The Long and Winding Road to Real Reform

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(This article appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Are you ready for a busy summer? I hope so, because it looks like APWU members will need to spend much of the season persuading members of Congress that enacting customer-friendly, worker-friendly postal reform legislation is absolutely necessary — and urgent.

Although the Senate passed a bipartisan postal reform bill in April, the Republican-controlled House of Rep­resentatives hasn’t been in any hurry to address the issue — despite the fact that the USPS is beginning to consolidate mail processing facilities and will start downgrading service standards effective July 1. The Postal Service also plans to slash hours at thousands upon thou­sands of post offices in the near future.

We have been urging House members to take up postal legislation quickly, and to use the Senate bill (S. 1789) as the starting point for their discussion. Although the Senate bill is flawed, it would provide some short-term relief.

But Republican leaders in the House have indicated that when they debate postal legislation — probably in July — they plan to consider H.R. 2309, a reckless bill sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) that would destroy service and have a devastating effect on the USPS and on postal employees.

The bill would gut collective bar­gaining — prohibiting postal unions and the USPS from negotiating protection against layoffs, and allowing an appointed board to reject labor contracts it considers too costly.

The legislation also calls for $3 billion in cuts to mail processing facilities and post offices in two years, which would cause massive disruptions in service and upheaval for our members.

‘No’ to H.R. 2309

Although APWU members want to see meaningful postal legislation enacted, we cannot, under any cir­cumstances, tolerate H.R. 2309. For­tunately, there has been a lot of resistance to the bill, from postal unions, customers, rural communities, companies that rely on the mail to con­duct business and many members of Congress.

Despite stiff opposition, however, Republican leaders have been trying to win support for the measure. Rep. Issa has appealed to representatives of rural areas, who have been outspoken opponents of closing the post offices that serve their communities, by offering to support amendments to limit the closing of the nation’s smallest post offices.

So, we have our work cut out for us under complicated and changing con­ditions. We must continue to fight for real reform, while beating back bills — labeled “reform” — that would destroy the USPS, our jobs, and the service we provide the American people. 

A Big Effect

Throughout the last year-and-a-half, APWU members across the country have done a great job of taking our message to members of Congress and the American people despite all the twists and turns.

Our efforts have clearly had an effect: The Senate bill (S. 1789) was improved as a result of our work, and media coverage has improved as well. Now, the press routinely points out that the USPS doesn’t rely on tax dollars. And reporters frequently explain that the true cause of the USPS financial crisis is the requirement to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees, a burden no other government agency or private company bears.

In short, our work has influenced legislation and has shaped the nation’s debate about the future of the U.S. Postal Service.

But, as anyone who watches the national news knows, our political sys­tem is broken. Extremists in Congress have refused to compromise on issues large and small, and have showed a willingness to take our government to the brink of bankruptcy. Unfortu­nately, some politicians would be only too happy to watch the Postal Service go under.

So, the future of real postal reform legislation is uncertain — and that means your future is uncertain as well. But the road forward is clear: We must continue the fight to save our nation’s mail service, while we oppose con art­ists who talk about “reform” but offer a program to destroy the USPS.

A Busy Fall, Too

And the bottom line is this: As long as the House of Representatives is controlled by politicians who vilify government, government employees, postal workers and unions, we won’t be able to make lasting progress. As long as politicians who serve the richest 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent dominate Congress, we won’t be able to catch a break.

So we better get busy. November’s elections present an opportunity to change the political dynamic, but it won’t be easy. Our opponents will be well financed by anonymous donors, but we have numbers on our side.

We must organize an army of APWU members to work for pro-worker, pro-postal candidates in the fall. We will be calling on members to volunteer for this important work. Are you in? 

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