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Do Not Mail Initiatives -- Truth Outweighs Hype

May 2009 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
DEPENDING ON your point of view, the news out of San Francisco is either devastating or a continued call to arms in the battle against Do Not Mail proponents and their efforts at passing legislation at the state and federal levels.

On March 31, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a non-binding resolution urging both the California state legislature and the United States Congress to establish a Do Not Mail registry. That it was passed in San Francisco, the green epicenter of the world, should come as no shock. This is the same governing body that has repeatedly introduced legislation that would prohibit its downtown commercial buildings from leaving the lights on after hours—creating a darkened city skyline in the name of electricity conservation.

Reason for Concern

Regardless of how one views environmental extremism, there is little levity to be found in efforts to curtail advertising mail. Printers, mailers, advertisers, small businesses and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) would be severely impacted by the creation of a federal Do Not Mail registry, and any state-passed registry would certainly provide a gateway to a national effort. 

“The symbolism is probably more concerning that the actual resolution,” says Lisbeth Lyons, vice president of Government Affairs for Printing Industries of America. “We don’t expect to see a nationwide bill introduced by Congress anytime soon, but it’s always concerning when you see a state the size of California, with its reputation for progressive leadership when it comes to initiatives like this, get involved in Do Not Mail.”

The ability of the USPS, for one, to function as an ongoing, viable concern would become an open question. It recently shuttered six district offices, eliminated 1,400 mail processing supervisor and management positions, and offered early retirement to nearly 150,000 employees. In 2008, the USPS embarked on cost-cutting actions including a reduction in work hours by 50 million, salary and hiring freezes, and a minimum 15 percent reduction in authorized staffing levels at postal headquarters and area offices.

The USPS is looking at a loss of $6 billion for 2009, according to Postmaster General John Potter.

How dire is the USPS’ situation? Potter proposes reducing the number of delivery days to five, which would save an estimated $3.5 billion a year. This action is largely opposed in printing circles.

Still, rationalization will rear its head in some form or another. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia in March, Potter urged lawmakers to provide the USPS with flexibility in regard to mandated retiree health benefit payments. The H.R. 22 bill reversing the mandatory retiree funding requirement would save the USPS $2 billion.


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