USPS Workers To Rally Against Postal Units In Staples Stores On 4-24-14

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Please join the Postal Workers on Thursday April 24, from 4-6 pm in Concord NH for a peaceful demonstration near the Concord Staples on Fort Eddy Road (across from LL Bean at exit 14 off of 93 N). Help us to STOP the privatization & destruction of The U.S.P.S. before it’s too late. 

A recent agreement between the USPS and Staples established postal counters in 82 Staples stores — staffed with low-wage, non-union Staples employees rather than postal workers. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and Staples CEO Ron Sargent plan to expand the program to Staples’ 1,500 stores nationwide.

We fully support the expansion of postal services, but we are adamantly opposed to USPS plans to replace good-paying union jobs with non-union low-wage jobs held by workers who have no accountability for the safety and security of the mail. This is nothing less than a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services.

For more information call Janice at 513-8176 or Dana at 669-2414.

You can also join the Facebook Event and share the details through Facebook!

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What The F&@#: Issa Proposes End To Six Day Delivery To Save Military Retirees COLA’s

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle
http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html
Image from the Muskegon Chronicle http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle

The depth of Congressman Darrell Issa’s distain for the unionized workers at the US Postal Service knows no bounds.  Now he is pitting the USPS against the US Military.

Government Executive reported this morning:

A new bill would undo the recent cuts made to certain military retirees’ pensions, and in exchange allow the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail delivery.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Thursday proposed legislation that would restore full cost-of-living adjustments for young military retirees.”

To recap, the bi-partisan budget deal that everyone was giddy over last month made cuts to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for veterans who retire after twenty years of service, but have not reached the full retirement age of 62.  To put this into context, this would be a person who could be as young as 38 years old, receiving a military pension, who would receive 1% less in a COLA increase than those retiree’s over the age of 62.

I am against cutting benefits to any worker who has done their time and completed their service after the fact.  That is not the case here.  This change means that these working age retirees will not get the full cost of living increase, which does not mean they are going to see their paychecks go down, as some are implying.  Also nowhere does it say that a retired veteran cannot get another job after they leave the military.  Just look at all the government contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who routinely hire veterans as military specialists.

You know who else hires a ton of veterans, especially those who have been medically discharged?  The US Postal Service, that is who.  In 2007 the USPS employed over 680,000 people and of that 25% were veterans. (Note 8% of total workforce is listed as disabled veterans).

While that information is great to have, it is not the true point of this post.  The fact that Congressman Issa is, yet again, proposing to cut the Postal Service to five-day delivery is a sham.  He is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, by saying that eliminating Saturday delivery will save the government enough money to offset the retiree’s COLA cuts.

The fact is that the USPS does not take any money from the US Government.  The USPS is a completely self-funded operation, paid in full by the postage on the parcel.  The real issue the USPS is facing is the pre-funding mandate set forth by Congress in 2006.  That mandate requires the USPS to pre-fund all retiree benefits for the next 75 years before 2016.

Congressman Issa and the Postmaster General have used this mandate to make claims that the USPS is going bankrupt.  It is true the USPS cannot afford to pre-pay retiree benefits at 7-times (7X) the normal rate. What corporation could afford that?  They are using this as a way to push the USPS, and its unionized workforce out, and replace it with private companies like UPS and FedEx, who make more money for the 1% on Wall Street.   Let us not forget how UPS and FedEx botched holiday deliveries, while the slow and steady postal service delivered all their packages on time.

This legislation is the biggest shell game I have ever seen.  Instead of just reinstating the cuts to retiree’s, Congressman Issa is suggesting that we steal money from the USPS (which he claims is going bankrupt), and give it to these retiree’s.

If the USPS is failing, as Congressman Issa has said over and over, how exactly is stealing more money from them going to save it?

Rep. Peter DeFazio: "There's no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can't fill that gap."  WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi  Image from the ED Show

Rep. Peter DeFazio:
There’s no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can’t fill that gap.”
WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi
Image from the ED Show

Why On Earth Is The USPS Paying FEDEX Stockholders Millions In Dividends

USPS Subcontractors

According to an annual report from a Washington DC law firm, FedEx is the top US Postal Service contractor for the tenth consecutive year.

You read that right.  The Postal Service’s biggest competitor, FedEx, is also its largest contractor.  In FY2012, the USPS paid FedEx $1.618 billion – an 8% increase over the previous year.

UPS had an even bigger increase.   In FY2012, the Postal Service paid UPS more than $126 million – a 24% increase from FY2011.  (Of course, UPS previously employed Janna Ryan – the wife of House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan – as their lobbyist.  And she was reportedly a very effective lobbyist.)

Contracting with the Post Office is Big Business.  The Postal Service is spending almost $12 Billion a year on private contractors – even though the Postal Service is so financially strapped that they’re about to cut delivery service by one day a week.  Does this make any sense at all?  

There has been a lot of talk lately about “privatizing” the Postal Service.  Based on the law firm’s report, it looks like the Post Office is being privatized, one little piece at a time.  Just another example of government creating something of value, only to hand over the profits to someone else.  Just one more example of our government being used to further someone else’s private interests.

How many Postal Service jobs were lost, eliminated or downsized due to all these contracts?

And what percentage of each postage stamp we buy has been converted into private profits?

Let’s look at FedEx.  FedEx had about $43 billion dollars in revenues last year.  Of that, $1.618 came directly from the Postal Service.  That means the Postal Service is responsible for 3-4% of FedEx’s total revenues.

FedEx made quite a profit last year.  Company executives get to decide how much profit is paid out as dividends, and how much is reinvested in new equipment and new hires.  Last year, FedEx paid out a lot in dividends.

Frederick Smith is CEO of FedEx.  According to SEC filings, he owns about 15 million shares of the company.  Last year, FedEx paid out a total of 55 cents per share in dividends.  Do the math… and it looks like Mr. Smith received about $8.5 million in dividends (not counting dividends to his family holding company, his wife, or his retirement fund).

Do the math… and if 3-4% of FedEx business (and profits) are attributable to the Postal Service… that would mean Postal Service contracts account for more than a quarter-million dollars’ worth of Mr. Smith’s 2012 dividend income.

(Wonder how much stock other FedEx employees hold?  Click here.  Then do your own math about how much of their dividend income is attributable to Postal Service contracts.)

$12 Billion in Postal Service outsourcing.  Why?  Why are we continuing to outsource good jobs to private companies who are collecting record profits?  Why are we paying corporations billions of dollars to do exactly what workers at the Postal Service could already do?  The Postal Service continues to shed workers at an alarming rate while FedEx and UPS continue to make more and more money from the Postal Service.

FedEx made over $1.4 million in campaign donations last year.  Is it any wonder there’s so much talk about “privatizing” the Postal Service?

 

Using Retirement Funds to Balance the Budget

treasury


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.)

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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.