For Letter Carriers: A New Year But the Same Old Challenges

Save Postal Service Rally_Greenville_1B_HeidtAlthough we, the American people, catapulted off the fiscal cliff at the stroke of midnight on December 31, we did manage to parachute to earth for a hard landing late Tuesday night with a resounding thud.

Now if all the drama surrounding the cliff talk left you panting for breath, take a few long, deep breaths while you can because more fiscal hijinks lie in wait around the next corner – and it’s fast approaching. It’s the debt ceiling! The ceiling, which threatens to squash us all as flat as pancakes, needs to be resolved by the newly minted 113th Congress between now and March 1st. If it isn’t, then the global apocalypse the Mayans predicted for December 21, will arrive then, a few months late.

The good news for letter carriers and our customers is that the pending postal reform—-that other cliff—-has been punted by the lame duck Congress over to those in the 113th. This is good news because had a compromise bill been passed –- merging S 1789 with H.R. 2309—-it would have most assuredly eliminated Saturday delivery within the next 2 years, put thousands of employees on the unemployment line, and initiated a death spiral for the Postal Service.

It is hoped that by allowing the 113th Congress to tackle the postal reform issue rather than the lame duck 112th, they will give it more thoughtful consideration and eventually craft a bill that will address the pre-funding mandate that accounts for 80 percent of the Postal Service’s losses over the past six years and preserve six-day delivery.

But it’s not going to be easy. There are those elected officials whom we have supported in the past, including the president, who are leaning toward five-day delivery.

In response to a petition on the White House’s website urging postal reform that would retain six-day delivery, Dana Hyde, Associate Director for General Government Programs, Office of Management and Budget, wrote on December 31 that the administration is still backing the cutting of mail delivery days to five, arguing that this “and other cost structuring actions will ensure that the Postal Service remains viable with the best interest of this vital institution in mind.”

North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan is also of the opinion that five-day delivery is a viable solution to the Postal Service’s financial problems. Responding to a letter I had written to her about six-day delivery, she states that she believes S 1789 would be “sufficient protection to maintain timely delivery standards while also giving the Postal Service the flexibility to make decisions necessary for its financial solvency.”

Neither Ms. Hyde or Senator Hagan mention the pre-funding mandate that is causing much of the problem. Not a word.

I also wrote to Senator Burr but his letter addressed a question I never even asked. Typical.

The White House and Sen. Hagan’s responses to postal employees’ petitions, letters, emails, personal visits and phone calls seem to indicate that they are responding more favorably to the postmaster general’s plan for the postal service’s future rather than that of the men and women who have made it the success it is today, despite its various challenges and despite postal mismanagement.

We dodged the bullet in 2012. But there are other bullets being manufactured in Congress that will be fired at the Postal Service in the weeks and months ahead. We cannot afford, nor can we allow ourselves to be discouraged. We need to continue to write, call and meet with our representatives and keep these important issues before them and the American public as well.

We as postal workers—-retired and active—-have what we have today because of those who have gone before us and fought the good fight so that we might have what we have today. It hasn’t come easy. It’s been hard. But we should be encouraged by the fights—-and the victories—-of those who’ve preceded us. They won because of their perseverance in the face of adversity. They didn’t give up and neither should we. If we do, we not only fail them, but we will also fail our families and the American public.

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