Postal Employees Dodge the Bullet, But More Bullets Are On the Way

Dodging the BulletIf you’re a postal worker and you heard something whiz by your ear this past week, that wasn’t a snowball, that was you dodging the bullet.

What bullet you say?

That was yet another bullet fired at the U.S. Postal Service and all of its past, present and future employees by the newly re-booted Republican Party.

This past Tuesday, December 10, the Congressional Budget Committee, headed up by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled their highly anticipated bi-partisan budget proposal to mixed reviews. Neither side, Republican or Democrat, liked a number of the proposals. But despite that the House passed it and the Senate, in spite of its grousing, is expected to pass it as well when they return to Capitol Hill, ever so briefly, before leaving on their Christmas and New Year’s vacation.

Although future federal and postal employees will have to pay 4.4 percent of their pay into FERS beginning the first of the new year, thus creating a three-tier pension system, with employees paying different amounts into FERS while all getting the same benefits, it could have been worse. A whole lot worse. As I said, we dodged the bullet this past Tuesday.

Here are some of the things the bullet contained, some of the proposals that Rep. Paul Ryan and the Republicans were hoping would be in their early Christmas present to the U.S. Postal Service, its employees, and millions of its mostly unsuspecting customers:

Ryan’s original proposals would have ended Saturday delivery. The discussion on that issue, had it been proposed and passed, would be over. Saturday delivery would have been relegated to the past, tens of thousands of postal workers would have been without jobs, millions of customers who depend on Saturday delivery would have been out of luck, and the first domino in the Postal Service’s demise would have set off the ensuing chain-reaction for privatization.

Ryan’s proposal would have ended door-to-door delivery and initiated centralized delivery, taking boxes from homes and curbs and placing cluster boxes in various sections of one’s community. This would have hammered yet another nail into the U.S. Postal Service’s coffin.

Ryan’s original plan would have increased pension contributions for ALL federal and postal workers, present and future, to 5.5 percent.

Of course that wouldn’t have been enough of a “shared sacrifice,” so Ryan also proposed to change the basis for calculating retirement benefits from employees’ high-three years of earnings to high-five years of earnings thus reducing retirees’ annuities.

OK, so maybe that wasn’t a bullet you dodged last week, I guess maybe it was more like a drone.

Ryan said of the final agreement concerning federal and postal employees who would pay more into their FERS account beginning in January of 2014, “What we are asking here, is that the people who work for the federal government–and we thank them for their work, they are hard-working dedicated people that we respect–but we think it’s only right and fair that they pay something more toward their pensions just like the hardworking taxpayer that pays for those pensions in the first place.”

Do you think that Rep. Ryan decided to take all those other proposals off the table out of the goodness of his heart? Do you think for a minute during the months-long debate over what should be added and subtracted from the budget proposal that he had a change of heart?

No.

So why weren’t these initial potentially destructive proposals not in the final budget package?

It was because of unions and unionized workers; it was because of organizations like AARP and NARFE, and of concerned and educated public citizens who met with, called and wrote to their congressional representatives and told them emphatically, “No!” During the budget negotiations, and just prior to the proposed budget’s unveiling, NALC sent out an alert notifying its members what was in the works and that we needed to call our representatives and tell them to vote NO on any proposal that included the elimination of Saturday delivery. And people responded by calling. Hopefully, you were one of them.

There’s no other reason why Ryan and his GOP cohorts took their destructive proposals off the table other than pressure from the American people telling them and others on that committee that these were bad ideas and should not be in the final package.

The bottom line is this:

Many times we don’t say anything, we don’t call or write or pay a personal visit to our representatives because we think, “I’m just one person. They’re not going to listen to me. They’re listening to the folks with deep pockets. It’s just a waste of my time.”

This most recent success, and all the previous successes we’ve had in preserving Saturday delivery, and preserving other aspects of the Postal Service, should encourage and embolden us in the future. Your voice does matter, they do listen in Washington. And your vote, when added to millions of others, will trump the moneyed interests and the smooth-talking lobbyists every time.

Yes, we won in this most recent battle to preserve the Postal Service. But, unfortunately, the war is far from over. This coming Wednesday, December 18, a Senate Committee will revisit, yet again, S.1486, to discuss this potentially destructive bill for “markup.”

Stay vigilant, stay active. The future of the U.S. Postal Service depends on it.

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