SCOTT SIMON, host:
These days of budget shortfalls and service cuts, the U.S. Postal Service says it wants to end Saturday delivery service. The move is part of a comprehensive plan aimed at cutting costs and keeping pace in the modern world of FedEx, UPS, email and text messaging.
As we continue the NPR series on the post office, NPR's Mandalit del Barco gets the view from Los Angeles.
(Soundbite of dog barking)
Ms. REBECCA RENTERIA (Postal Service Employee): Good morning. Thank you.
Unidentified Woman: Good morning. Thank you.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Like letter carriers throughout the year, Rebecca Renteria is greeted each day by a chorus of human and furry friends.
(Soundbite of dog barking)
Ms. RENTERIA: I'm not scared of the dogs. I'm a cat lover.
(Soundbite of dogs barking)
(Soundbite of laughter)
DEL BARCO: As Renteria hands Victor Granadino a stack of letters and bills, he tells her her job isn't much different from when his father was a mailman a generation ago, except back then mail was delivered twice a day - in the morning and in the afternoon.
Granadino says the U.S. Postal Service is wrong to think about cutting out Saturday service.
Mr. VICTOR GRANADINO: I think we need our mail on Saturdays, especially for people who receive checks. Even if it's junk mail - I'm sorry to say that, but you know, it has to be delivered.
DEL BARCO: Across town, resident Bill Webb argues that people rely on Saturday deliveries for things like prescription drugs. He says many in his South L.A. neighborhood would miss their beloved mailman on the weekends.
Mr. BILL WEBB: I think it would hurt the senior citizens more than it would hurt young people. They have essential needs like Social Security checks, you know, things of that nature.
DEL BARCO: But the postmaster general says since 2007 the volume of mail nationwide is down by 20 percent - some of that due to the slow economy. There's less advertising and other business mail. And many people pay their bills online.
Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett says this year the Postal Service had a larger-than-expected loss of $8.5 billion.
Mr. JOSEPH CORBETT (U.S. Postal Service): Delivery cost is what makes up almost half of our entire cost, so over $30 billion a year. We're doing what we can to be efficient there, but what we really need to do is simply reduce the number of trips.
DEL BARCO: Another big cost is prefunding retiree benefits, which total $5.5 billion a year.
Mr. CORBETT: That's something that no other government agency and no other company, public company or private, in the world has a requirement of that magnitude.
DEL BARCO: The Postal Service was once the country's largest employer but now has fewer than 600,000 workers. The National Association of Letter Carriers argues that cutting Saturday delivery service would mean another 80,000 jobs lost. Frederic Rolando is the union's president.
Mr. FREDERIC ROLANDO (President, National Association of Letter Carriers): We think it's ridiculous to do anything to dismantle the delivery network that we have to 150 million addresses six days a week. One of our competitive edges is Saturday delivery.
DEL BARCO: Any change in the Postal Service requires an act of Congress. Rolando worries that communities would lose more than just their mail if Saturday service ends.
Mr. ROLANDO: Carriers are so familiar with the neighborhood and who belongs there and who doesn't or been the first on the scene of an accident or stop crime in neighborhoods, delivering babies, watching out for children. We check on the elderly.
DEL BARCO: But in this digital age, some people question the need for so-called snail mail.
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DEL BARCO: In this old episode of "Seinfeld," the character Kramer asks to cancel his postal service altogether.
(Soundbite of TV show, "Seinfeld")
Mr. WAYNE KNIGHT (Actor): (as Newman): Well, what about your bills?
Mr. MICHAEL RICHARDS (Actor): (as Kramer): The bank can pay them.
Mr. KNIGHT: (as Newman) The bank? What about your cards and letters?
Mr. RICHARDS (as Kramer): E-mail, telephones, fax machines, FedEx, telex, telegrams, holograms.
Mr. KNIGHT: (as Newman) All right, it's true. Of course nobody needs mail. What? You think you're so clever figuring that one out?
DEL BARCO: But someone has to deliver all those online purchases.
(Soundbite of cuckoo clock)
(Soundbite of rooster crowing)
DEL BARCO: Vic Bedrossian, who owns a small shop called Anytime in Culver City, says he relies on the postal service to sell clocks and watches.
Mr. VIC BEDROSSIAN (Owner, Anytime): If we have one less day to be able to ship and receive, that makes a huge difference when you're trying to satisfy your customer.
DEL BARCO: If it absolutely, positively has to be there on Saturdays, there are other options. But even the big guys, FedEx and UPS, sometimes depend on the Postal Service.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.
SIMON: And you can find out more on our series about the U.S. Postal Service at our website, NPR.org.
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SIMON: If it fits, it ships. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.