(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. John E. Lee is the postmaster in Beaverton.)

The March 8 Valley Times Soapbox by postal employee and National Association of Letter Carrier member Peter Shapiro raised concerns over contracted mail delivery and suggested America's universal mail service could be threatened. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, contracted mail delivery has always been part of the overall delivery process. It is not new and individuals under contract to deliver mail do it just as well as our unionized employees.

Along with USPS employees, our contractors' dedication to excellence is helping us continue to improve the level of service we provide to our customers. Contractors already deliver mail in several communities in the metropolitan area, elsewhere in the state and throughout the nation. They are required to provide the same service - and do it just as well - as unionized USPS employees.

Contract mail delivery is being raised as an issue by the union now because the Postal Service is offering more contracts for residential delivery, primarily in new housing developments. Only new developments are being considered for contract delivery in the Portland area; no delivery routes currently handled by postal employees are being converted.

The decision to consider contracts is driven by cost and efficiency - and the Postal Service's contract with the NALC union expressly allows the use of contractors to deliver mail. As long as the mail service provided to our customers is the same or better, the Postal Service will make a decision based upon the best value. This helps us maintain postage rates that continue to be among the lowest in the world, without receiving a single tax dollar for our operations.

Contrary to Mr. Shapiro's assertion, contracts do not always go to the 'lowest bidder.' Contracts are awarded to those who demonstrate they can provide the expected high level of service. Also, contractors must pass a thorough screening process, ensuring that the privacy and security of the mail - so important to our customers - are maintained.

We are proud of the people who work for us, be they career or contract. They are all dedicated to providing quality customer service. As always, if a customer ever experiences a problem with mail delivery, we want to hear about it, just call 1-800-ASK-USPS or visit your local Post Office.

The accomplishments of the U.S. Postal Service over the past two centuries provide a foundation for our continued success in offering universal service across this great nation. Contractors have played an important role in that proud tradition and will continue to do so in the future.

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