What Does the Year Hold for Us?
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The USPS welcomed 2015 by reducing service standards so it can complete its so-called “Network Rationalization Plan.” The plan calls for the closure of 82 additional Processing and Distribution Centers (P&DCs) on top of the 140 that were shuttered in 2012. This will lead to the elimination of approximately 15,000 living-wage union jobs – and further delay America’s mail.
We fought hard in previous years against an earlier round of service standard reductions and P&DC closures, but the USPS just didn’t seem concerned about the timely processing and delivery of mail. Rather, it opted for slower customer service and fewer employees in an effort to reduce labor costs.
Once again this year, the USPS is trudging forward with even slower customer service to further reduce good-paying jobs – despite the request in the last session of Congress by 51 senators and 178 House members for a one-year moratorium on service standard reductions and the closure of mail processing centers. The request was intended to allow Congress time to enact postal legislation that would improve – not degrade – postal services. The legislators were rebuffed and the USPS pressed forward with its ill-fated strategy.
Congress is largely to blame for the current state of affairs in the USPS. It has exacerbated the Postal Service’s financial position to the point that the former Postmaster General (PMG) and Board of Governors used the manufactured crisis to reduce service; close our post offices and area mail processing plants (AMP); institute the POStPlan; outsource our work, and make a shady deal with Staples.
Keep in mind that the stated goal of the Republican Party is to privatize the Postal Service. In the last session of Congress, when Republicans had a majority in the House, we were able to thwart bad bills proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the former chair of the House committee that oversees the USPS. Even in the Senate, where the Democrats formerly held the majority, we were concerned about legislation proposed jointly by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).
With the new Congress in place and Republicans holding a majority in both the House and Senate, what can postal workers look forward to? Nothing good, I’m afraid.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has said that the Postal Service should go through a bankruptcy process, which would result in a downsized, private corporation and the loss of the benefits of governmental oversight and regulation. It could also allow the revised entity to terminate or substantially modify its contracts, including its collective bargaining agreements with postal unions.
Can we rely on President Obama to veto such crazy legislation if it passes in the Senate and the House? We hope so, but we could be lost in the shuffle with all the other challenging issues that will be coming his way. These include the elimination of or substantial changes to the Affordable Care Act, corporate tax cuts, immigration, the Keystone Pipeline, so-called “free trade” agreements, Wall Street deregulation and environmental deregulation.
We must intensify our legislative efforts at the local, state and national level to ensure that any proposed draconian legislation – which I am sure will be coming – is opposed by our senators and House members, and ultimately by the president if it reaches his desk.
By the time you receive this magazine, the APWU and USPS will have started a new round of contract negotiations; our current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on May 20.
It is likely that the USPS will make it impossible to reach an agreement and we will have to go to interest arbitration. That is, of course, if Congress hasn’t changed the rules by then with some mean-spirited postal legislation.
But I, along with my fellow Regional Coordinators, Sharyn Stone, John Dirzius, Kennith Beasley and Omar Gonzalez, as well as President Dimondstein, are hopeful that an agreement can be secured.
We encourage all locals to get involved in the Contract Action Team campaign to get our members and customers energized to acquire the best possible contract for postal workers and America.