our goal must be to make the post office smarter and more competitive. We should not be engaged in a series of actions which could eventually lead to the destruction of the Postal Service," Sanders said. "In the midst of this horrendous recession, the last thing this country needs is to lose another 100,000 workers."