Postal unions blast two "rescue" bills


WASHINGTON - The Letter Carriers and the Postal Workers are blasting both Postal Service "rescue" bills - one a highly partisan document crafted by House Republicans, the other a bipartisan draft from four senators - as deeply flawed legislation that would actually come close to killing the Postal Service.

As a result, NALC is passing around petitions at post offices nationwide to get postal service users to halt the legislation, while APWU has launched a call-in campaign and provided a list of potential allies in saving the Postal Service. Both unions are also strongly opposing the measures on Capitol Hill, while offering alternatives to help the Postal Service regain its financial footing.

At issue are two congressional proposals to aid the Postal Service, which may be considered by the end of this year. USPS managers say it is running out of money. USPS wants to solve its problems by eliminating 100,000 jobs through attrition, firing 120,000 workers - it needs lawmakers' OK to override union contracts for that -- closing 3,700 post offices and distribution centers and eliminating Saturday service.

The Postal Service lost $5 billion in the year that ended Sept. 30, after an $8 billion loss the year before. It also must make a $5.5 billion mandatory pre-payment of future retirees' health care premiums by the end of this month, and says it can't.

The GOP-run House Government Reform Committee, which oversees the agency, approved its legislation on a party-line vote in mid-October. The four Senate leaders of the Government Operations Committee unveiled their legislation just after.

Both measures drew the ire of both NALC President Fredric Rolando and APWU President Cliff Guffey. Both concede the Senate bill has some positive provisions, but on balance it's still a bad bill that doesn't solve the financial/health care problem. And Rolando says the House GOP measure, by committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is so ideological that it would destroy tens of thousands of jobs - and not just at USPS.

"Rather than address the postal crisis caused by the pre-funding mandate, the Issa bill seeks to exploit the crisis to advance anti-worker ideological goals. Radically downsizing the government and gutting the collective-bargaining rights of hard-working postal employees appear to be the main goals of the legislation," he said.

"Unfortunately, by destroying the hub of a $1.3 trillion industry that employs 7.5 million private-sector workers, HR2309" - Issa's postal bill - "may be the most anti-business bill taken up by Congress in years. Slashing service and forcing a massive round of post office closings would seriously damage the printing, publishing, paper, and financial services industries. At a time of massive unemployment, HR 2309 would mandate, not just lead to, the destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs," Rolando declared. And the unions blasted an Issa provision to appoint a "receiver" to take over the Postal Service if it couldn't pay its bills in any 30-day period. The receiver could trash virtually anything he wanted, including the union contracts and workers' jobs.

Both union leaders were also caustic about the Senate bill by committee chairman Joseph Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., and top Republican Susan Collins of Maine. Rolando called it "a job-killing bill that will dismantle the Postal Service." But its bipartisan backing gives that Senate bill a better chance of congressional passage.

The Lieberman-Collins bill, S1789, "would give the USPS short-term financial relief, but it also would force the agency to dismantle its retail and mail-processing network," said Guffey. And an NALC fact sheet added S1789 would tilt arbitration over agency-union contract issues in favor of management.

"Mail will be delayed as a result of the elimination of hundreds of mail processing facilities and thousands of post offices, stations, and branches," Guffey added. Both unions noted S1789 would let USPS kill Saturday delivery in 2014 and service to an estimated 90 percent of customers' doors the next year.

Eliminating Saturday service kills 80,000 USPS delivery jobs alone, and thousands of other agency jobs, right in the middle of the Great Recession, NALC's fact sheet says. "These drastic cuts will severely damage the Postal Service. It will make the USPS less relevant and drive away customers," APWU's Guffey agreed.

"Unfortunately, even with S1789's proposed reduction in the level of pre-funding over several years, the Postal Service would be forced to slash services and eliminate jobs to cover its pre-funding costs. This would prioritize pre-funding over preserving decent middle-class jobs," preserving Saturday delivery, or both, NALC said.

"In fact, it would place the dubious need to pre-fund future health liabilities of workers not yet hired over the continued provision of high-quality, six-day mail service to the American people and to the businesses that employ them."

The two unions suggest alternatives to put USPS on a sound financial footing, including some provisions in the Senate bill: Taking off the cap on postal rates so that mailers - third-class bulk and junk mailers, though they did not say so - will pay their fair share of delivery costs, charging more for longer-distance mail, and letting the agency ship beer and wine through the mail and market other products, using its network of offices and routes. But most importantly, they advocate eliminating the health care pre-funding and also letting USPS draw on its drastically (at least $50 billion) over-funded pension plan to help see it through the recession.

Photo via Save America's Postal Service.

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  • REGARDING HR2309 are the videos I posted on You Tube

    HR2309 proposed by Representative Darrell Issa plans to have his bill heard in the House after elections

    Issa claims he is striving to save the USPS yet he is ignoring expenses that can be deleted without disrupting the service.
    #1. The Postal Accountable and Enhancement Act needs to be rescinded. In 2006 the PAEA signed by Bush, mandated that the USPS fund 75 years of retiree health benefits in 10. As the USPS was solvent before the PAEA (HR6407) was passed it stands to reason that the USPS would once again become solvent if this law was rescinded.
    #2. Overpayments of 50 to 75 Billion the USPS made to the Civil Service Retirement Service should be returned.
    #3. Overpayments the USPS made to FERS need to be retrieved.
    #4.The USPS needs to charge more for delivering UPS parcels to places UPS don’t.
    #5. Adjust the ratio of managers to workers .
    #6 Quit giving deep discounts to large businesses. . .Issa’s solution is to cut the workforce by at least 100,000, and make Postal Workers’ wages and benefits depend on a separate board when a contract isn’t agreed upon. This is a case where Issa’s cure would cause the death of the USPS as a public service and have it revived as a business with lower paid workers, higher rates and less service. .
    S1789, sponsored by Lieberman, passed in the Senate, but not in the House,would cut 100,000 jobs with the USPS when we don't need to have more unemployed workers. S1789 would decrease compensation for injured workers and end it for those over 65, when we don't need to take away compensation or lower compensation for injured workers. It would weaken the unions which promote a "living wage" at a time when we don't need to add more people to the "working poor", S1789 would close smaller post offices (some have already closed), and slow mail delivery by closing 200+ distribution centers.
    In 2006 Congress voted to have the USPS fund 75 years of retiree health benefits in 10 amounting to 5.5 Billion a year.
    Saddled with funding 5.5 Billion a year that had nothing to do with mail delivery, the USPS could no longer have it's revenue =costs as it had done until 2006.
    If this bill is passed or HR2309 the USPS will end up virtually privatized with lower wages and benefits for its ’workers, a scaled down and overworked workforce, more mail services contracted out, less services for the public including curbside service in place of home delivery.
    This is how the Post Office could end up privatized if HR2309 were passed.
    Management is replaced if they cannot successfully restructure Postal Service finances when the Postal Service fails to pay its bills for more than 30 days, a receivership-style authority takes over for USPS management with an explicit mandate to cut costs while maintaining universal service.

    Posted by Paula Martin, 09/25/2012 1:57pm (3 years ago)

  • It seems a contradiction to say a contract was agreed to when in fact the USPS intended to violate the contract with congressional intervention. Talk about bad faith bargaining.

    Posted by kerry coomer, 11/22/2011 11:44pm (4 years ago)

  • Does the pension really have 50 billion $ and if so, is it available in real cash. I remember reading that the quasi gov. agency didn't have to $ to actually fund the plan?

    thanks for the great artical

    Posted by Gabriel Falsetta, 11/19/2011 7:05pm (4 years ago)

  • Does the pension really have 50 billion $ and if so, is it available in real cash. I remember reading that the quasi gov. agency didn't have to $ to actually fund the plan?

    thanks for the great artical

    Posted by Gabriel Falsetta, 11/19/2011 7:04pm (4 years ago)

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