Federal Employees Call-In Day Opposing White House’s 2018 Budget

Letter carriers and other federal employees — past and present–and their adult family members are being urged to call their senators and House representatives today to voice Call Congress 2opposition to the White House’s 2018 budget. A flyer from the NALC gives information on why this bill is a financial threat to letter carriers, the USPS, and other federal employees can be found here: NALC flyer.

The flyer reads in part:

Since 2011, postal and federal employees have been ripped off time and again–to the tune of more than $180 billion–in the name of deficit reduction. Without any additional benefit, we’ve seen a three-year pay freeze, reduced pay increases, unpaid furlough days and two increases in retirement contributions for new hires.

You are asked to call 844-904-7029 (Washington, DC) and 855-982-3154 and urge your senators and House representative to oppose this budget.

To see what’s at stake for you and your family, go to NALC flyer.

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We Knew It All Along

It’s hard to believe that the purpose behind the 2006 legislation requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund its health benefits for its retirees 75 years into the future was anything other than a veiled attempt at driving nails into the agency’s coffin and then resurrecting the decomposing corpse into a private, profit-making corporation. Why else would Congress require the USPS to pay $5.6 billion into such a fund over a 10 year period? It certainly wasn’t intended to benefit the agency’s retirees. Postal Service_Stop Delaying America's Mail_newson6Politicians, especially those of the past 20 years or so, have had little regard for federal workers and federal retirees.

Many of our politicians see federal workers—that is you—as unnecessary and a drag on the economy. After all, as a letter carrier and a union member, you make more than the minimum wage, you have decent benefits—like health insurance—and a pension when you retire. Shameful!

No, the intent of the 2006 Republican-led lame duck Congress was clear: suck the life-blood out of the Postal Service. Use the pre-funding money to shore up the U.S. Treasury while at the same time insisting that the Postal Service is irreparably broken and the only way to save it is to privatize it.

We understand that many politicians act at the behest of lobbyists who, in turn, act at the behest of large corporations with deep pockets. For decades the Postal Service has been a cash cow for the U.S. government. There are those in the private sector who would like for that cow to be theirs.

What’s so alarming is the fact that it’s not just politicians and other money-hungry individuals who are working hard to transform a service-oriented agency into a money-making corporation. Not only has there been a concentrated attack on the Postal Service from without, but also—incredibly—from within.

Just as it’s hard to believe that the 2006 lame duck Congress had the best interest of the Postal Service and the American public at heart when it passed the crippling pre-funding mandate, it’s equally hard to believe that upper level postal management, and past postmasters general, are concerned about preserving this valuable American institution. After all, they have been fighting tooth and nail to have it dismantled one post office and one mail processing plant at a time. It has become a prolonged ‘Going Out of Business” sale.

It’s been nearly a decade now since the pre-funding debacle and the USPS, no thanks to Congress or postal management, is still afloat. And you wouldn’t know it from much of the media or postal management, but the Postal Service is actually making a profit. Last year it made a $1.4 billion operating profit. And this year it has already eclipsed that figure.

Refusing to acknowledge that the agency is recovering from the earlier recession and is making an operating profit, the Postal Service continues to pursue plans to reduce its effectiveness. To that end, back in 2012, under the leadership of then postmaster general Patrick Donahoe, the Postal Service began Phase 1 of its “network rationalization” plan to “streamline” and make the USPS more efficient.

The streamlining plan involved cutting the hours of 13,000 small post offices, closing hundreds of other post offices and consolidating 150 mail processing plants.

Anyone who had made a passing grade in business school knew this wasn’t going to work. Even people who hadn’t gone to business school knew it wasn’t going to work! There’s no way you can improve service by cutting it, the people said. The network rationalization plan is not rational, they said. It flies in the face of common sense. Don’t do it!

Former postmaster general Patrick Donahoe was the perfect voice and face of the Postal Service. He was an extremely arrogant and hard-headed man. And the Postal Service was like that long before he became its leader. It is a culture of arrogance.

Ignoring the voices of reason on every side, the Postal Service began closing post offices and consolidating its mail processing plants.

The result? Chaos.

The most recent report from the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General reports what we knew would happen, the mail is being delayed all over the country. No state, no city, no town, no one is exempt. The OIG reports that mail arriving late to its intended destination has increased by 50 percent since 2014. And 2014 was a bad year as well.

Mail has been delayed at such an alarming rate that the OIG issued an urgent alert to the USPS last month recommending that it stop closing its plants until service stabilizes. Says the OIG: “The impact on customer service and employees have been considerable.”

There are some things that are so obvious that even postal management can’t ignore them. At some point in their ingenious streamlining plan they began to realize that, yes, closing mail processing plants was having a negative effect on mail delivery, it was being delayed.

In light of this startling reality, what does management do? Can you guess?

If you thought they went back to their drawing board and reevaluated their plan, you would be wrong. That’s not how they operate up there in D.C.

No, instead, they decided to lower their delivery standards! And so it was that in January of this year they eliminated overnight delivery for local first-class letters. It will now take an extra day to get there. And mail traveling longer distances will take an additional day, or two, or three, or…

But as the Washington Post reported in August, the USPS is now struggling to even meet its own lower standards! What will they do now, lower their delivery standards even further?

But there is hope. Even though management has turned a blind eye and deaf ear toward its employees and the American public, members of Congress—to their credit—have not. They are listening to you, their constituents.

Last year Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) started a campaign called “Fix My Mail” after hundreds of her constituents wrote or called her complaining of late deliveries, non-existent deliveries, mistakes with mail forwarding and shortened hours at their local post offices. Three other senators have joined her in introducing legislation called the Rural Postal Act. The main requirement of the legislation would be that the Postal Service restore its service standards so mail reaches its destination in a timely manner.

At least one presidential candidate has weighed in on the issue. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says that the Postal Service has caused “a disaster that is negatively impacting Americans all over the country.”

In a letter to PMG Megan Brennan he wrote: “I have heard from people all over the country who have reported serious delays in receiving life-saving prescription drugs, and the bills they need to pay to keep the lights and electricity on in their homes.

This delay means that some of the most vulnerable people in the country are going without the medications they need, or they are being forced to travel long distances because they cannot rely on the timely delivery of mail.”

Unlike in 2006, today’s representatives in Washington are listening to their constituents. Call and write and make your voice heard. And ask your customers to do the same.

(photo credit: newson6.com)

NALC: ‘Fast Track’ déjà vu

Stop Fast Track 9NALC Legislative Dept.

This past Thursday, the House of Representatives cleared a stand-alone Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill—better known as “Fast Track.” The move came as a result of the crushing defeat of a package of trade bills in the House where Fast Track failed to advance beyond the House because it was packaged with a trade adjustment assistance measure that went down in flames.

Last week, House leaders—who have been relentless advocates, alongside President Obama, for pushing trade agreements—resorted to a new approach that tied the Fast Track bill to a measure intended to allow fire fighters access to their own retirement savings once they reach retirement age. The bill measure was approved by a vote of 218 to 208, with no notable shifts in opposition or support by House members.

Fast Track now heads to the Senate, where its fate remains unclear. Last month, the Senate voted in favor of advancing a full trade package that included Fast Track and three other bills: a trade adjustment assistance bill (TAA), a bill with provisions covering enforcement for Customs and Border Patrol, and the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

AGOA is a trade preference program designed to facilitate investment and trade between the U.S. and parts of Africa. It’s a seemingly non-controversial measure that has received broad bipartisan support in both chambers, although some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have requested that AGOA not be used as a ploy to get Fast Track passed. (Click here to read the CBC’s letter.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who gained the support of 14 Democrats the last time the Senate considered a Fast Track package, now will need 11 to advance a Fast Track–only measure this week, followed by consideration of a separate package that includes AGOA and an extension of TAA.

However, a handful of Democratic senators have signaled their uncertainty on this particular Fast Track measure for several reasons. Some want to consider the full package of trade proposals, some are insisting that TAA be repackaged first, and some are insisting on a separate vote to reauthorize yet another measure: the Export-Import Bank, another highly contentious issue in trade package consideration that many House Republicans oppose.

For now, the Senate is expected to vote on a stand-alone Fast Track bill Tuesday or Wednesday. If that passes, it will be delivered directly to President Obama.

If your head isn’t spinning yet, keep reading.

Senators then will take up the package of trade preferences and TAA, setting up a final vote on those on either Wednesday or Thursday. If these measures pass, they will need further consideration by the House before advancing further. House lawmakers have given themselves until July 30 to find a way forward—but there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty at the moment.

“I don’t see a path right now for TAA,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who voted against Thursday’s stand-alone bill and also against the package deal. “The overwhelming vote last week to slow down ‘fast track’ trade authority is a clear indication that it’s time for Republicans and Democrats to work together to negotiate a better deal for the American people.”

“Unfortunately, our battle against Fast Track is far from over,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando, who encouraged letter carriers to keep checking the website for updates and to make sure they’re signed up as e-Activists to get news delivered right to their inboxes.

ACTION ITEM: NALC encourages all letter carriers to keeping thanking the House members who voted against Fast Track and against TAA. Letter carriers also are encouraged to let their senators know about NALC’s opposition to consideration of these bills.

“Members of Congress need to know that letter carriers appreciate their support,” said Rolando. “They also need to know that enough is enough. It’s time to move on to more pressing issues before they depart for the August recess.”

Click here to read NALC’s statement prior to last week’s House vote.

Click here to read more about last week’s vote and to find out why Fast Track would be dangerous for letter carriers and the Postal Service.

Click here to read a letter from the presidents of NALC, APWU and NPMHU urging a “no” vote on Fast Track.

NALC: Stop Fast Track — TODAY is Fast Track Call-In Day!

Stop Fast TrackNALC Legislative Update

The time to stop Fast Track is now.

This terrible trade negotiation policy recently passed in the Senate. And now that Congress is back from its Memorial Day recess, the House is expected to bring Fast Track to a vote any day now.

If Fast Track becomes law, it would encourage the passage of bad trade deals. It also would tie Congress’ hands and prevent lawmakers from improving bad deals.

But there is still time to tell our representatives to oppose Fast Track.

TODAY (Wednesday, June 3) is a national Fast Track call-in day, your chance to join people all over the country and tell lawmakers that Americans cannot afford another bad trade deal.

As most letter carriers know by now, Fast Track would allow for a quick vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which could include a ban on postal banking.

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization is sponsoring negotiation of a trade in services agreement (TISA) among dozens of countries, and the U.S. government is in talks with the European Union on a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). In the TISA and T-TIP negotiations, the Europeans are calling for the United States to phase out the Postal Service’s monopoly on the delivery of letter mail—a policy adopted by the EU.

In other words, allowing T-TIP and TISA to be fast-tracked could pose a direct threat to our jobs and our system of affordable universal service.

Trade deals should not be crafted behind closed doors. Join the AFL-CIO in the effort to put the brakes on bad trade deals.

TODAY, call your representative and tell them to stand up for workers and democracy by opposing Fast Track.

Visit http://www.nofasttrack.com to learn more.

NALC: New Postal Reform Bills Being Considered This Week In Congress

NALC Legislative Dept.Call_Congress

When your congressional representatives return to Washington this week after their Memorial Day recess, key lawmakers will have their sights set on postal reform legislation. In fact, postal bills are being drafted in both chambers right now, so we could be mere weeks away from seeing officially introduced legislation starting to move.

With Congress beginning to turn its attention to the Postal Service, we need every single NALC member to make sure any postal bills under consideration preserve and strengthen our delivery networks, our services and our jobs.

You can start right now: Tell your members of Congress—in the House and in the Senate—that any postal legislation that calls for service cuts (such as proposing postal holidays, eliminating mail delivery on Saturdays or eliminating door-to-door delivery) is unacceptable. And ask your congressional representatives to pass that message along to their colleagues—Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Tom Carper (D-DE)—who are drafting postal legislation and who need to hear our message.

Fast Track This Week: Debate, Amendments and General Confusion

Fast Track3

NALC Legislative Dept.

Following lots of twists and turns in the debate over how to consider Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)—better known as Fast Track—and related bills (including Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and Customs Enforcement), it seems that the Senate is off and running in how it will consider TPA and what it will take to get it across the finish line in the Senate.

Here’s the bottom line: With Senate procedures being murky and confusing, NALC knows that beginning this week on Monday night (May 18), there will be a lot of activity on the Senate floor regarding consideration: debate, amendments and general confusion. It is expected that the Senate will resume consideration of the TPA and TAA, which will be linked together to achieve an expected 60-vote threshold, making passage in the chamber imminent.

As you recall, the Obama administration is knee-deep in negotiations with Pacific countries over what’s known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well as with European countries over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

To secure these, Obama is calling on Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as “Fast Track.” If Fast Track passes, it means that when TPP and TTIP come up for a congressional vote, the two trade deals could only be voted up or down, without amendments.

For more information regarding NALC’s opposition to Fast Track, click here. And please be sure to stand by for a possible call to action as things unfold this week.

Fast Track Legislation Advances in House and Senate Committees

Stop Fast TrackNALC Legislative Update

Last week, both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee passed their respective trade promotion authority (TPA) bills (H.R. 1890 and S. 995, respectively). If passed, these measures would grant the executive branch so-called “fast track” authority for the next several years, enabling the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to negotiate trade and investment deals quietly and forcing Congress to give these deals up or down votes with no opportunity to strike or amend problematic provisions in such trade agreements.

While both bills are similar, the Senate version includes human-trafficking language, a contentious issue in the Senate. In addition, several senators from both parties have expressed concerns over TPA, making a path forward unclear.

During the House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) offered an alternative dubbed “Right Track” to address concerns raised by many of TPA’s opponents, including those of us in the labor movement.

“Unfortunately, the negotiations are not on the right track,” Levin said at the markup. “In some areas, we don’t know where [the USTR] is headed, and in others we don’t like where they are.”

Levin’s alternative was rejected during the hearing.

“If you want to understand why the middle class in America is disappearing and why we have more wealth and income inequality in America than we have had since the late 1920s, you have to address the issue of trade,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has actively opposed TPA and who announced his bid for the presidency this week. “All of the major corporations want to continue with this trade policy. Wall Street wants to continue this trade policy. The drug companies want to continue this trade policy. But organizations representing American workers and the environment…want new trade policies.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also has been a leading voice of opposition to TPA, calling for the release of each trade deal in advance of a TPA vote.

“We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it,” Warren said. “They say the deal is nearly done and they are making a lot of promises about how the deal will affect workers, the environment, and human rights. Promises—but people like you can’t see the actual deal.”

The next steps for H.R. 1890 and S. 995 will require floor consideration by each chamber, followed by a conference to iron out the differences between the bills.

In the Senate, the bill will likely need 60 votes to pass. At this point, it is unclear whether those votes can be secured, with several senators from both parties expressing various concerns over issues ranging from worker protections and job losses, as well as general opposition to granting the Obama administration any additional authority.

In the House, the measure must obtain 218 votes for passage. However, with dozens of Republicans reportedly raising concerns, the GOP must secure the votes of potentially dozens of Democrats to offset any Republican defections.

“I’m leaning no—I just have some concerns about giving over power to the president,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). “This president has taken more congressional authority under himself already and I have concerns about giving him any more ability to do that.”

NALC President Fredric Rolando has sent a letter to Congress, calling on lawmakers to ensure “that there is transparency and equity in the trade process.”

“Congress must maintain its ability to approve trade partners in advance,” Rolando wrote, “to determine whether America’s objectives are being met inclusively, and to have the ability to strike or amend from trade deals provisions that fail to incorporate your input.”

NALC encourages all members to urge their members of Congress to vote “No” on H.R. 1890 and S. 995 should either or both come up for a vote.

Also of interest:

Help put the brakes on “Fast-Track”!

Dear Rep. Price #StopFastTrack!

Town of Chapel Hill, NC Comes Out Against TPP