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A Bad Bill Made Worse

John L. Marcotte
Legislative & Political Department Director

(This article appears in the March/April 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform approved the Postal Reform Act of 2014 (also known as the Carper-Coburn Bill) on Feb. 6, clearing the way for the bill to be considered by the full Senate. The meeting had been postponed several times and was ultimately spread out over two days because of opposition to the bill.

Based on a Falsehood, Ryan Budget Would Plunder USPS (04/01/14) The postal provisions in the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on April 1 are a “thinly-veiled attempt to plunder the Postal Service — to slash service, cut workers’ benefits, and render our great national treasure ripe for privatization,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. They’re also based on a fallacy, Dimondstein points out: The USPS did not have “an operating loss of $1 billion” in fiscal year 2013, as Rep. Ryan asserts. “In fact, the Postal Service had an operating surplus of $600 million in fiscal year 2013. The Postal Service’s losses are the result of a manufactured crisis — the legislative requirement that forces the USPS to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees 75 years in advance and within a 10-year period,” Dimondstein said. [read more]

On Jan. 29, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered a substitute to the bill they introduced last August (S. 1486), but the substitute turned a bad bill for postal workers into a horrible bill for postal workers.

Unfortunately, the mailing industry has had an inappropriate influence over USPS policy and spends heavily on lobbying. As a result, the big mailers have gotten a free ride, while workers have been forced to make concessions on wages and benefits, and customers have been forced to pay more and get poor service.

  • S.1486 would:

  • Force postal retirees into Medicare Parts A, B, and D;

  • Require the USPS to make $17 billion in new pre- funding payments to the Workers’ Compensation Program;

  • Force postal unions to bargain over retirement benefits for new employees – which would ultimately be decided by an arbitrator;

  • Put downward pressure on wages by keeping postage rates capped, based on the Consumer Price Index;

  • Allow plant closures, consolidations, and a slow- down of mail delivery just two years after enactment of the bill;

  • Allow the USPS to eliminate Saturday delivery in October 2017;

  • Reduce pay to injured employees, and

  • Continue the prohibition on offering new services and sources of revenue.

The committee approved S.1486 by a vote of 9-1. There were also four “no” votes by proxy and two “yes” votes by proxy, cast for senators who were not present for the final vote, but those votes were not recorded.

Make no mistake: This is a bad bill for postal workers. It attacks our retirement, healthcare, wages and collective bargaining rights, and adds a new, needless pre-funding requirement.

I urge all APWU members to contact your senators and ask them to vote NO on S.1486.

A Bad Budget

A deal to fund the federal government for 2014 was reached in December 2013 but nobody is happy about it. It is not a good piece of legislation for working Americans. It included a cowardly attack on veterans’ pensions, reducing cost-of-living increases by 1 percent for retired veterans younger than 62.

This outrageous provision was an eye-opener to those of us who thought changing pensions after they have been earned is a dirty trick reserved only for city employees like our sisters and brothers in Detroit. Opposition to the provision from veterans’ organizations, unions, including the APWU, and other groups was swift and strong. By mid- February, a consensus to repeal it was taking shape.

The “all-public-service-is-bad” crowd has contempt for government services and working people, regardless of how necessary their function. The budget was proof of that.

The budget deal accomplished one thing: For a short period of time, the government could not be shut down. That’s exactly what happened last October, when the anti-government crowd forced a government shutdown as a publicity stunt, needlessly denying essential services to Americans while costing billions of dollars more than if the government was left open.

Reaching Out

The Legislative and Political Department has been reaching out to our local, state, retiree and auxiliary organizations with plans to educate, structure, and coordinate our legislative and political efforts. By prioritizing our goals, having a clear plan, and communicating with the locals, we can leverage our presence in every congressional district into great political power. I am excited for this to become a reality.

A sincere thank you to my sisters and brothers, stewards, officers, retirees and Auxiliary members for all that you do to make our union better. I believe you do not hear often enough what a difference you make and what an honor it is to work for you.

We have been making calls seeking help organizing and attending local political functions, and the support at the local level has been overwhelming. Lobbying in candidates’ home districts has been very effective in building relationships between APWU members and members of Congress. This would not possible without your hard work and the hard work of your local leadership.

Thank you! United we cannot fail.

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