Wednesday is the deadline for negotiators at the U.S. Postal Service to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union, which represents nearly 200,000 workers, including clerks, mechanics and vehicle drivers.
The talks are unfolding against a bleak financial backdrop. USPS’s financial losses have moderated a bit recently, but it’s still very much in the red. It reported a $1.5 billion net loss in the second quarter of the year, compared to a $1.9 billion loss in the period a year earlier.
Its troubles date back at least a decade. The internet chipped away at one of its biggest moneymakers: first class mail.
“That mail has dried up and will continue to dry up as more people migrate to electronic payments,” says Jerry Hempstead, president of the shipping logistics company Hempstead Consulting. Hempstead says USPS has managed to get the internet to work in its favor in other ways; it now ships a lot of the stuff we buy online. But Hempstead says that revenue is not enough to offset some big costs.
“The elephant in the room is the requirement to pre-fund retiree health,” he says.
A 2006 law required that USPS pre-fund 75 years' worth of future-retiree health benefits. That can cost as much as $5.8 billion a year.
“They can’t do it. They missed the last four payments,” says management professor James S. O'Rourke at the University of Notre Dame.
O’Rourke believes the solutions to the Postal Service’s problems include privatizing its pension and health care plans and closing more post offices.
“The union workers simply won't agree to any of that,” he says. “And the Congress won't agree to save them.”
O'Rourke fears those groups will only come together in a crisis, like USPS running out of money to meet payroll.
Consumer complaints against airlines are way up. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, March saw a whopping 55 percent increase in angry fliers.
But airlines and airports are promising a better flight experience — at least on the ground. To make it happen, they’re pouring billions of dollars into technology.
Sunsea Shaw isn’t sold. All she wants is an easy journey home to Indiana. So she checked in online and printed her boarding pass before leaving home for Atlanta’s international airport.
“I thought it would save me time, so that way I can get through the check-in process quickly and then go on to security and catch my flight,” she says.
“I’m standing in line,” she says, with zero amusement in her voice.
The baggage-drop line is long and chaotic, but not necessarily out of the ordinary. Long lines and frustrated passengers have become synonymous with flying.
But potentially, developing technology could enable airports where “there’s [sic] no lines. You’re able to move through the process without having to stop and queue for anything,” says Jim Peters with airport tech company SITA.
He says future airports could operate like today’s Apple Store. Employees armed with wearables—like an Apple Watch—will walk around checking you in, sorting out your baggage and generally keep things moving.
Wearable tech will also help to manage airport staff, he says, “so if you’ve got too long of lines at one spot, then you could automatically shift staff around.” Peters says wearable devices can instantly alert staffers where they need to be and what they need to be doing.
Another emerging airport technology involves transmitting personalized information via beacons. “Beacons are literally data packets that can be delivered to a mobile device,” explains Roosevelt Council, C.F.O of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Council says beacons allow direct connections with a passengers’ smartphones or watches, giving them instant updates on gate changes, flight delays, or even a coupon for a neck pillow.
And it’s not just airports employing beacon technology. Airlines are, too. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is using beacons at its main hub to allow passengers to track their luggage. “We avoid that real ... deal killer and buzz killer, which is the lost bag,” says Rhonda Crawford, VP of E-commerce at Delta.
That's the portion of smartphone users 13-34 who use Snapchat, watching 2 billion videos every day. The company built its user base on self-destructing photos and videos, but its financial future is in video ads. Bloomberg has a rare interview with Snapchat's 24-year-old CEO Evan Spiegel, who says most of the company's competitors aren't serving young people as well as they could.14 soccer officials
That's how many have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of federal corruption. Seven FIFA officials were arrested early Wednesday morning in Zurich, Switzerland, as the organization prepared for its annual meeting. The New York Times has a profile of those involved in the charges.$18 billion
That's the portion of packaged food sales that have shifted from large to small companies from 2009 to 2014, AdAge reported. As consumer sentiment strays from "Big Food" toward fresher, organic, authentic products — no matter how healthy they are — corporations are pivoting as fast as they can to to win customers back. They're increasingly retooling flagship products and scooping up smaller companies, with mixed results.$1.5 billion
That's the net loss for the U.S. Postal Service in the second quarter of the year. That's down from the $1.9 billion loss from last year, but it still puts the organization very much in the red. We take a look at the contentious negotiations between the USPS and the American Postal Workers Union, as funding for the organization comes up short.1,114
Speaking of food, that's how many of Washington's 14,000 or so lobbying groups represent food suppliers on Capitol Hill. Seven of them represent the interests of the rice industry, while 35 push for dairy. We went to lunch with an expert to see just how many lobbyists are at the table with us.$3.2 billion
That's the worth of the coffee-drinking market in Australia. With its building coffee culture, the country has seen its coffee industry grow significantly over the last five years. And according to Bloomberg, they now consume more fresh beans per person than any other country.
For the first time in a White House race, the candidates will need a game plan for cyber policy for Day 1 in the Oval Office and will have some tough choices to make.
The six are officials with FIFA, soccer's international governing body. They are accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks over two decades.
The problem has gotten so bad that some doctors are pondering a "post-antibiotic world." The World Health Organization says countries need to boost surveillance for resistance and develop new drugs.
After becoming homeless and jobless following her transition to being a woman, Ruby Corado got her act together, and now helps others facing similar challenges. "We have a family here," she says.
Is paper just a curiosity of the nostalgic? It turns out that digital natives think paper works in tandem with our devices. Research agrees that old-school note taking offers benefits a screen can't.
The Cavaliers, making their second-ever trip to the finals in James' first season back with the team, will face the winner of the Golden State Warriors-Houston Rockets series.
The move sets up a showdown Wednesday with lawmakers in the state's unicameral legislature. A close vote is expected as lawmakers try to override the veto.
Most of the deaths have occurred in southern Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states. But high temperatures persist across much of the country of 1 billion people.
Analysts have noted that dividing districts based on eligible voters rather than total population would tend to shift representative power to localities with fewer children and fewer immigrants.
Perhaps no one did more to show us the human toll of the Great Depression than Lange, who was born on this day in 1895. Her photos of farm workers and others have become iconic of the era.
In this Vermont kindergarten, every Monday is "Forest Monday" a day that gets students out of the classroom and into nature.
The thieves used the data to file fraudulent tax returns. The IRS commissioner said less than $50 million had been successfully claimed from the agency.
Over 800 years before tea was known in the West, a Chinese master penned the The Classic of Tea. In it, he blends the practical with the spiritual and emphasizes rituals from cultivation to drinking.
The tropical virus has killed a man who returned to New Jersey from Liberia this month. But chances that he could have spread the disease are remote.
Flooding has disrupted life for many in the Lone Star State. Kellie Moore was at her bakery in Austin yesterday when the water levels began to rise.
"It was crazy," Moore told Kai Ryssdal. "I looked in the back room and I noticed that water was coming through the building ... [I] was trying to sop it up, but then it started coming into the kitchen and into the front of our showroom, and there was no way to stop the water."
Press the play button above to hear more of Kellie's story.
This story comes as, I guess you might say, a mea culpa for the aspersions I cast on millennials the other day.
Maybe this'll ring a bell:
I'm sharing this so I can tell you about what I saw on Buzzfeed today.
There's an extension for Chrome that will replace the word "millennials," wherever it pops up on line, with the words "snake people."
To see just how ubiquitous lobbying has become in Washington, I make an appointment for lunch with Lee Drutman. He's a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of "The Business of America is Lobbying."
He’s waiting for me at the buffet, and we're about to zero in on the food business: loading up our plates, then dissecting them to see which foods have lobbyists at the table.
Drutman pulls out a laptop with a list of lobbyists, and I tell him what’s on my plate, starting with beef.
“There’s 17 beef organizations here in Washington," Drutman says. "We’ve got the Center for Beef Excellence, U.S. Premium Beef, Beef Products Incorporated…”
You get the idea. Every single thing on our plates had somebody representing it on Capitol Hill. Sometimes lots of somebodies. For rice, seven associations. Ditto for shrimp.
Some of the trade associations are pretty obscure. Like the International Natural Sausage Casing Association, or the American Dehydrated Onion and Garlic Association.
I reach for a bag of chips, which reminds me: I interviewed the CEO of the Snack Food Association, Tom Dempsey, because I was wondering – what are all these food folks lobbying for? Turns out it’s stuff like labeling on packages, and the federal government’s new dietary guidelines.
“What the association does is tries to stay out in front of issues that may not impact the industry tomorrow but will impact it down the line,” says Dempsey.
Other food lobbyists are focused on some proposed new trade deals. There’s one with Europe that’s gotten the attention of the International Dairy Foods Association — Europe wants to trademark the names of certain cheeses. But there are 35 dairy lobby groups. I ask Dave Carlin, the Association’s chief lobbyist why there are so many.
“We have to tell our story," he tells me. "Because if we don’t tell our story nobody else will.”Nancy Marshall-Genzer & Tony Wagner/Marketplace
There’s an old saying in Washington: if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu, which brings me back to the buffet, with Lee Drutman.
We’ve started talking money. He says there are 1,114 different food lobbying organizations in Washington, spending about $130 million a year.
Drutman says all the registered lobbyists in town spend about $3 billion a year. I wondered when lobbying got to be such a big business. Drutman says the food folks started around the time of FDR’s New Deal, when a lot of agricultural subsidies were born.
“It caused a lot of people in the agricultural industry to pay attention to politics,” he says.
Drutman says corporations started lobbying more in the '70s and '80s, in the wake of increased government regulation. And it’s just kept growing. Now, lobbying kind of feeds on itself.
“Once companies and associations set up shop in Washington they rarely leave because they’ve hired lobbyists who can keep them interested in all the issues," says Drutman. "So once you start lobbying, you tend to keep lobbying, and there’s a self-reinforcing stickiness.”
Because you certainly don’t want to be the one who’s not at the table.