U.S. Postal Service:

Information on Centralized Procurement of Uniforms

GGD-98-58R: Published: Jan 28, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 28, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Postal Service's (USPS) planned change from a decentralized system for procuring postal uniforms to a centralized system, focusing on the: (1) requirements USPS plans to impose on contractors to ensure that uniforms are made with American materials and labor; (2) requirements USPS plans to impose on contractors with regard to standards for working conditions and wages; (3) mechanisms that USPS plans to use to ensure that the requirements for materials and labor, and the standards for working conditions and wages, are met; (4) anticipated number of contractors USPS plans to use under the centralized purchasing program; (5) anticipated savings from centralized purchasing; (6) potential impact on current retail vendors; and (7) extent of USPS coordination with the Small Business Administration and the Department of Commerce to minimize the impact on current vendors.

GAO noted that: (1) according to USPS, the new Centralized Uniform Purchasing program will require that contractors produce postal uniforms exclusively using American materials and labor; (2) in addition, contractors will be required to adhere to the Apparel Industry Partnership's "Work Place Code of Conduct", which is designed to ensure that goods are not produced under sweatshop conditions; (3) to ensure that contractors follow these requirements, USPS is planning several monitoring efforts, including contracting with an independent third party to oversee contractors' operations; (4) USPS anticipates that, under the new Centralized Uniform Purchasing program, the number of retail vendors selling postal uniforms will be reduced from more than 800 to 6 or fewer; (5) USPS estimates that centralized uniform purchasing could result in savings of about $13 million to $17 million annually; (6) however, according to the Secretary for the Board of Governors, the Board's decision to move forward with centralized uniform purchasing was not based on anticipated savings, but rather on the need to comply with existing memorandums of understanding with postal unions; (7) USPS has not studied the potential impact of its new Centralized Uniform Purchasing program on current retail vendors, nor has it contacted the Small Business Administration or the Department of Commerce about its plans to move the centralized purchasing; and (8) however, USPS has met with the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors, which represents some of the current retail vendors, in an effort to address their concerns about USPS' planned move to centralized purchasing.

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