USPS Financial Crisis Deepens
Union Members Must Be Vigilant, Active
(This article was first published in the November/December 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
As the Postal Service's financial crisis deepens, winning support for a legislative resolution continues to top the union’s agenda. Our struggle has intensified over the last several months, and union members will have to remain vigilant and actively involved for the foreseeable future — to save our jobs, our pay, and our benefits.
Recent developments have been typical of the twists and turns of today’s rough-and-tumble politics.
Working together — along with the other postal unions, management associations, the mailing industry and citizens who rely on a vibrant postal system — we have persuaded more than half of the members of the House of Representatives to co-sponsor a bill that would address the cause of the crisis and help restore stability to the mail system. House Resolution 1351 would allow the Postal Service to use billions of dollars the USPS overpaid into its pension accounts to meet crushing, unfair and unprecedented financial burdens.
We passed the half-way mark in our drive to win co-sponsors for this important bill on Sept. 27 — the day the four postal unions held 492 rallies to Save America’s Postal Service, with events in every congressional district in the country.
But the bill, H.R. 1351, was introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch — a Democrat from Boston — and the House is controlled by the Republican Party.
So, instead of acting on the bill that a majority of U.S. representatives are co-sponsoring, the House has been considering House Resolution 2309, which was introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa — the Republican chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
How many co-sponsors did Rep. Issa’s bill have? Two: Rep. Issa and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL).
It’s Not About Party Politics
But for us, this isn’t about party politics: H.R. 2309 would destroy the Postal Service. It demands that the USPS implement $3 billion worth of cuts in post offices and mail processing facilities over a two-year period, and it would reduce “door delivery” by 90 percent over four years.
The bill also would decimate workers’ collective bargaining rights: It would prohibit postal unions and the USPS from negotiating restrictions on layoffs, and would empower a “solvency authority” to unilaterally cut wages and abolish benefits.
The Issa-Ross bill would authorize layoffs; the wholesale elimination of post offices and mail processing facilities demanded by the legislation virtually guarantees that massive layoffs would take place.
USPS Makes a Move
In August, while the Lynch bill and the Issa-Ross bill were vying for support in the House, the Postal Service stepped in with its own proposal. The USPS announced plans to reduce the workforce by 220,000, and asked Congress to allow it to lay off as many as 120,000 employees. Management also wants to remove postal workers from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and from the federal retirement systems.
I was deeply disappointed that the Postmaster General broke faith with the 585,000 employees he should be trying to lead. We publicly repudiated the proposals and we are determined to fight them.
Despite our frustration with postal management, however, our focus must remain on Congress — on winning support for a legislative solution to our problems.
Throughout the summer and early fall, our members took up the cause — meeting with members of Congress, and asking them to support H.R. 1351 and oppose H.R. 2309. On Sept. 27, tens of thousands of union members and supporters sent our message across the country: Save America’s Postal Service! At the national level, we have been working non-stop to make sure our members understand what’s at stake, to organize our members for the struggle, and to win support on Capitol Hill.
However, despite the strong support for the Lynch bill in the House, on Oct. 13, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the Issa-Ross bill by a vote of 22-18. All but one Republican on the committee (Rep. Todd Platts of Pennsylvania) voted in favor of the bill; Democrats voted against it. As we go to press, it is unclear when the full House will vote on postal legislation.
In the meantime, several bills have been introduced in the Senate, and the White House, congressional committees and other interested parties have offered proposals for resolving the postal crisis to the congressional super-committee charged with reducing the deficit.
So we have to keep up the pressure. We have to continue to organize support for H.R. 1351 — or something very close to it — while rejecting H.R. 2309 and anything remotely like it.
APWU members have done an outstanding job, but we can’t afford to rest now. Thanks to every member who called, visited, or wrote their member of Congress, or participated in a rally, or spread the word to their family and friends.
Our work on this issue won’t be finished until we get a long-term solution to the Postal Service’s financial crisis. If we don’t win this year, we better win in 2012!