March 18 marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in postal history — the postal strike of 1970. The night before, postal workers in New York voted 1,555 to 1,055 to go out on strike in protest of a House committee vote to limit their wage increase that year to 5.4 percent on the heels of a 41 percent increase in Congress’s own pay. The wildcat strike and picketing were effective in shutting down postal operations in New York and quickly spread to about 30 other cities. Within days about 152,000 workers in 671 locations were on strike.
“Undercover Boss,” a CBS show that began airing in February, follows Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) as they go undercover to work primarily in lower-level positions in their own companies. Beyond its entertainment value, the episodes have exposed a significant disconnect between senior management and employees. While featured CEO’s have not recently, if ever, worked in entry-level positions in their companies; in contrast, the Postal Service has a proud history of promoting from within. Many of its current officers have carried mail, sold stamps, or worked in mail processing plants.
On March 2, Postmaster General John E. Potter presented a 10-year “action plan” to meet the challenges faced by the Postal Service as it encounters declining mail volumes combined with increasing overhead costs. The plan comes as a product of a yearlong study by the Postal Service and a number of leading consultants to identify and analyze over 50 different actions that could help counter the changing marketplace. The Postmaster General warned that if the Postal Service continues to operate as it is, it will run a cumulative debt of $238 billion over the next 10 years.