Federal Court Dismisses APWU Suit
Union Vows to Challenge USPS Secrecy in Other Forums
04/02/2008 - A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit by the APWU and the Consumer Alliance for Postal Services (CAPS), which sought access to the meetings and records of the Postal Service’s Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC).
The APWU suit alleges that by excluding representatives of individuals and small businesses, MTAC violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires the federal government to give the public access to the meetings and minutes of agency advisory committees. MTAC is composed exclusively of high-ranking USPS officials and representatives of large mailers, and portions of its activities are closed to public scrutiny.
In rejecting the APWU suit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia concluded that the Postal Reorganization Act gives the Postal Service a “broad exemption from many of the laws that constrain modern day-to-day administration of other federal agencies.” The court concluded that the APWU’s “ argument is plausible, but it fails in the face of precedent.”
Commenting on the court’s decision, APWU President William Burrus said, “The APWU is deeply concerned that the Postal Service has relinquished its strategic policy-making to the largest mailers, and that it has done so in secret. Using MTAC and similar forums, big mailers have set the USPS agenda. This may explain why the Postal Service has repeatedly proposed postal rates and policies that favor large mailers at the expense of individuals and small businesses.”
Burrus vowed to pry open the USPS decision-making process and its secret strategies.
“The court decision raises an important question,” he said: “Why hasn’t the president established the Postal Service Advisory Council, which is required by the Postal Reorganization Act? If the USPS is exempt from the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, clearly it is governed by this requirement. Appointments to the Postal Service Advisory Council should be made.”
In passing postal reform legislation, Burrus noted, Congress left in place the requirement to establish the Postal Service Advisory Council. Under the law, the postmaster general serves as chairman of the council, the deputy PMG serves as vice-chair, and the president appoints 11 other members, including four nominated by postal labor unions; four representatives of major mail users; and three representing the public at large. Under the provisions of 39 U.S.C. § 206(a), the USPS is required to “consult with and receive the advice of the Advisory Council regarding all aspects of postal operations.”
“I have expressed my concerns to the Postmaster General, but I have received no explanation of the president’s failure to appoint the council,” Burrus said. I intend to continue to pursue the matter.”
The APWU and CAPS have 60 days to decide whether to appeal the District Court’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.