Ideas Abound on How to Save the Postal Service

By Richard Thayer

It’s always good to know that we have some friends in high places. One friend of the Postal Service and its employees is Ruth Goldway, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission. She is one of those in Washington who is opposed to the USPS dropping a day of delivery.

If need be, she told The Washington Post’s Federal Eye on Tuesday that she supports a taxpayer subsidy if that’s what it takes to ensure its survival. She said, “Whatever it would be would be small and manageable over time.”

There are several bills floating around Congress now that would help in varying degrees, with the exception of the Darrell Issa bill, but none has won full support by the postal unions.

And there are at least three Postal Service Inspector General reports that make their own suggestions on how to save the Postal Service. One advocates reducing its major processing and distribution centers from 260 to 135 over the next nine years. That report predicts a savings of around $2 billion a year while resulting in “minimal relocations and layoffs” due in large part to attrition.

A second IG report says that $4.5 billion could be saved each year if more customers were required to switch their door delivery to curbside delivery. It also suggests that increasing centralized delivery would save around $5.1 billion a year. That report notes, however, that customer resistance (we know about that one) and policy restrictions could impede efforts to do that.

And a third IG report notes realistically that closing the USPS’s retail facilities will be difficult, at best, writing that there is “a common impulse of members of Congress to oppose changes in public facilities within their constituencies,” adding that the Postal Service doesn’t show much support for such consolidations.

The article says that those who oppose such closings, like the unions, are highly motivated and well organized. Which is more than can be said for postal management.

Billionaire Koch Brothers Putting Stamp on 2012 GOP Nomination

This is a cross-post from NALC Activist Alert:

The billionaire Koch Brothers, head of Koch Industries, continue to influence conservative politics and their Tea Party-endorsed politicians. Through various political action groups and committees, the brothers have spent tens of millions of dollars over the past several decades on free-market, anti-government and anti-union causes.

The two brothers, David and Charles, have recently struck a chord across labor-related airwaves through their group Americans for Prosperity. AFP, known as one of the major financial backers of the Tea Party, stepped out this past spring in strong support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting initiatives. The group ran ads in favor of Walker’s plan to strip public-sector employees of their right to bargain collectively and lobbied the governor in favor of the bill as well. Walker was obliged to listen, given that Koch Industries’ political action committee was one of the largest donors to his campaign.

Now, the Koch brothers have stepped into the 2012 GOP presidential nomination race, contributing $10,000 to Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign. Many thought the brothers would send Mitt Romney them first check, since they remain close to the former Massachusetts governor and have hosted events for him in the past, but the Kochs have also contributed a total of $25,000 to Bachmann since 2006.

Over the next couple of months, the Koch brothers will most likely spread their vast resources across the GOP spectrum, focusing on any candidate who embodies the brothers’ freewheeling market ideals. While we do not know how much the Koch brothers will contribute to campaigns in 2012, we do know, based on Walker and Wisconsin, the potential consequences for working men and women with such a powerful influence looming over any candidate.

In addition to the above, we also received this word through the NALC’s e-Activist Network and NALC President Fred Rolando:

I contacted you last week to inform you that the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives was going to make a decision that could determine the fate of six-day mail delivery service.

As of today, Tuesday, July 19, the hearing that was temporarily postponed last week has not been rescheduled.

Congress is in session this week. Therefore, the hearing could take place at any time. Please visit NALC’s homepage for the most up-to-date information.

Last week, you did your part to preserve six-day delivery and, when I call on you again, I know you will take action to keep the pressure on all 435 representatives.

Thank you for your continued efforts to preserve the excellent level of service we provide, six days a week.
In Solidarity,
Fredric V. Rolando, President
National Association of Letter Carriers

House Rules Committee May Vote On Six-Day Delivery July 14, Action Urged By Activists

The following is an urgent message from NALC President Fred Rolando concerning the House Rules Committee and a possible vote as early as today (Thursday) concerning six-day mail delivery:

Dear Activist:

I e-mailed you (Wednesday) to inform you that the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives was going to make a decision that could determine the fate of six-day mail delivery service.

I want to let you know that the hearing was postponed.

The calls from NALC members across the country to their representatives helped delay–at least until (Thursday–today)–the power grab by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to eliminate six-day mail delivery.

If you have not called your representative, I urge you to do so now.

First, look up your member of Congress’ Washington office phone number by clicking here.

Second, call his or her office immediately.

Third, ask your representative to urge the Rules Committee to preserve the language contained in HR 2434 that protects 6-day delivery.

Ending six-day delivery would:

  • Cause the loss of 80,000 full-and part-time jobs.
  • Break a bipartisan, 30-year history and tradition of Congress preserving six-day delivery.
  • Hurt tens of millions of customers and businesses whose livelihoods depend on Saturday mail delivery, including those who send and receive prescription drugs, parcels and rented movies and those who conduct financial transactions via the mail.
  • Ignore a Postal Regulatory Commission finding that eliminating Saturday delivery would result in lower savings than USPS forecasts, that 25 percent of First Class and Priority mail could be delayed by two or more days, and that such a reduction in service would have a disproportionately negative impact on elderly and rural Americans.

Letter carriers across the country are doing their part to preserve six-day delivery and we need to keep the pressure on all 435 representatives.

Thank you for your continued efforts to preserve the excellent level of service we provide, six days a week.

In Solidarity,
Fredric V. Rolando, President
National Association of Letter Carriers

How Can You Cut Service When Service is What You Provide?

By Michael Kurz

Please tell your member in Congress to support HR 137 which continues six-day delivery, and also HR 1351 which recalculates pension funding mandates instead of causing us financial hardships.

A third bill is also needed, HR 1262, which would modernize the USPS for the 21st century while at the same time not cutting service. How can you cut service when service is what you provide? The last time I looked, we were still called the United States Postal SERVICE.

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.

More Co-Sponsors Needed for HR 1351

By Richard Thayer

Received an e-Activist Alert from NALC President Fred Rolando on Friday concerning a bill that’s extremely important for the Postal Service. It’s HR 1351, the USPS Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA).

As of May 4, 65¬† congressmen/women have co-sponsored the bill. But more are needed. Sorry to say, of those 65 nary a one is a representative from North Carolina. Not one. This would seem to indicate that either we (letter carriers) aren’t doing a very good job of letting them know where we stand on this matter, or they (our representatives) aren’t doing a very good job of representing us.

If you haven’t contacted your rep yet, or if you have and they haven’t responded in a positive way (by cosponsoring the bill), you can get in touch with them by going here or here and asking that they co-sponsor HR 1351.

It’s extremely important that you do this because the Postal Service in its normal, misguided, dysfunctional way thinks eliminating Saturday delivery is the way to go, when in fact, it’s not.

Some quick background info: As the result of the 2006 postal reform law, the Postal Service is required, unlike anyone else, to pre-fund its future retiree health benefits to the tune of $5.5 billion a year. That’s billion with a B. It seems that the Office of Personnel Management made a slight miscalculation when it figured this up. Now we want them to go back to the drawing board, using the correct criteria, and recalculate the amount.

If it had not been for the OPM’s “misclaculation,” the USPS would actually have made a profit over the last five years.

HR 1351 directs Congress and the OPM to allow the Postal Service to use its own surpluses in its two pension plans, FERS and CSRS, to cover the cost of its retirees.

According to two independent audits there now exists a surplus of between $50 billion and $75 billion in the CSRS account.

If HR 1351 is passed — and hopefully it will be — the law would direct our mathmatically-challenged friends at OPM to properly recalculate the Service’s balance in the pension fund and transfer the money over to its health benefit fund.

For additional information on HR 1351, check out the NALC’s Fact Sheet.

Two Congressional Bills You Should Know About

By Richard Thayer

I received an e-mail Tuesday from the NALC’s e-Activist Network regarding two pro-letter carrier bills that have been introduced in the House, both of which address the Postal Service’s current financial difficulties. These are two very important bills so you might want to take a minute out of your busy schedule and either call or e-mail your representative and ask them to support these.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) has introduced H.R. 1351: “The United States Postal Service’s Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011.” Whew! It seems that a real doozy of an accounting error¬† by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) a little while back resulted in the Postal Service being charged billions of dollars. That money has been squirreled away in the Civil Service Retirement System. It’s way more than it actually needs.

It would seem like this would be a rather simple problem to correct: the OPM’s accounting office made a boo-boo, put the decimal in the wrong place, overcharged the Postal Service by billions of dollars. Solution: Put the decimal in the right place, break out the calculator and figure out exactly how much is owed to the Postal Service and PAY them the amount they are owed.

But, alas, as we have seen, nothing is ever simple in Washington. Therefore it has become necessary to introduce a bill with a very long title to correct the error. And in all probability, getting the bill passed won’t be a simple matter either.

Although H.R. 1351 only addresses the CSRS and FERS overcharges and not the pre-funding payments to the Health Benefit Fund, its passage would be a step in the right direction. According to the NALC’s Fact Sheet on this bill:

“Lynch’s bill….takes a big step toward making sure the Postal Service is treated in a fair and equitable manner, allowing it to overcome the very difficult financial challenges it currently faces….The Lynch bill would transfer surplus CSRS and FERS assets paid for by ratepayer and employee contributions–not taxpayer funds–to the Postal Service’s retirement health fund, and it would have absolutely no effect on any current or future federal retirees’ annuity.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Gerry Connoly (D-VA) has introduced H.R. 1262 which, if passed, would allow the USPS to modernize its business model allowing it to expand mail volume and increase its revenue. Called the “Reform the Postal Service for the 21st Century Act,” the bill would provide alternatives to the short-sighted five-day delivery plan that the Postal Service has been espousing.

In effect, H.R. 1262 fills in the gaps left by H.R. 1351 and would help the Postal Service achieve financial stability. Among other things this bill would increase revenue by selling non-postal products in retail locations; pursue new marketing strategies to attract new business; co-locate postal facilities in other non-postal retail facilities; and replace its current vehicle fleet with Electronic Motor Vehicles (EMV).

I’m fairly certain that the components of both bills were heavily influenced by the NALC and not by the Postal Service.

At any rate, take a minute or two out of your hectic, helter-skelter schedule and let your representative know these are two bills that warrant their support, big time.

If it’s been a while since you’ve contacted your representative and you’re not sure who he or she is, not to worry. When you go to the above website all you have to do is enter your postal zip code and the website will tell you who your rep is. Ain’t technology wonderful?