Bills to Help the Postal Service: If at First You Don’t Succeed–Try, Try Again. And Again. And…

By Richard Thayer

Well, we had another congressman take a stab at helping the Postal Service resolve its financial situation this past week. We’ll give him an A for effort, but no cigar.

Last week Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) became the latest congressperson to introduce a bill for the purpose of allowing the Postal Service to receive a lot of money that is due it and setting forth some ways it could make more money. It is Senate Bill 1010, the Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation Act, or POST for short. It’s a combination of good and bad.

On the plus side, the bill would solve the problem the Postal Service has with its pension and retiree health pre-funding issue that has plagued it for quite some time now. It would require the Office of Personnel Management to revisit the books and “accurately” (emphasis added) determine the amount of surpluses in the CSRS and FERS pension plans and then give that money to the rightful owner—the Postal Service.

In addition, the bill would give the Postal Service more freedom to offer new products and services, such as delivering beer and wine (?).

But, unfortunately, there is a fly in the ointment. Actually, more than one. And they’re both pretty big.

On the negative side of the ledger: the bill would eliminate six-day delivery. It would allow the Postal Service to cut as many days as it would like…without the approval of Congress. So, in other words, postal management would have carte blanche on how many days it would deliver the mail. Can you imagine giving the Postal Service carte blanche over anything? Talk about a recipe for disaster.

Then there’s this other fly in the ointment. The bill would change the way the Postal Service’s employees would collectively bargain with their employer. The Postal Service would have the upper hand going into collective bargaining. And this bill is from a Democrat, mind you, not a Republican. Didn’t he get the memo on how union members feel about politicians meddling with their collective bargaining rights?

If the provisions of this bill sound familiar it’s probably because Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a similar bill earlier this year, The Postal Service Improvement Act of 2011, S. 353. It too, has both good and bad stuff in it. It, like the Postal Service, needs improvement.

In both cases, the NALC supports certain parts of the bills, but, for obvious reasons, can’t support other parts.

Thankfully, we have a like-minded member of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), who is the chairman of that subcommittee. Speaking at a hearing of that subcommittee last week he stated emphatically, and for the record, that the provisions of both those bills contain provisions which “biases the collective bargaining process in favor of the Postal Service…”

He said quite bluntly that Congress doesn’t need to involve itself in collective bargaining. Butt out. (That’s a paraphrase.)

Unlike Sen. Carper, Sen. Akaka had obviously gotten the union’s memo on collective bargaining and the preservation of six-day delivery.

In addition to those two bills, there’s another one out there that actually has more positives than negatives. On April 5 Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced HR 1351, the United States Postal Service’s Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011 which also addresses the problem of the Postal Service having to pay much more than is necessary into its retirement fund. But it also comes up short. The bill only addresses the overcharges and doesn’t repeal the annual pre-funding payment into the Postal Service’s Retiree Health Benefit Fund which costs $5.5 billion a year.

And then, there’s a fourth bill. HR 137 would make it possible for the Postal Service to stick with six-day delivery.

Have you got all that? At last count, we have four bills floating around in Congress that attempt to address the Postal Service’s current and future financial problems. All four of them come up short. And three out of the four have stuff in there that would hurt, not help, the Postal Service, its customers, its shareholders and its employees.

So they are working on these, and the NALC and other postal unions, are working on Congress to help them get it right on the next go round.

And they’re going to have to get it right fairly soon because later this year the Postal Service will run out of money. The clock is ticking.

At last count (earlier today) HR 1351 had 99 co-sponsors, none of whom are from North Carolina (groan).

On the other hand, HR 137 (keeping six-day delivery) has 136 co-sponsors, five of which are from North Carolina. They are: Walter Jones, 3rd District; David Price, 4th District; Mike McIntyre, 7th District; Larry Kissell, 8th District; and Jerry McNerney, 11th District. If your district representative has signed on yet, you might want to contact him/her and ask them to co-sponsor.

So, hopefully, with four bills to work with now, our representatives will be able to sift through these, keep what is good, throw away that which is bad, and come up with a decent bill that preserves six-day delivery, recoups the billions owed to the USPS, and gives our employer the wiggle room it needs to pursue other avenues for making money.

Keep calling, keep writing. Keep praying.


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