Guffey Tells House Panel:
USPS Must Do More For Veterans
APWU Web News Article #83-07, Sept. 7, 2007
Although the Postal Service employs large numbers of veterans, not enough is being done to help qualified veterans secure jobs with the agency, APWU Executive Vice President Cliff Guffey told a House panel during testimony on Sept. 6.
“The Postal Service has systematically eliminated or contracted out the six job classifications that, under the Veterans’ Preference Act are restricted to applying veterans.” These policies, he said, are especially damaging to veterans’ chances of finding employment with the USPS.
Testifying before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Guffey said that the APWU has monitored this development as part of the effort to enforce the APWU’s collective bargaining agreement. “For years, the Postal Service has sought to contract out more and more of these restricted jobs over the objections of the APWU. We think that this effort is contrary to the spirit of the Veterans’ Preference Act and not in the best interests of the Postal Service.” [full testimony - PDF]
“Most often, the savings the Postal Service purports to be seeking through contracting out prove to be illusory,” Guffey said. “Veterans are losing their postal employment rights because the Postal Service is not preserving these restricted jobs for them in accordance with federal policy. The Postal Service should be required to bargain with the APWU before it can contract out any restricted job.”
A 10-point preference-eligible veteran himself, Guffey noted that nearly 25 percent of postal employees are veterans. “The fact that large numbers of veterans are employed by the Postal Service,” he said, “tends to obscure the fact that the Postal Service effort on behalf of our veterans is not as strong and beneficial as it could be.”
Postal Service reports to Congress show a continuous decline in the number and proportion of its workers who are veterans, Guffey told the panel. In Fiscal Year 1999, veterans accounted for 31.6 percent of the USPS workforce. Six years later, that percentage was down to 26.6 percent.
“The Veterans Administration has reported that our returning veterans are suffering levels of unemployment and homelessness that are not acceptable,” Guffey testified. “The reality is that unemployment usually affects younger, less experienced workers the most, and that includes young veterans who are attempting to enter the civilian work force after their discharge from military service.”
“Our veterans need good jobs paying a living wage and with adequate fringe benefits. Studies show that gainful employment at a living wage with the opportunity for advancement is the foundation for maintaining economic stability,” Guffey said.
While the Veterans’ Preference Act has provided important assistance to veterans, the APWU vice president said, efforts to ensure that returning members of the armed services are provided employment opportunities in the federal government and the Postal Service are not working as well as they should. Guffey said that a lack of awareness was “perhaps the largest problem.”
“It is our understanding, gained from speaking with many discharged troops, that neither the military nor the Veterans Administration, nor the Postal Service is doing enough to inform them of their Veterans’ Preference rights.
“In our experience, veterans are unaware that 10-point eligible veterans have a right to apply at any time for any position for which a non-temporary appointment has been made from a list of eligibles within the past three years,” Guffey testified. “Veterans also need to be informed that they can file for an open competitive examination after the closing date if they could not file in time because of their military service.”
“Of course, even knowing their rights under the law will not really assist veterans unless the Postal Service makes an effective effort to inform them of employment opportunities,” Guffey added. “Veterans who are informed of their rights and also informed of available postal positions are more likely to gain USPS employment because they will have access to the entrance exam upon discharge, rather than waiting for what can be years before the examination is again offered to the public.”
Guffey told the House panel that the best employment information veterans are offered is at job fairs, which are held sporadically and do not regularly include a representative from the USPS. “We recommend that all federal agencies be given timely notice of these fairs, and that all agencies within the geographical area of the fairs be required to send knowledgeable representatives.”
Guffey was joined on the panel by Mary Jean Burke, first executive vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, and Brian E. Lawrence, assistant legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. Additional witness panels included other veterans’ advocates and government agency officials.