e-Team Report, March 2, 2012

Share this article

Cutbacks at the U.S. Postal Service

In a move that could eliminate as many as 150,000 jobs by next year—and that has angered some in Congress—the cash-strapped United States Postal Service is pushing ahead with planned cuts to more than 260 mail-processing centers nationwide starting in May as part of an effort to reduce the agency’s operating budget. 

Declining volumes, along with rules that require the service to pay for the health care of its workers far in advance, have created the fiscal crisis. The Postal Service has said that it could lose as much as $18.2 billion a year by 2015 unless Congress grants it permission to make the necessary adjustments, like eliminating Saturday delivery and raising stamp prices.

The planned cuts, which would save about $20 billion by 2015, would slow the delivery of first-class mail, eliminating the option for letters to arrive the next day.

Last year, the agency agreed to wait until mid-May to begin closures so lawmakers would have time to stabilize its finances. The Postal Service is an independent agency, but subject to congressional control on major operational issues. Many in Congress are not happy with the closures, particularly those in rural areas.

A bipartisan Senate bill (S. 1789) would permit the Postal Service to halt Saturday delivery, close thousands of post offices and processing facilities, and give back billions of dollars that the agency paid into federal retirement accounts, according to The Washington Post. But the bill encountered opposition in the Senate, where 27 Democrats sent a letter to its sponsors demanding changes to the legislation.

The letter requested protection for rural post offices, maintenance of current delivery standards, Saturday delivery for the next four years and other items. Sen. Bernie Sanders, ID-Vt., a cosigner, said the underlying bill would mean “a death spiral” for the Postal Service.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., one of the sponsors of the bill, said he hopes to complete an amendment that aims to appease the bill’s critics in time for floor action in late March.

The APWU is asking you to please reach out to your senators and ask them to support several amendments to the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789). To send your senators a quick message, click here.

Please urge your senators to support amendments to S.1789 that would:

  • Provide adequate relief from the retiree healthcare prefunding requirement.
  • Set strict service standards. (The Postal Service is planning to degrade delivery standards in order to eliminate more than half of all mail processing facilities.)
  • Allow the USPS to recover overpayments the Postal Service made to its retiree pension funds.
  • Establish new ways to generate revenue, such as providing notary services, issuing licenses, contracting with state and local agencies to provide services, and allowing the USPS to offer services that mail systems in many other countries provide, such as digital services.
  • Prevent the closing of small post offices by giving the Postal Regulatory Commission binding authority to prevent closures based on the effect on the community and employees.
  • Protect six-day delivery.
  • Eliminate the provision that would drastically reduce the compensation of workers who are injured on duty once they reach retirement age.
  • Repeal the provision that would require arbitrators in postal contract negotiations to consider the financial health of the USPS. (Arbitrators routinely do so. The requirement is an attempt to skew contract negotiations in favor of management.)

After you send a message to your senators, make sure you also take a minute to call their offices and tell them to amend S. 1789.

You can reach your senators by calling the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Kicking the Transportation Bill Down the Road

Postal and federal workers’ retirement benefits are still under attack. A piece of legislation, H.R. 3813, would increase the required contribution rate paid by postal and federal employees in both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) for their retirement.

After H.R. 3813 was reported from committee, the House Rules Committee merged the bill with H.R. 7, the American Energy and infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012. Both bills contain these troubling attacks on postal and federal workers retirements. 

Click here to take action and send a quick message to your representative. Tell them to vote no on H.R. 7 and oppose H.R. 3813!

After you send a message to your representative, make sure you also take a minute to call their office and tell them to vote no on H.R. 7 and oppose H.R. 3813!

You can reach your member of Congress by calling the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

To find your representative, please click here.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted this week that a stalled transportation bill (H.R. 7) that has been languishing in the House is not yet dead, and that a scaled-down version that had been talked about is even less likely to garner support. But time may be running out, either way.

That’s because the current extension of the surface-transportation programs expires March 31. And, even more importantly, the votes may still not be there even for a more modest bill.

Realizing he did not have the votes, Boehner two weeks ago withdrew the $260 billion, five-year plan upon which he had banked a good deal of political capital. Many Republicans balked at the price tag and urban Republicans were put off by a severing of dedicated transit funding. The bill was devoid of earmarks, which also hurt its cause. Not a single Democrat was expected to vote for it, and President Obama threatened a veto.

Some GOP leaders have said privately that a new, improved, scaled-down version could be rolled out in the coming weeks, more in line with a two-year, $109 billion Senate version that Democratic leaders hope passes by mid-March. A proposal to de-link mass-transit money from the highway trust fund would be removed and a provision that would call for federal employees to contribute more to their retirements is also likely to suffer the hatchet. Remaining, however, is an already-passed measure that would force Obama to accept the Keystone XL pipeline. But Boehner seemed to throw cold water on the inchoate new proposal, saying “Apparently our members don’t think too highly of it.” He described it as “a fall back measure.”
Most local officials around the country are not counting on a new bill and are resigned to more stopgap measures. But, alarmingly, some states are unaware that some federal money may not be available to them after March 31, the Governors Highway Safety Association told Politico.

If Postal Service Ax Delivery Standards, Will Elections Suffer?

In the 2010 election season approximately 17-18 million citizens voted by mail. Some election officials are actively asking the postal service to postpone degrading delivery standards for first class mail until at least after this November’s election.

To read the full story in The Hill, please click here.

Stay in touch with your union

Subscribe to receive important information from your union.