United States Postal Service: Exceptional Circumstances Requires Exceptional Stupidity

By Richard Thayer

Over the years I have come to expect the absurd from postal management: from the very top to the very bottom. Quite frankly, nothing, no matter how ridiculous, has surprised me.

Until now.

I have to admit that the news I received yesterday made me gasp is disbelief. Up until then I believed that postal management was capable of almost anything, but that even they had more integrity than Congress.

I was horribly mistaken.

It was reported in The Washington Post on Thursday that the Postal Service, the nation’s most trusted federal agency, is now actively pursuing addressing its financial problems and looming insolvency by voiding the contract agreements between itself and its unions.

Specifically, it wants to reduce its workforce by 220,000 career positions by 2015. Regular attrition would only account for 100,000 of those employees; the remainder would be from layoffs, something that is forbidden in postal union contracts.

But that’s not all.

In addition to reducing its workforce (craft employees) by 220,000 over the next three years, it also wants to eliminate the health and retirement plans its employees now have and replace them with their own benefit programs.

All of this is in addition to reducing mail delivery from six days to five.

In its notice to employees informing them of its strategy for reducing costs the Postal Service said, “Financial crisis calls for significant actions. We will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health prefunding costs imposed by Congress.”

In a so-called “Workforce Optimization” paper drafted by the USPS it states “that asking Congress to eliminate (emphasis added) the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements is an extraordinary request by the Postal Service, and we do not make this request lightly. However, exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies.”

What this all boils down to is that the Postal Service wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for the unions. Says the Postal Service: “Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal service and our unionized (emphasis added) employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount required by 2015. Therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.”

If all this sounds a bit familiar, it should. This is the same argument that Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and numerous other Republican governors have made in stripping away employees’ bargaining rights.

Fortunately, the postal brain-trust in Washington can’t arbitrarily strip away these rights, they have to go through Congress first.

However, since many of our nation’s citizens thought it would be a great idea to elect a bunch of Republicans to Congress last year, the majority of our lawmakers in the House of Representatives think privatizing the Postal Service is a pretty good idea.

For example, our good friend Rep. Darrell (“Ice Man”) Issa (R-Calif) has said of the USPS plan, “These new ideas from the Postal Service are worth exploring. Options for reform and cost savings that will protect taxpayers from paying for a bailout, now or in the future, need to be on the table.”

Everything should be on the table except taxing corporations and individuals who make over $250,000 a year. Everything else is fair game.

Here’s what three of the unions have said:

President Fred Roland of the National Association of Letter Carriers: “The issues off lay-off protection and health benefits are specifically covered by the contract…The Congress of the United States does not engage in contract negotiations with unions and we do not believe they are about to do so.” For additional comments from President Rolando, go here.

President Cliff Guffey of the American Postal Workers Union: “The APWU will vehemently oppose any attempt to destroy the collective bargaining rights of postal employees or tamper with our recently negotiated contract–whether by postal management or members of Congress.”

National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association President Don Cantriel: “We are absolutely opposed to the layoff proposal. We are opposed to pulling out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Our advisers are not advising us at all to even consider it.”

For those letter carriers who haven’t been giving to our political action PAC, COLCPE, you really should consider it.

And if you’ve never called or written to your congressman or senator, you might want to start doing that.

We’ll be posting additional comments from the NALC as more information is made available to us.

(A special note: for those who visit our website at nclettercarrier.com, I have been unable to post this information there due to a problem I’m having with our server. I hope to get this corrected soon. Thanks for your patience.)


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