Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service

8 .Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service

about 21 percent and the number of rural de
livery points increased by about 50 percent.
Even assuming that the 3 percent annual aver
age during the 1970's is an accurate measure,
this does not appear to be a realistic expecta
tion for the 1980's in view of the fact that most
productivity improvement from automation
and mechanization has already been realized.
Even the expanded ZIP code program, known
as ZIP + 4, would realize a total labor pro
ductivity improvement of only 2.3 percent, ac
cording to USPS estimates.
Taking these variables together, and assum
ing high but plausible EMS growth, OTA con
cluded that the USFS labor force requirement
in 2000 is most likely to be roughly 20 to 25
percent below the 1980 level. This result is pro
jected for the base case of 1.5 percent annual
labor productivity improvement and 2 percent
annual underlying mainstream growth, and
also for the cases of 3 percent productivity im
provement/3 percent mailstream growth, and
O-percent productivity improvement/1- percent
mainstream growth. Under all three of these
scenarios, the need for significant labor force
reductions is not likely to be felt until the late
1980's and early 1990's, but would increase
quite rapidly thereafter.
Whatever the level of reductions, they are
not likely to be spread evenly among all em

ployee groups. The post office clerks and mail
handlers group would be expected to be hit the
hardest, losing perhaps two fifths of their 1980
complement by 2000. Post office supervisors
and city delivery carriers could, by 2000, be
reduced by about one fifth and rural delivery
carriers by about one tenth of their 1980 com-
plements.
Whether or not these labor force reductions
could be handled through attrition depends
largely on future USPS retirement, quitting,
and new hire rates. But the uneven impact of
reductions on various employee groups makes
this unlikely. In addition, the uneven distribu
tion of minority employment among employee
groups raises the possibility that such reduc
tions may fall disproportionately on black and
perhaps other minority employment. For ex
ample, as of late 1978, the mail handlers,
whose employment would be reduced the
most, had one of the highest percentages of
black employment. Involuntary labor force re
ductions in this area, if needed, would likely
raise some difficult social and political issues.
Overall, the impact of labor force reductions
on promotion opportunities, upward mobility,
employee morale, and union contract negotia
tions could be significant. These areas warrant
further study.

Policy Implications

The OTA analysis indicates that, regardless
of what role USPS plays in Generation II elec
tronic mail, reductions in USPS delivered mail
volume due to diversion to Generation III
EMS and EFT could reach significant levels
by 2000. The threat to USPS delivered mail
could come even sooner if Generation III EMS
services (all electronic) develop faster than cur
rently anticipated, if the underlying growth
in the mainstream is less than the historical
average, or if diversion of second and third
class mail to alternative (nonelectronic) deliv
ery services increases significantly beyond cur
rent levels.

Although a USPS role in Generation II
EMS has the potential to provide a volume
and revenue "cushion" to partially offset re
ductions in conventional mail volume and rev
enue, there is little consensus among USPS
and major stakeholders on exactly what the
USPS role should be in the provision of Gen
eration II EMS.
The market penetration results indicate that
USPS delivered mail volume (conventional
mail plus Generation II EMS hardcopy out
put) is one key factor in considering a USPS
role in Generation II EMS. USPS delivered
volume is a function in part of the rate of

United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc39480/. Accessed July 26, 2014.