Unions: Senate postal overhaul would axe 100,000 workers

WASHINGTON (PAI) – The latest Postal Service overhaul bill, which stalled after the relevant Senate committee started work on it on Jan. 29, would axe 100,000 jobs, weaken workers’ comp and create “a two-tiered workforce,” postal unions say.

And that’s why they oppose the revised measure, S1486, the presidents of the Letter Carriers, Mail Handlers/Laborers, Rural Letter Carriers and Postal Workers added in their letter to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Senators started work on Jan. 29 on the measure, written by panel chairman Thomas Carper, D-Del., and top Republican Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

“We regret a more-limited, less-damaging bill is not being considered,” Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando, Mail Handlers President John Hegarty, NRLCA President Jeannette Dwyer and Postal Workers President Mark Dimondstein wrote.

“The committee should focus on addressing the principal causes of the Postal Service’s fiscal problems, not reducing service and targeting postal employees’ benefits. But we pledge to work with all of you for postal reform that will strengthen the national treasure that is the U.S. Postal Service,” they added. Rolando drafted the letter.

They first rejected an amendment to let the USPS cut back to 5-day delivery, eliminating Saturday.

“At a time when demand for date-specific marketing and for same-day and next-day delivery service is growing, and at a time when we are introducing Sunday service, legislated service cuts that would eliminate Saturday delivery, slow delivery times and reduce the demand for mail make no sense,” the union leaders told the senators.

S1486 foundered over two other moves: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kent., wants to let post office clients carry concealed guns inside post offices, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., wants to curb USPS’ unfettered control over rate hikes. The panel adjourned without finishing work on S1486. An anti-worker House GOP postal bill is marooned.

Lawmakers are writing postal bills at USPS request because the Postmaster General says he needs changes – including firing workers, cutting days and eliminating door-to-door service – to stem billions of dollars in red ink. The red ink is lessening as the U.S. recovers from the Great Recession, with USPS showing a $600 million profit on services last year, and projecting a $1.1 billion profit this year.

The unions respond the main cause of the red ink is the yearly requirement that USPS pay $5.5 billion to fund future retiree health care benefits. That wipes out the profits. S1486 stretches those payments out, but does not eliminate them. Its latest version would also pre-fund workers’ comp, the unions said, adding a $1 billion burden.

The unions reminded lawmakers they proposed their own reform package to help increase USPS revenue and better its books. That measure included reforms to reduce retiree health care costs and eliminate the Bush-era prefunding mandate.

Their plan also enrolls current and future postal retirees in Medicare and refunds pension account surpluses to USPS so it could pay down past debts and invest in upgrading its fleet and infrastructure. It also imposes “a moratorium on service standard changes to prevent a ‘death spiral,’ and has provisions to give USPS limited authority to offer non-postal products through its networks to generate new revenues, and pricing reforms to adopt a fair and more reasonable, yet predictable, price cap system.”

Lawmakers adopted a few of those ideas, but rejected most, the letter says.

Photo: From National Association of Letter Carriers Facebook page.



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.