As Deadline Nears, APWU Keeps Up the Fight
(This article first appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Time is running out. We are quickly approaching the May 15 expiration of the moratorium on the closure and consolidation of mail processing plants and post offices. The moratorium is intended to give Congress the opportunity to pass a bill to address the Postal Service’s financial crisis — without drastic cuts in service and jobs.
Yet, as we go to press, the status of postal legislation is uncertain.
By now, Congress’ role in causing the USPS crisis is well-known to anyone who has been paying attention to postal issues. The Postal Service’s financial difficulties are the result of a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees.
As we often say, “Congress created this problem, and Congress can fix it.” That’s why we have focused so much of our attention in recent months on the legislative process – constantly urging APWU members to write, call, and visit their legislators.
And we can’t stop now. As postal managers prepare to dismantle the postal network and to reassign postal employees by the thousands, APWU members must keep up the fight. APWU members must continually reach out to members of Congress and make our voices heard.
At the local and state level, APWU members have done outstanding work to defend our jobs and to protect the service we provide the American people. Union members have attended public meetings, rallied, protested, and reached out to their families, friends and neighbors, as well as to the media. These activities are continuing.
Our members’ efforts have helped shape the debate over postal reform legislation. Just last fall, politicians were paying scant attention to the possibility of the massive closing of mail processing facilities and the effect it would have on postal workers and customers.
That changed last winter, after APWU members organized thousands of workers, business owners and community residents to attend public meetings on consolidations. Postal workers and customers let their elected representatives know just how important prompt, reliable service is to their communities.
Many locals and state organizations have responded to our requests to contact their legislators. As a result, many members of Congress — and mayors, city council members and state legislators — have stepped up to lend their support to our cause.
In April, scores of locals organized meetings with their senators to ask for their support for important changes to Senate bill 1789 — changes that would prevent a massive down-sizing of the postal network.
At the national level, we have been working non-stop to protect jobs and save the Postal Service.
In March, the APWU team had a big impact on the proceedings of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which must issue an advisory opinion on the Postal Service’s plan to degrade service standards. Although the PRC’s opinions are non-binding, they can influence legislators and other policy makers.
Through cross-examination of USPS witnesses and interrogatories, our attorneys, economists, and in-house experts forced the Postal Service to acknowledge previously hidden market research on the effect of USPS plans, which undermines management’s rationale for drastic changes to the mail processing network. The research indicates the potential for much greater revenue losses than the Postal Service had previously revealed.
APWU advocates also wrested a stunning admission from the USPS: Management has not considered the cumulative effect of numerous cost-saving proposals, including the consolidation of mail processing plants, the closure of 3,600 post offices, the elimination of overnight delivery for first-class mail and periodicals and the delay of mail generally, the elimination of Saturday mail delivery, and increases in postage rates.
This is truly an outrage and calls into question every management attempt to justify the Postal Service’s program.
On Capitol Hill
In the legislative arena, we advocate for our members’ interests on a daily basis.
APWU Legislative and Political Director Myke Reid remains in frequent contact with members of Congress and White House staff, keeping them informed of our priorities and making sure they understand our concerns. We attend many behind-the-scenes meetings with policy-makers to share our views on how to solve the USPS crisis.
Upper-most in our mind at all times is: What is best for the members of the APWU? What is best for the long-term survival of the Postal Service? What is best for the country?
Spreading Our Message
In recent months we also continued our public outreach program, launching a new phase in our advertising program.
The ads are intended to build public awareness and support for congressional efforts to resolve the Postal Service’s financial crisis without cutting pay, reducing benefits, eliminating collective bargaining rights, or slashing service.
The commercials underscore the union’s message: “America depends on the Postal Service — Keep It Open.”
When All is Said and Done
We are in this fight together. The Postal Service’s financial crisis has been building for years — and we continue to face an uphill battle.
To win real security, we must change the political dynamic in this country. As the November elections approach, I will continue to remind APWU members that we must evaluate candidates for office by their positions — and actions — on the issues that are important to postal employees and other working people.
For the last several years Congress has been at a standstill, unable to resolve our nation’s pressing problems. Our elected leaders have been deadlocked by people who hate government — and government workers, including us.
When all is said and done, the choice is simple: Do we want a government that works for the richest 1%, or will we demand that our elected leaders serve the 99%?