Rep. Darrell Issa’s “Solvency Authority” is Designed to Do More Than Make the USPS Solvent

By Richard Thayer

It seems that not everyone is focused on the nation’s rapidly approaching debt ceiling or the whereabouts of Casey Anthony.

Rep. Darrell Issa (D-CA) is content to let others debate these trivial matters; he has bigger fish to fry.

While the media’s attention has been focused on the above, plus the Rupert Murdoch scandal and the latest Harry Potter movie, Issa has been working toward eliminating collective bargaining within the Postal Service.

Since Republicans rushed into office earlier this year with the promise of creating jobs, the focus of many–as seen in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and other states–has been on eliminating collective bargaining agreements among the states and their public union employees.

Since postal unions are exempt from being eviscerated on the national level, Issa plans to take care of that through his recently introduced postal reform bill.

As noted by the Center for American Progress, the Issa bill is pretty much a carbon copy of a law passed earlier this year in Michigan which allows “emergency managers” to “modify, reject, or even terminate collective bargaining agreements.”

Under the Issa bill a “Solvency Authority” (sounds sinister, doesn’t it?) would be set up to, well, make the Postal Service “solvent” once again. “After meeting and conferring with the appropriate bargaining representative (the Authority can)…reject, modify or terminate one or more terms or conditions of an existing collective bargaining agreement.”

Under the aforementioned Michigan law which Issa has used as a template for his bill, the emergency fiscal manager of the Detroit Public Schools issued layoff notices to all teachers in the public school system this past spring. He then immediately moved to “renegotiate” their union contract. The Michigan law does not require emergency fiscal management to “bargain in good faith.” In other words the end result of such negotiations is: “It’s my way or the highway.”

The article accurately notes that the Postal Service has run a deficit since 2007 due to a provision that requires the USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits, a requirement that no other agency is required to pay.

The Congressional Research Service determined earlier that without this pre-funding provision the Postal Service wouldn’t have had a deficit until FY 2009, and that would have been a small one.

You may recall that earlier this year Issa called a hearing to criticize the postmaster general for negotiating a contract with the APWU that saved “only” $3.8 billion over the next four-and-a-half years. Issa and other Republican members of his committee were of the opinion that the APWU should have given more concessions than they did. This from the folks who campaigned not only on creating jobs but on reducing the power of the federal government.

Earlier this month the APWU incurred the wrath of Issa once again. In a press release he accused the postal union of running misleading TV ads. In addition, he wrote a scathing letter to the APWU’s president asking that he pull the ad off the air.

Remember, just because you have the right to collectively bargain now, doesn’t necessarily mean you will have it in the future. Men like Rep. Issa are seeing to it that you don’t.

(Big Brother picture by Chris Weston at


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