How Are BAIN Capital, The Staples CEO, and The USPS All Connected?

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

Senator Bernie Sanders told me and other union members last weekend that if conservative ideologues get control of our government, then the Postal Service would be privatized in five minutes. This privatization will put all postal employees’ jobs/retirements in peril and eliminate our country’s most trusted government service that millions of people depend on. It seems like the USPS – Staples partnership may be the first step toward that outcome.

The agreement between the USPS and Staples established postal counters in 82 Staples stores that will be staffed with low-wage, non-union Staples employees. Eventually these knock-off postal centers could be located in all 1580 Staples locations.

“We support the expansion of customer access to USPS services, but we insist that postal work must be performed by uniformed postal workers who have passed a background check, taken an oath of office and are accountable to the people,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein.

This USPS-Staples partnership seems like a dream scenario for the Koch Brothers and their political puppets. Shifting good solid union middle class jobs to a company that pays its workers about $9 an hour is exactly how America’s corporate elite plan to profit from dismantling our Postal Service.

Why Staples CEO Ronald Sargent — who over the last 6 years has averaged $15 million a year in pay — does not pay his sales associates and cashiers more than their $8.64 hourly wage is outrageous to anyone who believes in economic fairness. Considering Staples management roots come from Mitt Romney and Bain Capital this type of behavior shouldn’t be surprising.  It’s also not surprising that Staples employees are required to watch an anti-union video message from Staples when hired.

Ronald Sargent is clearly no friend of working people, or taxpayers for that matter. Sargent has been a long time Board of Directors Member for Aramark, one of the most of the most anti-worker companies in the country.  Aramark’s newest frontier is privatizing state prison food services.  It’s had some disastrous results like prison riots in Kentucky over its terrible product or across the river in Ohio where Aramark  billed the state for 1.7 million meals it never served.  Aramark seems to be a company that symbolizes everything that is wrong with this era of Crony Capitalism. Its RAP sheet of defrauding states and abusing workers is stunning.

Mr. Sargent is the perfect liaison to start the dismantling of the Postal Service. He is close to Romney (contributed tens of thousands of dollars to him) and the privatizers on the political side — and has experience in overseeing the privatization of public services on the business side.

History has shown that Ben Franklin founded the world’s best Postal Service and it united our country both in commerce and in spirit.

Will history also show that Ronald Sargent, the ultimate Crony Capitalist, is the first to profit from its dismantling?

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 STOP the privatization & destruction of the U.S.P.S. before it’s too late.

More details here

 

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

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10176163_10201611159136597_1756911096558056811_n

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!

picket flyer

The USPS Teams Up With Staples: Taking Good Union Jobs And Turing Them Into Part-Time, Low Wage Jobs

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr
Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

The US MAIL IS NOT FOR SALE. The manufactured crisis that is being used to destroy the postal service is taking a new turn this spring. As ongoing efforts to eliminate Saturday mail delivery have come to a standstill in our deadlocked Congress. The USPS is moving forward with a plan to place postal counters, without postal employees in 8o Staples stores. In time they want to expand this misguided plan to over 1500 stores nationwide.

These Staples stores will be manned strictly by non-union Staples employees. This is the right-wing dream scenario of turning thousands of solid middle class union jobs into part-time/low wage jobs. Would you rather have a trusted postal worker, who is sworn to protect the mail,  handling your transaction or would you rather roll the dice on the credibility of a  low wage staples worker?  Its one step closer to dismantling the worlds best Postal Service, and one more affront on the war on workers.

The Postal Service is kicking the door open to privatize retail operations,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. Staples is not a Mom-and-Pop operation, he pointed out, and, “If we don’t stop this program, we will soon get a letter from the Postal Service telling us management plans to contract out all of retail,”

A few weeks ago Staples announced its planning to close over 200 stores nationwide. This news did not deter USPS plans to pursue this contracting out program. This proves, more than ever,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein, “that it’s a bad idea to turn public services over to a private company that can close stores at will, with no public input and no public comment.

It’s easy to envision a scenario where a local post office is closed and its services placed in a nearby Staples store. Then without warning that Staples closes. Why would the Postal Service theoretically place its customers in that dire situation?

Instead of pursuing this misguided union busting partnership with Staples the USPS would be better off by working with Congress to provide banking services at the local Post Office. This would provide a valuable public service for millions of Americans, while at the same time providing a new revenue stream for the USPS.

There is a growing need for a postal banking system. With over 25% of the American public without bank accounts the demand is abundant. Currently they are being forced to pay exorbitant fees to non traditional banking services just to accomplish routine banking tasks.  These 68  million “unbanked” citizens paid over $89 billion in fees and interest in 2012, on average 10% of their income. The USPS is the only entity positioned in a way to provide these services.

The situation is especially acute in economically disadvantaged areas where banks have moved out leaving behind these shady businesses that profit off the misery of the poor. It is quite clear that establishing postal banking services is an idea whose time has come.

It’s not surprising to see in a country that is obsessed with money and power, that Congress would not take action on any legislation, like postal banking, that would help mitigate the exploitation of those in difficult economic situations.  Power rules in DC the marginalized are always further marginalized.

At a time when the USPS is making an operational profit you would expect them to look to build on that success. Instead, astonishingly,  they are looking at ways to dismantle the most efficient and popular agency of the US Government. The time is now to get involved and stop the next step of the sell off.

Please take part in the National Day of Action and join us at the  STOP STAPLES PROTEST – Thursday April 24th at the Staples on Ft Eddy Rd in  Concord from 4-6 PM

 

Thank You From NH APWU And Full Text Of Issa Protest Event Letter

Issa Rally 1

Editor’s note: This is a two part message.  The first part is a Thank You from Janice Kelble, Legislative Director for the NH APWU.  The second part is the full text of the flyer delivered by AWPU members at the Issa protest. 

Issa protest 2THANK YOU to all who showed up!

Thank you for the wonderful show of solidarity, it was especially heartwarming to see in February on a holiday weekend in between storms (windchill 5 degrees!!).

We saw many APWU folks, some from our neighboring states of MA, VT, RI, and ME – active & retired,  NALC brothers and sisters, Mailhandlers, Carpenters, SEIU, Firefighters, UAW, AFT, NATCA, the AFL-CIO, the Alliance for Retired Americans, as well as  community friends and neighbors.

They came to help  us to deliver a message to Darrell Issa… Keep the Postal Service Public We do not want to see privatized mail services and we do not want to see you interfere with our collective bargaining. Take away the Congressional noose that was tied around the neck of the Postal Service in 2006, with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and allow us to grow. STOP taking SERVICE out of the Postal Service!!!

Monday’s gathering  was a great show of solidarity with an important message. Thank you one & all!!!

 *     *    *    *   *

Below is the full message as delivered by the APWU members at the event

Darrell Issa, America’s richest Congressman never met a public service he didn’t want to privatize. We have a message he needs to hear!

While 3 U.S. House bills (that strive to strengthen the United States Postal Service) languish in committee, none of these have been considered by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The three bills (with hundreds of co-sponsors) will likely never see the light of day.  The only bill considered, sponsored by Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, has only 2 co-sponsors, and it focuses on attacking collective bargaining and privatizing the Postal Service! 

It’s plain & simple; Representative Issa does not want to have the USPS remain a Public Service.

Universal Service to ALL Americans has long been a job well done by Postal Workers serving rural areas and cities across our great country.  It wasn’t until 2006, when the USPS was quite profitable, that Congress decided to take advantage of a thriving Service and require pre-payment of future retiree health benefits (a requirement applied to no other agency!!!). Congress created the biggest problem and Congress can fix it… without privatizing!!

It does not appear that fixing the Service is the Goal, at least not while profits are to be had!

Issa’s bill attacks Collective Bargaining, Deprives Customers of Vital Services, Privatizes Postal Services and Threatens Rural Service. It does NOT relieve the USPS from the pre-funding of health costs for future retirees, allow utilization of retirement system overpayments or allow the USPS to offer new innovative services needed in many communities.

We oppose legislation that would degrade or eliminate postal services. We must stop cuts to USPS’s mail processing network and to delivery service.

We oppose provisions that would result in severe service cuts to rural and hard-to-serve areas that most need postal services. Even small or unprofitable post offices are a vital part of the network required to provide universal services to all Americans.

We strongly oppose interference with collective bargaining agreements and bargaining rights. The collective bargaining process and peaceful dispute resolution through interest arbitration has worked well for the agency since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970.

The fact is that were it not for the 2006 Congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits, the Postal Service would already be back on track realizing a profit in the past year.

Keep the Service in Postal Service

 KEEP THE POSTAL SERVICE a PUBLIC SERVICE

The “Cat” in the Union; A Poem About Congressman Issa’s Postal Plan

Cat in the hat

Cat in the hat

The “Cat” in the Union…

Patty Olson,
Director of Legislation,
Portland Oregon APWU  Area Local

I do not like this Issa man…..I do not like his Postal Plan.

HR 2748…… That’s a bill we surely hate

I do not like the lies he tells….. that “it’s a bail out”, what the hell?

I do not like his union blame,… To him it’s nothing but a game

I do not like the games he plays…. At our expense, it’s NOT ok

I do not him, this dirty crook… with his anti –labor looks

I do not like his committee one little bit… where he and Ross can throw their fits

I do not like this: Not at all….We will not be victims of Issa’s call

America’s Postal Service is what we need… Keep our Service Public, Yes Indeed!!!

 

USPS Employees And Community Activists To Rally At NH GOP Event Featuring Congressman Issa

Congressman ISSA (photo credit Congressman Issa on Flickr)

Get those signs ready because every USPS supporter’s favorite Congressman is coming to town.

Congressman ISSA (photo credit Congressman Issa on Flickr)

Congressman Darrell Issa will be speaking at a NH GOP event on Presidents Day (Feb 17th) at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord NH. 

As the Chairman of the House Government Affairs Committee, Congressman Issa has spearheaded the charge that would lead to the eventual privatization of the USPS.   He has proposed to; cut Saturday delivery, cut thousands of postal employee’s jobs, cut door-to-door delivery, and even proposed allowing UPS and FedEx the ability to use mailboxes like the postal service.  All of these horrible ideas are in response the myth that the USPS is ‘failing’ or going bankrupt.

There is no denying that the USPS currently has money problems, however the problems were all made by Congress when they mandated that the USPS pre-fund their retirement system to pay for the next 75 years of retirees, in the next 10 years.  This has lead to a $5 billion dollar shortfall in the USPS budgets. Even with these money problems it should be noted that the USPS does not add one red cent to the national deficit because the USPS is a self-funded agency.  If people like Congressman Issa would just remove the pre-funding mandate, the USPS would bring in a profit of $600-$700 million dollars annually.

We cannot allow people like Congressman Issa continue to lie to the public about the problems of the USPS.  We will not stand idly by and watch why Congressman Issa takes the most trusted government agency and sells it off piece by piece.  This is why postal employees and community activists will be holding an informational picket in front of the Grappone Center, opposing Issa’s actions against the USPS.

Where: Grappone Convention Center
70 Constitutional Avenue,
Concord, NH, 03301.

When: Moday Feb 17th (Presidents Day) from 4:30-5:30pm

Join USPS employees, members of the American Postal Workers Union,  The National Association of  Letter Carriers, and community supporters to tell Congressman Issa,
The USPS Is Not For Sale!

Republicans and Democrats Push Senate Bill To Further The Destruction Of The USPS

Colburn and Carper
Colburn and Carper

Senator Coburn and Senator Carper
Image from HSGAC.GOV

Previously we reported on the fierce opposition to Senate Bill 1486 (postal reform) that was at the time, being introduced into the US Senate.  This week the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted 9-1 to approve S1486 with provisions that will destroy good jobs, and close post offices.

“This disastrous bill would severely damage service to the people; weaken the USPS and make it ripe for privatization, and destroy good jobs throughout the country,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “The APWU urges senators to vote against the bill if and when it is brought to the Senate floor for consideration.”

“Unnecessary and damaging attacks on the Postal Service’s vital networks and its employees—such as those unfortunately included in S. 1486—would only send the USPS on a downward trajectory,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando.

(The NALC also submitted this letter to the Senate spelling out the opposition to this bill.)

I am not surprised that my Senator, Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) voted for the bill, because like many others in the Republican Party, they want to privatize the USPS. HSGAC Votes on S1486 I am shocked at how some the Democratic Senators on the committee voted. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) all voted to move this legislation out of committee.

This is shocking to me because this legislation would decimate the unionized workforce of the USPS, and the Democrats are usually the party that works with labor unions, not against them.  I guess that just goes to show that when it comes to attacking organized labor, both parties share the blame.

This bill is a horrible and offers no solution to the well-documented problems in the USPS, the pre-funding obligation.  Instead the bill adds another $17 billion to the debt obligation to the USPS.  It is insane to think that if the USPS cannot pay their current financial obligations due to the pre-funding mandate, that adding another $17 billion will somehow help the situation.

Adding more financial obligations to the USPS is not the only problems with this bill.  The National Association of Letter Carriers laid out the other problems with the bill.

  • Threaten 100,000 full- and part-time postal jobs;
  • Lead to pension cuts; 
  • Weaken workers’ position in upcoming contract negotiations; 
  • Permit the USPS to close and consolidate mail processing facilities after two years; 
  • Allow the Postal Service to further reduce service and delivery standards;
  • Eliminate Saturday delivery after 2017;
  • Eliminate door-to-door mail delivery for new businesses and households, and 
  • Expose injured workers to impoverishment once they reach retirement age.

Possibly cutting 100,000 good mostly union jobs, is not the way to rebuild our economy.  We elected representatives to Congress to create jobs, not destroy them.

While the combination of postal unions was successful in preserving six-day delivery, it is only a temporary fix.  This new bill still wants to eliminate six-day delivery by 2017, along with the door-to-door service.

“Paving the way for eliminating six-day delivery and door-to-door service would hurt millions of residents and small businesses as well as the Postal Service itself, because it would slow service, drive mail out of the system and reduce the earned revenue that funds USPS,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando.

It continues to baffle me that between all of the Senators and Congressmen in Washington that none of them can seem to figure out the simple solution to the problems in the USPS.  All they need to do is pass a bill removing the pre-funding mandates, and poof, all the problems go away.

In fact the post office is becoming stronger and stronger every day.   Parcel shipments are up and with that revenue is up.

“The announced operating profit of $765 million for the first quarter is dramatic in itself—and it continues the operating profitability that began last year,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando.  “This quarter’s $765 million operating profit compares with the $100 million from the first quarter of 2013—another sign of improving postal finances.”

Rolando continued, “In light of these results, lawmakers should strengthen the postal network while addressing the remaining problem: the congressional mandate to pre-fund future retiree benefits, required of no other public or private entity in the country. Degrading the network and reducing services to the public and businesses would jeopardize the postal turnaround.”

It is truly sad to see that both Republicans, and now Democrats, are working together to further the destruction of most revered agency in the federal government.

Racing to Blame Public Workers for State Finances

Suffolk Downs

Suffolk DownsAnd… they’re off, on a new round of attacks on public pension systems nationwide.

When you hear about this week’s Mercatus Center report on the financial condition of all 50 states… start by considering the source.  Mercatus is housed at George Mason University, so it has a veneer of academic credibility.  But here’s what SourceWatch has to say:

“The Mercatus Center was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations. According to financial records, the Koch family has contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization.”

The last time George Mason University really hit the headlines was in 2012, when a faculty economist authored a doomsday report about how horribly Sequester cuts would affect… the Defense Industry.

(Meanwhile, military contractors seem to be doing just fine.  Back in November’s budget compromise, Congress gave the Pentagon more than $1.3 billion for programs it didn’t want.  And according to Reuters, there’s not much oversight of all that money.  “The Pentagon … has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for.”)

But I digress.

The thing that strikes me, about this week’s Mercatus report, is that once again it tries to blame public workers for whatever is wrong with state finances.

  • It doesn’t say a thing about corporate giveaways, such as Washington state’s recent biggest-in-US-history giveaway of $8.7 billion to Boeing.

According to a New York Times analysis, these so-called “economic incentives” add up to big money: “Oklahoma and West Virginia give up amounts equal to about one-third of their budgets, and Maine allocates nearly a fifth.”   But do these incentives actually work?  The Times couldn’t find any evidence.

  • It doesn’t say a thing about revenues.  Just try Googling “state tax cuts”.  Out in Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s going to cut taxes (even more than he already has).  Chris Christie wants to cut taxes (even more).  Dave Heineman, out in Nebraska, is going to cut taxes.  Even Andrew Cuomo is pitching tax cuts.

But, let me digress again.  Out there in Nebraska, they actually studied the “economic stimulus” effect of tax cuts.  Here’s what they found:  even accounting for the “stimulus effect”, a $100 million reduction in regressive sales/use taxes would have a “net revenue impact” of (negative) $79.45 million… while a $100 million cut in income taxes would have an impact of (negative) $93.58 million. That’s right, neither of these types of tax cuts would be good for the state budget; but one of them is much worse than the other.  So, guess which type of taxes Governor Heineman wants to cut (rather than expanding Medicaid).

  • It doesn’t say a thing about how Wall Street’s “robust recovery” has affected public pension funds.  After losing a TRILLION dollars between October 2007 and October 2008, public pension trust funds are finally beginning to recover.  Here in New Hampshire, last year, investment returns added $818 million to our Retirement System Trust Fund.  How big is that number?  The NHRS Trust Fund started the year with less than $6 billion.  It paid benefits totaling about $630 million.  Do the math yourself: last year, investment returns paid for every single penny of benefits… and still increased the Trust Fund.

So yeah, maybe you should take all those Mercatus Center headlines with a grain of salt.

Or a bushel.

As Amy Traub says: your mailman didn’t make the economy collapse.

And public employees aren’t responsible for the damage that has been done to their state budgets.  (We’re just the workers, remember?  It’s the elected officials who decide how many billions to give away to private corporations.)

Rep Shea-Porter Votes For Omnibus Budget Bill Ending Threat Of Shutdown

Carol Shea Porter Official Photo

Shea-Porter Supports Bipartisan Appropriations Bill to Invest in New Hampshire and Avert a Government Shutdown

Compromise spending bill would restore COLA funding for disabled veterans and alleviate some of sequestration’s reckless cuts to NH’s economy

Legislation includes key funding for PNSY, NH National Guard, Granite State Veterans, Seacoast Fishermen, LIHEAP, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and First Responders

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3547, an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2014. The legislation earned the support of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) because it prevents another government shutdown and invests in New Hampshire’s economy and programs vital to the middle class.

“I think it’s shameful that this omnibus bill did not include emergency unemployment insurance and only partially restores the COLA adjustment for military retirees, but I voted for this bill because it’s a bipartisan compromise that invests in New Hampshire’s economy, keeps our post offices open, and reverses some of sequestration’s damaging cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the New Hampshire National Guard, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, LIHEAP, and other vital programs,” Shea-Porter said.

“This legislation ensures that Congress won’t repeat another costly government shutdown, but it is far from perfect. It only repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors because my amendment to fully repeal the cuts was not accepted by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee. However, this bill is a modest step down the long road towards growing our economy and governing responsibly,” Shea-Porter said.

H.R.3547 adheres to the compromise funding levels agreed to in Bipartisan Budget Act, legislation which passed in December. As mandated by the bipartisan budget agreement, it includes a total of $1.012 trillion in regular defense and non-defense discretionary funding.

This bill makes significant strategic investments in New Hampshire, and includes a number of measures championed by Shea-Porter. Highlights follow.

AVERTS A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

·         The compromise $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill would fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2014, thus keeping the government open. The legislation passed the House of Representatives 359-67 earlier today, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill tonight. President Obama urged swift passage of the legislation, which needs to be signed by January 18, 2014 in order to prevent another government shutdown.

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD

·         The bill provides $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The legislation also includes a strong mark in favor of submarine programs – fully funding the second 2014 Virginia class submarine, preserving funding for the Virginia Payload Module, and continuing development of the Ohio Replacement.  Congresswoman Shea-Porter and other members of the House New England delegation advocated for full funding of these submarine programs.

NEW HAMPSHIRE NATIONAL GUARD

·         KC-46A Tanker:  The legislation appropriates $1.6 billion to fully fund continued development of the KC-46A air refueling tanker. Shea-Porter has strongly supported bringing the KC-46A to Pease. In the 110th Congress, she secured almost $9 million in funding to build a new facility for the WING Headquarters Operations and Training facility at the base. In the 111th Congress, she also secured $10 million to help the 157th Operations Group, which is responsible for the air refueling mission, consolidate its components into a single building, thus improving its command communications and overall efficiency of operations. In March, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter toured the Pease Air National Guard base to meet with Air Force and Air Guard leaders and show her continued support for Pease and the 157th Air Refueling Wing as the Air Force evaluated final candidates to receive the KC-46A tanker. Prior to that, Congresswoman Shea-Porter joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Air Force Chief of Staff expressing support for the selection of Pease.

·         National Guard equipment procurement: The bill exceeds full funding for National Guard and Reserves equipment.

DEFENSE, VETERANS, AND WOUNDED WARRIORS

·         Veterans Backlog: The bill appropriates $320 million to deal with the claims backlog at the Veterans Administration. Shea-Porter has worked consistently to reduce the Veterans Administration’s (VA) disability claims backlog. In October, she voted in favor of bipartisan reforms to help reduce the backlog.

·         Veterans Homelessness: The bill fully funds the President’s request for $10,000 new veterans’ housing vouchers at $75 million.

·         PTSD Therapy: The bill contains Shea-Porter’s bipartisan amendment to provide $4 million in funding for an innovative dog-training therapy program that is a safe, effective, non-drug intervention to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI in returning service members. Shea-Porter championed the program along with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). The amendment was fully paid for.

·         Retired Military COLA: The omnibus appropriations legislation repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors.  Yesterday, Shea-Porter offered an amendment to fully repeal reductions in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.

·         TRICARE: The legislation includes $218 million increase for the TRICARE health insurance program for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, to protect beneficiaries against increases in out-of-pocket costs. Shea-Porter included  language in the National Defense Authorization Act would help military families receive access to alternative physical therapies under the TRICARE program.

·         Wounded Warriors: The legislation includes $585.6 million for prosthetic research, which is $3.5 million above the 2013 enacted level.

·         Military Pay Raise: The agreement would fund a requested 1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces and the DOD civilian workforce.

·         Defense and Small Business: Exceeds full funding by $175 million for the Defense Rapid Innovation Program to incorporate small business developments into Department of Defense programs.

DISASTER RELIEF AND FIRST RESPONDERS

·         Federal Emergency Management Agency: The bill allocates $6.2 billion for disaster relief – fully funding FEMA’s stated requirement. The bill also provides a total of $2.5 billion for first responder grants, $39 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, including:

o   $1.5 billion for state and local grants,

o   $680 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants, and

o   $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

o   Additionally, the bill includes a House amendment that delays certain premium increases in the National Flood Insurance Program.

EDUCATION

·         TRIO: 95 percent of the sequestration cuts to TRIO were restored. Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been a leading advocate of investments in effective programs such as TRIO. In June, she led a group of 21 Representatives in sending a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that Federal TRIO Programs be protected from further cuts under sequestration in Fiscal Year 2014.

·         K-12 Funding: The $625 million increase in Title I funds over post-sequester funding levels will help support an additional 1 million students, and the $498 million increase over post-sequester funding for IDEA grants will cover the costs of an additional 6,000 special education staff.

·         Head Start: The bill restores the Head Start sequestration cuts and gives grantees a 1.3 percent cost-of-living increase.  Allows the Education Department and HHS to jointly administer a new $250 million competitive grant program for states to develop or expand high-quality preschool programs for low-income families.  In addition, the bill provides a $36 million boost to the Child Care Block Grant program for a total of $2.36 billion.

·         Pell Grants: The maximum annual award, which still must be confirmed by the Education Department and is based on inflation, is likely to rise by $85 to $5,730.

INFRASTRUCTURE

·         New Hampshire Rail: The bill restores funding for the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail line that runs through New Hampshire’s Seacoast. Under previous appropriations bills, funding would have expired. By sending two letters to the Department of Transportation, Shea-Porter and the New England delegation worked toward restoration of the $6 million a year in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding that supports this critical regional infrastructure.

·         Highways: The bill includes a $557 million increase to Highway funding above the FY 2013 amount.

LIHEAP

·         The legislation includes $3.425 billion in funding for LIHEAP, a $169 million increase over FY 2013 levels. As Granite Staters face another cold winter, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has repeatedly called on Congress to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In April, she sent a bipartisan letter requesting that funding for LIHEAP be authorized at a level of $5.1 billion in FY2014.

MEALS ON WHEELS

·         The omnibus bill contains a $41 million increase for Meals on Wheels, a nutrition program for seniors. Shea-Porter has visited Meals on Wheels in New Hampshire and has spoken out about the fact that under sequestration, Meals on Wheels programs were forced to cut, on average, 364 meals per week and have increased their waiting lists on average by 58 seniors.

NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHERMEN

·         Disaster Relief: $75 million will be allocated toward fishery disaster, thanks to this legislation. Shea-Porter has been a vocal supporter of this program. In early 2013, Shea-Porter wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner and cosponsored an amendment to reinstate disaster aid.

PRIVACY

·         National Security Agency (NSA): Today’s Appropriations bill would require the National Security Agency to provide Congress the number of phone records collected and reviewed during the last five years, including an estimate of the number belonging to U.S. citizens. The agency would also have to provide an unclassified report describing all spy programs that collect bulk data, including the cost of the programs and what type of records are being collected or what kind of data the agency plans to collect in the future. Shea-Porter has been an outspoken critic of the dragnet collection of data by government agencies. She has called for increased transparency, oversight, and accountability over domestic surveillance.

US POSTAL SERVICE

·         Saturday Mail: The legislation forbids ending Saturday mail or closing rural post offices. Shea-Porter is a cosponsor of H.Res 30, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Postal Service should maintain six-day delivery. She believes the US Postal Service is a vital resource for communities in New Hampshire and that eliminating Saturday mail delivery would hurt consumers and fail to adequately address the issues facing the United States Postal Service.

The bill shamefully does not include an extension of emergency unemployment compensation, an issue that Shea-Porter has repeatedly raised with Speaker Boehner and her colleagues. Today, Congresswoman Shea-Porter requested unanimous consent to end Republican’s refusal to allow a vote on extending emergency unemployment compensation.

“It is deeply disappointing that Republicans in Washington continue to block a vote to renew emergency unemployment compensation and help job-seekers in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter said. “This is not the end of the line. I’ll continue to fight for a jobs bill and an extension of emergency unemployment insurance for those looking for work.”

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