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  • United States Postal Service

    United States Postal Service

    • United States Postal Service
      United States Postal Service Logo.svg
      Logo used since 1993
      Agency overview
      Formed July 1, 1971; 45 years ago (1971-07-01)
      Washington, D.C., U.S.
      Type Independent
      Headquarters 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW
      Washington, D.C. 20260-0004
      Employees 625,113 (493,381 career, 131,732 non-career) as of January 13, 2016
      Agency executives
      Key document
      Website www.USPS.com

      The United States Postal Service (USPS), (also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, or Postal Service), is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.

      The U.S. Mail traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, where Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. The Post Office Department was created in 1792 from Franklin's operation, elevated to a cabinet-level department in 1872, and transformed in 1971 into the U.S. Postal Service as an agency of the U.S. government.

      The USPS as of February 2015 has 617,254 active employees and operated 211,264 vehicles in 2014. The USPS is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world. The USPS is legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality. The USPS has exclusive access to letter boxes marked "U.S. Mail" and personal letterboxes in the United States, but still competes against private package delivery services, such as the United Parcel Service (UPS) and has part use with FedEx Express.

      Since the early 1980s, many of the direct tax subsidies to the Post Office (with the exception of subsidies for costs associated with the disabled and overseas voters) have been reduced or eliminated in favor of indirect subsidies, in addition to the advantages associated with a government-enforced monopoly on the delivery of first-class mail. Since the 2006 all-time peak mail volume, after which Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, (which mandated $5.5 billion per year to be paid into an account to fully prefund employee retirement health benefits, a requirement exceeding that of other government and private organizations ), revenue dropped sharply due to recession-influenced declining mail volume, prompting the postal service to look to other sources of revenue while cutting costs to reduce its budget deficit. The USPS lost $5.5 billion in fiscal year 2014 and $5.1 billion in 2015, and its revenue was $67.8 billion in 2014 and $68.9 billion in 2015.



      It is somewhat misleading to characterize the mailbox rule as a "monopoly," because the enforcement of 18 U.S.C. § 1725 leaves customers with ample alternative means of delivering their messages. Customers can deliver their messages either by paying postage, by placing messages on or under a door or a doormat, by using newspaper or non-postal boxes, by telephoning or emailing, by engaging in person-to-person delivery in public areas, by tacking or taping their notices on a door post, or by placing advertisements in local newspapers. These methods are comparable in efficacy to communication via the mailbox.
      The format of the address is as follows
      Line 1: Name of recipient
      Line 2: Street address or P.O. Box
      Line 3: City, State (ISO 3166-2:US code or APO/FPO code) and ZIP+4 code
      Example
      Clifford Clavin
      789 Beacon Street
      Boston MA 02186-1234
      • First, basic economics implies that rural customers are unlikely to be without service under competition; they would simply have to pay the true cost of delivery to them, which may or may not be lower than under monopoly.
      • Second, basic notions of fairness imply that the cross-subsidy should be eliminated. To the extent that people make choices about where they live, they should assume the costs of that decision.
      • Third, there is no reason why the government monopoly is necessary to ensure service to sparsely populated areas. The government could easily award competitive contracts to private firms for that service.
      • Fourth, early concerns that rural residents of the United States would somehow become isolated without federally subsidized mail delivery today are simply unfounded. ... Once both sender and receiver have access to a computer, the marginal cost of sending an electronic message is close to zero.
      • Stamps purchased online at usps.com, at a Post Office, from a stamp vending machine or "Automated Postal Center" which can also handle packages, or from a third party (such as a grocery store)
      • Pre-cancelled stamps for bulk mailings
      • Postal meter
      • Prepaid envelope
      • Shipping label purchased online and printed by the customer on standard paper (e.g. with Click-N-Ship, or via a third-party such as PayPal or Amazon shipping)
      • Priority Mail Express (Formerly Express Mail): Overnight delivery guaranteed to most locations
        • Sunday, holiday and 10:30 am delivery available for additional charge.
        • $100 insurance included.
        • Tracking included.
        • Flat Rate envelopes are available. Otherwise, pricing varies by weight and distance.
      • Priority Mail: Day specific delivery service ranging from 1–3 days depending on origin of shipment (not guaranteed)
        • As of January 27, 2013, tracking via Delivery Confirmation is now included on all Priority Mail shipments.
        • Flat Rate envelopes and boxes (various sizes) are available free from the Postal Store. Otherwise, pricing varies by weight, size and distance.
        • $50 insurance for retail/$100 insurance for commercial starting on July 28, 2013.
        • Tracking Included
      • First-Class Mail
        • 2-3 day delivery.
          • In most cases for letters and small packages.
        • Rate varies by size and weight, but not distance.
          • Postcards (5" × 3.5" × 0.007 to 6" × 4.25" × 0.016" [127 × 89 × 0.18 to 152 × 108 × 0.4 mm]): 33¢
          • Letters (up to 11.5" × 6.125" × 0.25", 3.5 oz [292 × 156 × 6.4 mm, 100 g]): 46¢ + 20¢ for each additional ounce
          • Large Envelope or Flat (up to 15" × 12" × 0.75", 13 oz [381 × 305 × 19 mm, 370 g]): 90¢ + 20¢ each additional ounce (28 g). Must be rectangular, uniformly thick, and not too rigid.
          • Package/Parcel (Up to 108 inches (270 cm) length plus girth, 13 ounces (370 g): $1.95 + 17¢ each additional ounce (28 g) over 3 ounces (84 g))
      • USPS Retail Ground (formerly Parcel Post)
        • Slowest but cheapest service for packages too large or heavy for First Class—uses surface transport.
        • 2–9 day service to contiguous U.S., 4–14 days internal to AK/HI/territories, 3–6 weeks between mainland and outlying areas (travels by ship).
        • Variable pricing by weight, size and distance.
        • Free forwarding if recipient has filed change-of-address form, or return if the item is undeliverable.
      • Media Mail—formerly "Book Rate"
        • Books and recorded media only.
        • No advertising.
        • Pricing by weight only.
        • Transit time similar to Parcel Post.
        • Cheaper than Parcel Post but only due to increased restrictions on package contents.
      • Library Mail
        • Similar to Media Mail, but cheaper and restricted to academic institutions, public libraries, museums, etc.
      • Sunday, holiday and 10:30 am delivery available for additional charge.
      • $100 insurance included.
      • Tracking included.
      • Flat Rate envelopes are available. Otherwise, pricing varies by weight and distance.
      • As of January 27, 2013, tracking via Delivery Confirmation is now included on all Priority Mail shipments.
      • Flat Rate envelopes and boxes (various sizes) are available free from the Postal Store. Otherwise, pricing varies by weight, size and distance.
      • $50 insurance for retail/$100 insurance for commercial starting on July 28, 2013.
      • Tracking Included
      • 2-3 day delivery.
        • In most cases for letters and small packages.
      • Rate varies by size and weight, but not distance.
        • Postcards (5" × 3.5" × 0.007 to 6" × 4.25" × 0.016" [127 × 89 × 0.18 to 152 × 108 × 0.4 mm]): 33¢
        • Letters (up to 11.5" × 6.125" × 0.25", 3.5 oz [292 × 156 × 6.4 mm, 100 g]): 46¢ + 20¢ for each additional ounce
        • Large Envelope or Flat (up to 15" × 12" × 0.75", 13 oz [381 × 305 × 19 mm, 370 g]): 90¢ + 20¢ each additional ounce (28 g). Must be rectangular, uniformly thick, and not too rigid.
        • Package/Parcel (Up to 108 inches (270 cm) length plus girth, 13 ounces (370 g): $1.95 + 17¢ each additional ounce (28 g) over 3 ounces (84 g))
      • In most cases for letters and small packages.
      • Postcards (5" × 3.5" × 0.007 to 6" × 4.25" × 0.016" [127 × 89 × 0.18 to 152 × 108 × 0.4 mm]): 33¢
      • Letters (up to 11.5" × 6.125" × 0.25", 3.5 oz [292 × 156 × 6.4 mm, 100 g]): 46¢ + 20¢ for each additional ounce
      • Large Envelope or Flat (up to 15" × 12" × 0.75", 13 oz [381 × 305 × 19 mm, 370 g]): 90¢ + 20¢ each additional ounce (28 g). Must be rectangular, uniformly thick, and not too rigid.
      • Package/Parcel (Up to 108 inches (270 cm) length plus girth, 13 ounces (370 g): $1.95 + 17¢ each additional ounce (28 g) over 3 ounces (84 g))
      • Slowest but cheapest service for packages too large or heavy for First Class—uses surface transport.
      • 2–9 day service to contiguous U.S., 4–14 days internal to AK/HI/territories, 3–6 weeks between mainland and outlying areas (travels by ship).
      • Variable pricing by weight, size and distance.
      • Free forwarding if recipient has filed change-of-address form, or return if the item is undeliverable.
      • Books and recorded media only.
      • No advertising.
      • Pricing by weight only.
      • Transit time similar to Parcel Post.
      • Cheaper than Parcel Post but only due to increased restrictions on package contents.
      • Similar to Media Mail, but cheaper and restricted to academic institutions, public libraries, museums, etc.
      • Minimum number of pieces
      • Weight limits
      • Ability for the USPS to process by machine
      • Addresses formatting standardized
      • USPS-readable barcode
      • Sorted by three-digit ZIP code prefix, five-digit ZIP code, ZIP+4, or 11-digit delivery point
      • Delivered in trays, bundles, or pallets partitioned by destination
      • Delivered directly to a regional Bulk Mail Center, destination SCF, or destination Post Office
      • Certification of mailing list accuracy and freshness (e.g. correct ZIP codes, purging of stale addresses, processing of change-of-address notifications)
      • Periodicals
      • Standard Mail (A)
        • Automation
        • Enhanced Carrier Route
        • Regular
      • Standard Mail (B)
        • Parcel Post
        • Bound Printed Matter – Cheaper than Media Mail, for advertising catalogs, phone books, etc. up to 15 lb
        • Special Standard Mail
        • Library Mail
        • Nonprofit
      • Automation
      • Enhanced Carrier Route
      • Regular
      • Parcel Post
      • Bound Printed Matter – Cheaper than Media Mail, for advertising catalogs, phone books, etc. up to 15 lb
      • Special Standard Mail
      • Library Mail
      • Nonprofit
      • Certificate of Mailing provides proof of the date a package was mailed.
      • Certified Mail provides proof of mailing, and a delivery record. Used for serving legal documents and for sending U.S. Government classified information, up to the "confidential" level.
      • Collect on Delivery (C.O.D.) allows merchants to offer customers an option to pay upon delivery, up to $1000. Includes insurance.
      • USPS Tracking provides proof of delivery to sorting facilities, local post office and destination, but no signature is required.
      • Insurance is shipping insurance against loss or damage for the value of the goods mailed. Amount of coverage can be specified, up to $5,000.
      • Registered Mail is used for highly valuable or irreplaceable items, and classified information up to the "secret" level. Registered mail is transported separately from other mail, in locked containers. Tracking is included and insurance up to $25,000 is available.
      • Restricted Delivery requires delivery to a specific person or their authorized agent, not just to a mailbox.
      • Return Receipt actively sends signature confirmation back to the sender by postcard or emailed PDF (as opposed to merely putting this information into the online tracking system).
      • Signature Confirmation requires a delivery signature, which is kept on file. The online tracking system displays the first initial and last name of the signatory.
      • Special Handling is for unusual items, like live animals.
      • Each associated state maintains its own government-run mail service for delivery to and pickup from retail customers.
      • The associated states are integrated into the USPS addressing and ZIP code system.
      • The USPS is responsible for transporting mail between the United States and the associated states, and between the individual states of the Federated States of Micronesia.
      • The associated states synchronize postal services and rates with the USPS.
      • The USPS treats mail to and from the associated states as domestic mail, (as of November 19, 2007, after a 23-month period of being treated as international mail). Incoming mail does require customs declarations because, like some U.S. territories, the associated states are outside the main customs territory of the United States.
      • A main post office (formerly known as a general post office) is the primary postal facility in a community.
      • A station or post office station is a postal facility that is not the main post office, but that is within the corporate limits of the community.
      • A branch or post office branch is a postal facility that is not the main post office and that is outside the corporate limits of the community.
      • A classified unit is a station or branch operated by USPS employees in a facility owned or leased by the USPS.
      • A contract postal unit (or CPU) is a station or branch operated by a contractor, typically in a store or other place of business.
      • A community post office (or CPO) is a contract postal unit providing services in a small community in which other types of post office facilities have been discontinued.
      • A finance unit is a station or branch that provides window services and accepts mail, but does not provide delivery.
      • A village post office (VPO) is an entity such as a local business or government center that provides postal services through a contract with the USPS. First introduced in 2011 as an integral part of the USPS plan to close low volume post offices, village post offices will fill the role of the post office within a zip code.
      • A processing and distribution center (P&DC, or processing and distribution facility, formerly known as a General Mail Facility) is a central mail facility that processes and dispatches incoming and outgoing mail to and from a designated service area (251 nationwide).
      • A sectional center facility (SCF) is a P&DC for a designated geographical area defined by one or more three-digit ZIP code prefixes.
      • An international service center (ISC) is an international mail processing facility. There are only five such USPS facilities in the United States, located in Chicago, New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
      • A network distribution center, formerly known as a bulk mail center (BMC), is a central mail facility that processes bulk rate parcels as the hub in a hub and spoke network.
      • An auxiliary sorting facility (ASF) is a central mail facility that processes bulk rate parcels as spokes in a hub and spoke network.
      • A remote encoding center (REC) is a facility at which clerks receive images of problem mail pieces (those with hard-to-read addresses, etc.) via secure Internet-type feeds and manually type the addresses they can decipher, using a special encoding protocol. The mail pieces are then sprayed with the correct addresses or are sorted for further handling according to the instructions given via encoding. The total number of RECs is down from 55 in 1998 to just 1 center in December 2016. The last REC is in Salt Lake City, Utah.
      • Regional Distribution Centers (RDCs), which will process all classes of parcels and bundles and serve as Surface Transfer Centers;
      • Local Processing Centers (LPCs), which will process single-piece letters and flats and cancel mail;
      • Destination Processing Centers (DPC), sort the mail for individual mail carriers;
      • Airport Transfer Centers (ATCs), which will serve as transfer points only; and
      • Remote Encoding Centers (RECs).
      • Mail carriers, also referred to as mailmen or letter carriers, prepare and deliver mail and parcels. They are divided into two categories: City Letter Carriers, who are represented by the NALC, and Rural Letter Carriers, who are represented by the NRLCA. City Carriers are paid hourly with automatic overtime paid after 8 hours or 40 hours a week of duty. City Carriers are required to work in any kind of weather, daylight or dark and carry three bundles of mail (letters in one hand, magazines in the other and advertisements in a mailbag) in addition to parcels up to a total of 70 lbs. Mail routes are outfitted with a number of scanpoints (mailbox barcodes) on random streets every 30 to 40 minutes apart to keep track of the Carriers' whereabouts up until the last 5 minutes of any given workday.
      • Rural carriers are under a form of salary called "evaluated hours", usually with overtime built into their pay. The evaluated hours are created by having all mail counted for a period of two or four weeks, and a formula used to create the set dollar amount they will be paid for each day worked until the next time the route is counted.
      • Mail handlers and processors, prepare, separate, load and unload mail and parcels, by delivery zipcode and station, for the clerks. They work almost exclusively at the plants or larger mail facilities now after having their duties excessed and reassigned to clerks in Post Offices and Station branches.
      • Clerks, have a dual function by design of where their assignment is. Window clerks directly handle customer service needs at the counter, sort box mail and also sort first class letters, standard and bulk-rate mail for the carriers on the work floor. Clerks may also work alongside mail handlers in large sorting facilities, outside of the public view, sorting mail. Data Conversion Operators, who encode address information at Remote Encoding Centers, are also members of the clerk craft. Mail handlers and Clerks are represented by the NPMHU and the APWU respectively.
      • Maintenance and custodians, who see to the overall operation and cleaning of mail sorting machines, work areas, public parking and general facility operations.
      • City Carrier Assistants. (CCA's) With the Das Arbitration award the designation of PTF City Carrier has been abolished. TE City Carriers will have the opportunity to become CCA's. A CCA is a non-career employee who is hired for a 360-day term, similar to what TE's had. CCA's earn annual leave. CCA's, unlike TE's do have a direct path to becoming career employees. When excess City Carrier positions exist the CCA in that work installation with the highest "relative standing" will be promoted to a career employee and be assigned to the vacant position.
      • Career, Part Time Flexible and Transitional employees (Career, PTF & TE) There are a variety of other non-managerial positions in such crafts as accounting, information technology, and the remote encoding center. These are under a different contract than plant workers or mail carriers.
      • In the film Miracle on 34th Street (1947), the identity of Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn) as the one and only "Santa Claus" was validated by a state court, based on the delivery of 21 bags of mail (famously carried into the courtroom) to the character in question. The contention was that it would have been illegal for the United States Post Office to deliver mail that was addressed to "Santa Claus" to the character "Kris Kringle" unless he were, in fact, the one and only Santa Claus. Judge Henry X. Harper (played by Gene Lockhart) ruled that since the US Government had demonstrated through the delivery of the bags of mail that Kris Kringle was Santa Claus, the State of New York did not have the authority to overrule that decision.
      • The novel Post Office (1971), written by poet and novelist Charles Bukowski, is a semi-autobiographical account of his life over the years as a mail carrier. Bukowski would, under duress, quit and years later return as a mail clerk. His personal account would detail the work at lengths as frustrating, menial, boring, and degrading.
      • The novel Waiting for the Earthquake (1977) by Lawrence Swaim is about the 1970 postal strike from the point of view of a young union official in a postal union. The Postal Inspectors plant an informer in his union, and the novel revolves around the fallout from this action, as well as the social chaos and racial tensions in American society in 1970.
      • David Brin's novel The Postman (1985) portrays the United States Postal Service and its returned services as a staple to revive the United States government in a post-apocalyptic world. It was adapted as a film starring Kevin Costner and Larenz Tate in 1997.
      • The comedy film Dear God (1996), starring Greg Kinnear and Laurie Metcalf, portrays a group of quirky postal workers in a dead letter office that handle letters addressed to the Easter Bunny, Elvis, and even God himself.
      • The Inspectors (1998) is a made for TV crime film about US Postal Inspectors and their exploits trying to catch a mailbomb suspect.
      • The Inspectors 2: A Shred of Evidence (2002) is a sequel to the 1998 made for TV crime film.
      • In 2015, The Inspectors, which depicts a group of postal inspectors investigating postal crimes, debuted on CBS. The series uses the USPIS seal and features messages and tips from the Chief Postal Inspector at the end of each episode.
      • Adelman, Joseph M. "'A Constitutional Conveyance of Intelligence, Public and Private': The Post Office, the Business of Printing, and the American Revolution," Enterprise & Society (2010) 11#4 pp 709–752. in Project MUSE
      • Fuller, Wayne. American Mail: Enlarger of the Common Life (1972)
      • Henkin, David M. The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America (2007) excerpt and text search
      • John, Richard R. Spreading the News: The American Postal System From Franklin to Morse (1998) excerpt and text search
      • Kielbowicz, Richard. "The Press, Post Office, and Flow of News in the Early Republic," Journal of the Early Republic (1983) 3: 255–80.
      • Kielbowicz, Richard. News in the Mail: The Press, Post Office, and Public Information, 1700-1860s (1989) excerpt and text search
      • Leonard, Devin (2016). Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service. Grove Press. ISBN . 
      • McCaleb, Walter Flavius. "The Organization of the Post-Office Department of the Confederacy," American Historical Review (1906) 12#1 pp. 66–74 in JSTOR
      • Musacco Ph.D, Stephen. "Beyond Going Postal: Shifting from Workplace Tragedies and Toxic Work Environments to a Safe and Healthy Organization", (2009) Booksurge Publishing, Book Trailer
      • Rich, Wesley Everett. The History of the United States Post Office to the Year 1829 (Harvard University Press, 1924)
      • Smith, William. "The Colonial Post-Office," American Historical Review (1916) 21#2 pp. 258–275 in JSTOR
      • White, Leonard D. The Federalists: A study in administrative history: 1789-1801 (1948), pp 173–98
      • White, Leonard D. The Jeffersonians: A study in administrative history: 1801-29 (1950), pp 299–335
      • White, Leonard D. The Jacksonians: A study in administrative history: 1829-61 (1954), pp 251–83
      • White, Leonard D. The Republican Era: A study in administrative history: 1869-1901 (1963), pp 257–77
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