By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The National Coalition for the Homeless is challenging the address requirement as discriminatory. The Washington, D.C.– based group argues that since there is no mandate that people who live in homes or work in offices register with and present identification to the Postal Service, people who live in the streets or in shelters should not be required to, either.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the new rules is the requirement that PMB holders inform their CMRA of their home address and telephone number. According to the form’s Privacy Act Statement, the Postal Service may disseminate this personal information to an "appropriate government agency, domestic or foreign, for law-enforcement purposes," to the Federal Records Center "for storage," to the Office of Management and Budget, and to labor organizations. And if the address will "be used for soliciting or doing business with the public," the address would be made available "to anyone."
Fear of easy access to personal data is especially acute for victims of domestic violence. That’s the reason Harvest Home, a shelter for battered women in Santa Monica, uses the Post-Tel Business Center as a mail drop for its clients. The haven’s secret location is unknown even to the CMRA. In a June Action Alert, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence said, "These unnecessary regulations make it more difficult for a battered woman to use a commercial postal box to keep her location confidential . . . The impact for domestic-violence victims is potentially fatal."
Agency spokesman Scherstrom dismisses such criticisms. "The whole reason for these changes was to protect the interests of the American public against fraud and other forms of mail crimes," he said. "This format for private mailboxes exactly parallels the existing one for public mailboxes. And I believe it’s going to work just as effectively for businesses that use private mailboxes as it has for public mailboxes, and it is pro-consumer."
But mail-service proprietors remain skeptical of the Postal Service’s motives. "I believe that these new regulations are anti-competitive," said Jewett of Santa Monica’s Post-Tel. CMRA owners contend that the post office is actually seeking to reclaim some of the business it lost to the private firms, and point to the timing of the regulations’ inception. In the summer of 1997, the independents united to fight a new post office packing service, Pack-and-Send, contending that the government agency had proposed illegally low rates. The Postal Rate Commission agreed and sent Pack-and-Send packing. The new CMRA regulations were first proposed that August. "Is that timing coincidental?" asked Jewett. "Many in our industry don’t think so."
Charmaine Fennie, president of the Napa-based, 2,300-member Associated Mail and Parcel Centers, and part of the Coalition Against Unfair UPS Competition, agrees. She attended a meeting June 23 between the coalition and Postal Service officials in Washington, D.C., in which the agency backed down on some of its new rules. "Right on the heels of Pack-and-Send’s demise, bingo, here comes crushing regulations,"she said. "We felt they were absolutely retaliatory."
CMRA owners like Jewett are also hopping mad at what they perceive to be a new intrusive attitude at the Postal Service. "When we have complained over the years about postal theft and asked for help, the postal inspector told us they had no right to come into our facility, that it wasn’t their jurisdiction," said an owner who claimed to be losing customers unwilling to bend to the new rules. "Now they intend to come in here twice a year, go through our private records and handle mail that has already been put into customers’ boxes. Do they have a right to do that? I don’t think so. Besides, when did the post office become law enforcement? Their job is to deliver the mail."