United States Postal Service

United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service Logo.svg
Logo used since 1993
USPS headquarters
Agency overview
FormedJuly 1, 1971 (1971-07-01)
Washington, D.C., U.S.[1]
Headquarters475 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, D.C. 20260-0004 U.S.
Employees644,124 (503,103 career, 141,021 non-career) as of 2017[2]
Agency executives
Key document
Revenue (2017)Decrease US$ 69.636 billion
Net income (2017)Decrease US$ (2.742) billion[3]
The full eagle logo, used in various versions from 1970 to 1993

The United States Postal Service (USPS; also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, or Postal Service) is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.

The USPS traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. The Post Office Department was created in 1792 from Franklin's operation. It was elevated to a cabinet-level department in 1872, and was transformed by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 into the United States Postal Service as an independent agency.[4]

The USPS as of 2017 has 644,124 active employees and operated 211,264 vehicles in 2014. This figure does not include the numerous vehicles and personnel used by contractors. The USPS is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world.[2] 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 now has to compete against private package delivery services, such as United Parcel Service, FedEx, and Amazon.[5]

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.[6] Since the 2006 all-time peak mail volume,[7] after which Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act[8] which mandated that $5.5 billion per year be paid to fully prefund employee retirement health benefits,[9] revenue dropped sharply due to recession-influenced[10] declining mail volume,[11] prompting the postal service to look to other sources of revenue while cutting costs to reduce its budget deficit.[12]


On March 18, 1970, postal workers in New York City—upset over low wages and poor working conditions, and emboldened by the Civil Rights Movement—organized a strike against the United States government. The strike initially involved postal workers in only New York City, but it eventually gained support of over 210,000 United States Post Office Department workers across the nation.[13] While the strike ended without any concessions from the Federal government, it did ultimately allow for postal worker unions and the government to negotiate a contract which gave the unions most of what they wanted, as well as the signing of the Postal Reorganization Act by President Richard Nixon on August 12, 1970. The Act replaced the cabinet-level Post Office Department with a new federal agency, the United States Postal Service,[14] and took effect on July 1, 1971.[15]

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