Postal worker Sukhwant Dhillon sorts mail at a processing center in San… (Justin Sullivan, Getty…)
Reporting from Washington — The U.S. Postal Service is considering shuttering more than 250 mail-processing facilities and downsizing its national transportation network, the first of what are likely to be major operational changes aimed at keeping mail delivery economically viable.
The steps outlined Thursday, which the Postal Service described as "sweeping," would probably end overnight delivery of first-class mail but save the cash-strapped organization $3 billion a year.
"We are forced to face a new reality today," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement.
Mail volume has dropped by more than 43 billion pieces over the last five years. Officials have said the Postal Service was heading toward a $10-billion net loss this fiscal year and was near its borrowing limit.
"Maintaining a vast national infrastructure is no longer realistic," Donahoe said.
The Postal Service already has closed nearly 200 facilities across the country and shed 110,000 employees through attrition. Fifteen of the 252 postal facilities being studied for closure are in California.
That, along with the additional steps outlined Thursday, would change the service standard for delivery of first-class mail, now one to three days, to two to three days.
Any changes to mail delivery must be approved by Congress. The Postal Service sent notice to the Federal Register earlier Thursday. Not included in the notice, but a measure officials have discussed, was ending Saturday mail delivery.
At a congressional hearing this month, Donahoe appealed to lawmakers for additional powers to make "radical" changes to the Postal Service. Labor costs in particular hamstring the institution, Donahoe told Congress. The Postal Service seeks to shed as many as 35,000 workers.
The American Postal Workers Union denounced the plan, which they said was made public without advance consultation.
"Degrading service is not the answer to the Postal Service's problems," union President Cliff Guffey said in a statement. "The Postal Service should be urging Congress to address the cause of its problems — not slashing service and demolishing its network."