Written By NALC Member Bill Brickley
for the NH Labor News
We all know that the fate of the Postal Service resides in the hands of Congress. The manner in which Postal Reform is crafted will shape our future. Everything from our current job structure to our retirement is on the table. The stakes have never been higher for employees of the Postal Service.
The Republican controlled House of Representatives addressed postal Reform in the form of HR 2309. Also called the Postal Reform Act of 2011 that was introduced by Daryl Issa, (R-CA). This bill would basically destroy the Postal Service it’s that simple. It would create a commission that would eliminate tens of thousands of post offices and other facilities and the jobs that go with them. Incredulously it would create a five-person commission. This solvency authority has the power to nullify any existing collective bargaining agreement and “reject, modify or terminate” any clause of a labor contract in the name of cost savings.
So rather than addressing the 50-75 Billion dollars that the USPS has overpaid into the Civil Service Retirement Fund this bill takes its aim right at our pay, our benefits, our retirement, and our survival. This draconian bill only has 2 co-sponsors; obviously it’s an extreme piece of legislation that was crafted by the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee amazingly passed HR 2309 out of committee by a 22-18 vote. As I write this it has yet to come to the full House of Representatives for a vote. You ask who the hell would support such anti- worker legislation. New Hampshire’s own Frank Guinta is on that committee and he supports this bill. He called it “vital legislation”. (Seriously he really did). He also called it “the only serious proposal to save the postal service” in a letter in which he sent me, and I am sure many of you who contacted him on Postal issues received a similar letter.
Mr. Guinta is running against Carol Shea Porter. Carol is a long time friend of Letter Carriers and the United States Postal Service. What follows is Shea Porters view of the current situation the USPS is in:
However, the U.S. Postal Service is now in desperate trouble. It doesn’t receive taxpayer money, and has been running large deficits since 2007. Something must be done to preserve the world’s greatest postal system, and proposals are in Congress right now. Can the post office be saved? Yes. Should it be? Absolutely! As the ad on TV says, Congress created the problem and they can fix it.Clearly Carol Shea Porter understands the plight of the USPS and how we got to this point. Plus she appreciates what must be done to ensure our long-term viability.
How did the U.S. Postal Service get into this mess? The Recession, which hurt businesses and decreased the volume of mail, certainly hurt, but that is temporary, and it is not the biggest reason for the red ink. Some blame the internet, but the internet has also created business for the post office because people order online and because the Post Office transports mail for what they call “the last mile” for private carriers. The biggest problem is the law that Congress passed in 2006, forcing the U.S. Postal Service to pre-fund their future retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. No other public agency is required to do that, and private industry does not have that standard either.
If the U.S. Postal Service were not required to do that, they would have made a modest profit over the past four years, despite the Recession and other challenges. But because of this unreasonable law, the profits have been eaten up, and the Postal Service management has been hacking away at our postal system to save money. They need to remember that there is a 1.3 trillion-dollar mailing industry that supports around 8 million private-sector jobs and relies on a great postal service. Of course the Postal Service should work to update its current business model, but they should not end Saturday delivery, which hurts businesses who rely on quick package delivery, and people who need fast prescription delivery. The six-day delivery keeps the Postal Service competitive and convenient.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was done with Postal Employees yet. After voting to pretty much eliminate our collective bargaining rights in HR 2309 they attacked our retirement plan with HR 3813. This bill would increase our contributions but decrease our benefits. It would also eliminate the supplemental annuity provision, which augments benefits for employees who retire before they are eligible for Social Security benefits at age 62. Mr. Guinta voted this bill out of committee also. Guinta doesn’t want to just take away our rights and reduce or pay while we are working but also reduce and eliminate our benefits when we retire. Interestingly HR 2309 has a provision where retirement age carriers would be forced into retirement, and then combine that with HR 3813 and its obvious how My Guinta feels about us.
Carol Shea Porter clearly is on the side of ordinary working people and always has been. She was a shining example of how politicians should act during her four years in Congress. The election is now just 10 weeks away and we have much work to do. Though Mr. Guinta has an abysmal voting record he does have the Koch Brothers and many wealthy corporate types on his side. We are going to have to work to show NH voters the truth behind his ads.
Frank Guinta already voted to eliminate our jobs. Now is the time for us to vote to eliminate his job.
Bill is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, serving on the NH Letter Carrier Executive Board as CD1 Legislative Liaison. Also serves on the NH AFL-CIO Executive Board. Former NH Area Coordinator Amnesty International and NH Labor News Blogger Follow him on twitter @BillBrickley
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