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USPS Unions Submit Letter To Senator Reid Over Sen Carper’s Postal Reform (S1486)

Today, the presidents of the four postal employee unions—the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union—sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “to express our utter dismay with the introduction of S. 1486 on August 1,” a postal bill introduced by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) that “renews a commitment to the disastrous Bush administration policy to mandate massive pre-funding of future retiree health benefits and provides for major downsizing measures to pay for it.”

 

August 5, 2013The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510Dear Leader Reid:

Over the years you have been a tireless defender of working people and their families as well as a staunch supporter of a strong labor movement. Your recent skillful work to secure the appointment of Labor Secretary Tom Perez and to revive the NLRB in support of decent living standards in America is the latest evidence of this. Unfortunately, we must alert you to a serious threat coming from the Senate to these standards, S. 1486, the Postal Reform Act of 2013.

On behalf of 500,000 employees of the U.S. Postal Service, who live and work in all 50 states (as well as in D.C., Puerto Rico and other jurisdictions), we wish to express our utter dismay with the introduction of S. 1486 on August 1st, just minutes before the summer recess. The bill was co-authored by Sen. Tom Carper and Sen. Tom Coburn, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It renews a commitment to the disastrous Bush administration policy to mandate massive prefunding of future retiree health benefits and provides for major downsizing measures to pay for it.

The relief provided by its three-year moratorium on pre-funding payments is more apparent than real since the USPS has not been able to make the unaffordable payments in recent years; it won’t be able to do so in the future when the pre-funding mandate is re-imposed with both normal cost and amortization payments that other businesses do not have to make into retiree health funds.

In order to allegedly give the Postal Service the ability to afford future pre-funding costs, and to add insult to injury, the Carper-Coburn bill would give USPS tools to slash postal employees’ pension and health benefits by making these federal employee benefits subject to interest arbitration. No other federal employees face such a burden – including Members of Congress and their staffers. Our unions were not consulted about these proposed major changes to our rights as federal employees or to our collective bargaining process.

S. 1486 would facilitate the dismantling of the Postal Service’s mail processing and delivery networks, weakening both our first-mile (post office) and last-mile (delivery) capacity, in order to preserve a pre-funding policy that makes no sense. This would seriously harm the 7.5 million Americans who work in private companies that rely on the USPS. The bill would:

  • destroy 80,000 full- and part-time jobs in both cities and rural areas, after a one-year delay, by eliminating Saturday mail delivery (harming millions of businesses who want it) and give the Postmaster General authority to eliminate additional days of delivery in the future;
  • slash tens of thousands of additional jobs, after a two-year delay, by allowing USPS to reduce service and delivery standards and to close hundreds of mail processing facilities and thousands of post offices;
  • mandate the elimination of door-to-door delivery of mail for all business and new households, and call for the phase out of door delivery to millions of established households – threatening at least 16,500 additional jobs; and
  • impose cruel and discriminatory reforms to the FECA workers compensation program that would leave injured federal workers with the worst long-term injuries vulnerable to impoverishment when they reach their Social Security retirement ages.

This massive downsizing and the bill’s assault on postal employee benefits are not necessary. They are being driven by the irrational retiree health financing policy that no other business or agency would adopt. The Postal Service has already pre-funded decades of retiree health premiums, more than any other enterprise in America. Indeed, USPS has already set aside an estimated $49 billion for such premiums, approximately 50% of total expected costs over the next 90+ years.

The Postal Service had been making great progress over the past year – it has earned an operating profit so far this year, its package business is booming, and commercial mail is recovering as the housing market and the national economy show signs of revival. It should not be forced to forgo new vehicles and investments in new technology, new innovations and new products in order to put even more money into the PSRHBF. Just as the budget sequester has thwarted a strong economic recovery, the adoption of more misguided austerity though a bad postal reform bill would make things worse, not better.

We hope that you will actively work to promote postal reform that will create jobs and innovation, not more job cuts and reduced service for the American people. The 30 members of the Senate who have co-sponsored S.316, the Postal Service Protection Act of 2013, have taken the right approach. That bill would strengthen the Postal Service, promote innovation and, most importantly, resolve the retiree health and pension policies that have crippled the Postal Service in recent years.

There are many policy alternatives to the negative proposals in S. 1486 – measures to increase postal revenues, cut costs and cover future retiree health liabilities without massive service and job cuts. We pledge to work with the Senate to define and develop workable, bi-partisan alternatives.

Thanks again for your commitment to America’s hard working postal employees who serve the nation and our economy with the most efficient and most affordable postal services in the world.

Sincerely,

Cliff Guffey, President
APWU
Fredric V. Rolando, President
NALC
John F. Hegarty, President
NPMHU
Jeanette Dwyer, President
NRLCA

Imagine A Wold Without The USPS, This Infographic Shows What We Would Lose

Can you imagine what the world would look like without the US Postal Service?  With the never ending attacks on the USPS, this could soon be a reality.  We cannot allow this to happen.  The USPS handles 438 million pieces of mail every day, moving over 40% of the worlds mail.

Below is a great infographic that highlights some of the things that would be lost if we loose the USPS.  The USPS is the second largest employer in the United States, and directly effects over 8 million jobs.  These workers deliver 160 billion pieces of mail every year.   And they do it all without taking any money from taxes. The USPS is completely self funded by the revenue generated from postage.

One of the best things highlighted by this infographic is the charity donations that the USPS help to raise.  Over $76 million dollars raised for breast cancer research, and nearly $2 million dollars for endangered animals.

We must stay united in our effort to preserve this Constitutionally protected service.  The problems facing the USPS are all due to the pre-funding requirement set forth by Congress.  The USPS is being forced to pre-fund their retirement system for 75 years in the next 10 years.  This is the only reason the USPS is ‘loosing money’.  If Congress removes this restriction we will continue to have a vibrant postal service for eternity.

Life without the United States Postal Service
Source: NumberSleuth

Ending Six Day Delivery Is The Wrong Answer For The USPS

In a flurry of media yesterday it was announced by the CEO of US Postal Service (aka the Postmaster General) Patrick Donahoe that beginning in August the USPS would stop delivering mail on Saturdays.

Wait, WHAT?   That is right, the USPS plans to illegally stop delivering mail to your home or business on saturdays.

Why would they do this?  That is not a simple answer.

The USPS is a very special government entity.  They collect no money from taxes and are completely self funded.  This means the entire postal service is paid for by selling stamps.    They are like a private company with one big catch, everything they do is mandated by Congress.

You may have heard different, or you may have heard the Post Office is going bankrupt.  There is a little truth to both of those statements.  The employees of the USPS are federal employees and are covered under the Federal Employee’s Retirement System (FERs).  In fact the USPS is the single largest section of the federal workforce with over 800,000 employees currently.   In 2006, President Bush signed into a law a bill that forced the USPS to PRE-PAY their retirement contributions.  Basically the USPS has to PRE-PAY the retirement system for the next 75 years in the next 10 years.  This equates to about $5  Billion dollars a years in over payments.

In what is being called a solution to the ‘funding problems’ the USPS released a statement:

“The United States Postal Service announced plans today to transition to a new delivery schedule during the week of Aug. 5, 2013 that includes package delivery Monday through Saturday, and mail delivery Monday through Friday. The Postal Service expects to generate cost savings of approximately $2 billion annually, once the plan is fully implemented.”

Even without a legislative fix to correct the true problem in the USPS, this $2 billion dollars in savings would not be enough to ‘save the USPS from bankruptcy’.

National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredic Rolando condemned the actions in his statement.

“The National Association of Letter Carriers has tried time and again to work with Postal Service management to pursue growth measures and cost savings, but it has become clear that the Postal Service leadership’s only strategy is to gut the unique postal network that provides us with the world’s most affordable delivery service, and to eliminate the services on which Americans depend.”

The statement from USPS CEO Donahoe drew criticism from many in New Hampshire including Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“Congresswoman Shea-Porter has asked to be added as a cosponsor to H.Res 30, which expresses the sense of the House that the Postal Service should maintain six-day delivery.”

“The US Postal Service is a vital resource for communities throughout our state and our country,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter.  “Eliminating Saturday mail-delivery does not adequately address the issues facing the United States Postal Service. This is the wrong approach because the Postal Service will lose vital business and consumers will be hurt.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster has been a long time supporter of the NH Association of Letter Carriers.  She sent us this statement.

“I am very disappointed by the Postal Service’s decision, and am opposed to the cancellation of Saturday mail service. That’s why I’m a cosponsor of H.Res. 30, bipartisan legislation supporting 6-day delivery.  Instead of cutting jobs and services, the Postal Service needs sensible reform to fix the onerous pre-funding requirement for future retiree health benefits, boost innovation and efficiency, reduce costs, and provide new and improved services to New Hampshire communities.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen also responded to the news with this statement.

“I’m disappointed by today’s announcement from the U.S. Postal Service,” Shaheen said yesterday. “I hope the USPS continues to understand the importance of its six-day-a-week package delivery, which many Americans rely on for crucial needs like prescription medications.”

This plan to stop delivering mail and still continue to deliver packages on Saturday is very confusing especially to those who actually deliver the mail. Wayne Altiserio, president of the New Hampshire State Association of Letter Carriers told the Eagle Tribune:

“(The USPS) is stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime. If you’re going to go there with a package, why not bring the mail, too? We have a lot of packages we’re already delivering.”

What are we to do? If we do nothing then we will continue to see the erosion of the USPS until there will be nothing left of the most trusted government agency who process and deliver 40% of the worlds mail every day.  We must take action!

Go to Save America’s Postal Service petition and sign up to preserve six day delivery.

Contact your Congressional Representative and tell them to stop forcing the USPS to pre-fund their retirement system and preserve six day delivery.

Then show you friends and family that you support the USPS. Click this link to share the image below on Facebook (or click here to tweet)

via Save Americas Postal Service (Facebook)

via Save Americas Postal Service (Facebook)

NALC President Speaks Out To Members and Congress About Pre-funding Obligations and Lame Duck Session

What follows is an email from NALC President Fred Rolando regarding the impending deal in Congress to eliminate a day of mail delivery each week. The sword is about to fall on many union jobs. At this point all we can do is call Senator Shaheen or Ayotte and ask them to preserve 6 day mail delivery.

“Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked you to call your representatives in Washington and tell them to wait until after the first of the year to work on meaningful postal reform, rather than try to push something through quickly during this lame-duck period after the November elections. And thousands of NALC activists made those calls. If you did so, thank you.

Unfortunately, we’ve learned that key members of the House and Senate have met together this week to work on a compromise postal reform bill, and it sounds as if eliminating a day of mail delivery service remains on the table during those discussions.

This is unacceptable. Cutting a day of delivery would mean sacrificing one-sixth of our workforce—25,000 city letter carrier jobs—all in the name of holding on to the misguided mandate to massively pre-fund 75 years’ worth of future retiree benefits and to do so within just 10 years. This policy is what’s really hurting the USPS, costing it billions a year and diverting its attention away from working on a true business plan for the 21st century. (It’s worth noting that this last postal reform law was passed during Congress’ lame-duck session in 2006.)

Besides, dropping a day of mail delivery is a sure-fire recipe for driving away business from the USPS by undermining the value of the service that we letter carriers faithfully provide.

NALC continues to oppose any congressional deal that eliminates a day of mail delivery and that fails to lay the foundation for a viable Postal Service. Click here to read the letter I just sent to every U.S. senator.

If there is a sliver of good news here, it’s this: It’s still not too late for you to act. Even if you have already called your representatives, please do so again—they can not hear from us enough on this important issue.

So please, call your House and Senate representatives at 202-224-3121 and tell them to oppose any lame-duck postal reform bill. Tell them that Congress should instead start over in the new year to craft a brand-new reform measure that preserves this institution, that allows it to grow and meet today’s challenges, and that takes into account the needs of all postal stakeholders and customers.

Also, encourage your fellow letter carriers, your family members and your friends to call their representatives, too.

And stay alert for future developments. If these members of Congress reach some sort of postal reform deal this week, I will schedule a tele-town hall meeting to mobilize the entire membership to fight it.”

In Solidarity,

Fredric V. Rolando, President
National Association of Letter Carriers

Below are two images. The first is the letter that President Rolando sent to the members of Congress, encouraging them to make new legislation in the next session and to do it correctly.  The second image show how their current proposed changes to the postal pre-funding will only net a savings of 5 billion over 10 years.  That will not be enough if they want to keep the post office functioning.

 

Using Retirement Funds to Balance the Budget


Up here in New Hampshire, we have some experience with politicians trying to use public workers’ retirement funds to balance the budget.

Back when Craig Benson was Governor, he wanted to use money from the public employee retirement system to balance the state budget.

But up here in New Hampshire, the public didn’t let him get away with that.  In 1984, Granite State voters amended our state Constitution to protect our employees’ retirement benefits.  New Hampshire Constitution Article 36-a [Use of Retirement Funds] provides:

“The employer contributions certified as payable to the New Hampshire retirement system … shall be appropriated each fiscal year … All of the assets and proceeds, and income there from, of the New Hampshire retirement system … shall be held, invested or disbursed as in trust for the exclusive purpose of providing for such benefits and shall not be encumbered for, or diverted to, any other purposes.”

Down in Washington DC, the federal government hasn’t been quite so careful.  Down in DC, public employee retirement funds are regularly used to balance the budget.

In fact, when the federal government hit the debt ceiling in May 2011, public employee retirement contributions were used to keep the federal government going for more than two months (until Congressional Republicans finally agreed to increase the debt limit).

At last report,

  • more than $800 billion of the federal debt was owed to the federal employees’ retirement system;
  • more than $600 billion of the federal debt was owed to military employees’ retirement programs;
  • more than $45 billion of the federal debt was owed to the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund.

State and local employees also own a significant chunk of the federal debt.  At last report, pension systems for state and local government employees held almost $190 billion in Treasury securities.

Adding it all up, the nation owes about $1.6 trillion to the various public employees’ retirement systems.  (That’s direct debt – not including unfunded liabilities.)

That’s only slightly more than what tax cuts for the wealthiest 5% have cost the Treasury since 2001.

Should we really be surprised that right-wing Republicans are trying so hard to “reform” public pensions?

The business lobbying group ALEC (“American Legislative Exchange Council”) has led the crusade.  “Taxpayers are no longer willing to bear the increasing cost of these plans… They are demanding reforms that will bring these plans into line with pension and OPEB benefits offered in the private sector.”  (What an interesting comparison!  Federal law generally prohibits private sector pension plans from loaning money to the company that sponsors the plan.)

As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan followed ALEC’s lead – almost word-for-word.

Up here in the Granite State, we believe that government should fulfill the promises it has made to its employees.  We even amended our state constitution to ensure that public employees’ retirement funds would be used only to pay retirement benefits.

It’s time for the country to stop using public employee retirement funds to pay the cost of extending tax cuts for the wealthy.

It’s time for Congressional Republicans to stop trying to weasel out of their obligations to federal employees.

It’s time to keep the country’s promises.  (Now that’s a conservative value.)

——————————————————————–

Wait!  That $45 billion borrowed from the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund deserves a closer look.

The Post Office is losing money.  Most of that deficit is being caused by Congressionally-mandated payments to the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund.   That mandate dates back to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006.

Guess what else happened in 2006?  Just months before Congress decided to have the Postal Service pre-fund retiree benefits (and loan that money to the US Treasury), the country had hit the debt ceiling, and had borrowed from the federal employees’ retirement system to pay the bills.

(No, by the time 2006 rolled around, the Bush tax cuts hadn’t “jump started” the economy or started to erase the federal debt.  So Congress used federal employees’ retirement contributions as a Rainy Day Fund.)

Kind of convenient, isn’t it?  The country needs to borrow money, and suddenly there’s a new Fund to borrow from.

Only now, that Fund is drowning the Postal Service in debt.

Facing the Cliff

As Postal employees, we are in a unique situation in that we have the opportunity to vote on the future direction of our employer. In a few days we will head to the ballot box to decide the fate of our jobs and pensions.

Our choices for President are between two candidates who have a starkly different vision of the Postal Service’s future.

President Obama will  continue to work towards a long-term viable Postal Service. His message to Letter Carriers this summer in Minneapolis was inspiring: “Together, you represent  what’s best about this country. Your work isn’t easy, but day in and day out, you provide a service that keeps our country’s economy on track.” Obama continued, “We are pushing back on the assault on unions because the values you stand for — hard work, responsibility, looking out for one another — those are not just union values, they are American values.”

If Governor Romney were to take control of the Oval Office, he would most certainly begin the process of eliminating the Postal Service as we know it. He is surrounded by economic advisers like Kevin Hassett, who dream at night to not only see the most effective part of the federal government eliminated but to see hundreds of thousands of union jobs vanish.

As shown by his dismal job creation numbers as an unpopular Governor of Massachusetts, Romney has no skill at working for the advancement of ordinary citizens. Romney, besides being born extremely wealthy, has made his ridiculous amount of money presiding over Bain Capital. Bain Capital didn’t make money by creating jobs — they became wealthy by eliminating them. Gutting and then selling off companies is what Romney did at Bain and he will now do that to the Postal Service.

Having a $5.6 Billion annual payment mandated by Congress to pay for retiree health care costs 75 years in the future has placed the Postal Service in a difficult place. This burden  was placed as a political statement by the Bush administration. Adding to the problem is that the 112th Congress has been not only obstructionist but fervently anti-worker and anti-government. So it’s not even a possibility that Postal Reform could get a fair hearing. Though a bi-partisan postal reform bill garnered over 230 co sponsors, it was denied a vote by the Government Oversight Committee whose GOP members are well-financed by the Koch Brothers and other extreme anti-worker groups.

Just like Sandy was a “Perfect Storm”, so is the situation the Postal Service finds itself in. A manufactured crisis has placed the Postal Service on the precipice of a fiscal cliff. The Republican Party Platform is trying to use this crisis to advance their ideological crusade and privatize the Postal Service. That would have detrimental effects to millions of Americans who depend on the Postal Service, as well as postal workers and 7-8 million mailing industry workers who would soon be on the unemployment line.

Our choices are between President Obama, who will pull us away from the edge, and Mitt Romney — who would be more than happy to push us and our jobs off the cliff.

 

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