Postal Union Leaders Debunk PMG Letter Justifying Contracting Out Mail Delivery

“NALC President Bill Young, joined by National Rural Letter Carriers President Donnie Pitts, sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate on June 18 refuting a letter from the postmaster general that tried to justify contracting out delivery work and attacked legislation to draw sharp limits on contract delivery. Both union leaders support Sen. Tom Harkin’s bill, S. 1457, to curb postal subcontracting. Support for S. 1457 continues to grow, with 31 Senate co-sponsors.”

NALC President William Young noted:

 …we have no right to negotiate for private contractors—and the problems they create for our delivery system will not go away just because they work cheaper. (We should have learned that lesson from the mess at Walter Reed hospital.)

Excerpts from NALC-NRLCA letter sent to members of the Senate (PDF)

On behalf of the nation’s 325,000 letter carriers, we write to respond to the misleading letter sent to you by the Postmaster General of the United States concerning S. 1457, the Mail Delivery Protection Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Harkin and co-sponsored by 25 members of the Senate.

Contrary to the assertions made by Mr. Potter in his June 13 letter, the bill would not override our collective bargaining agreements and would not interfere with the existing collective bargaining process. Rather, the legislation restores the status quo that existed before the Postal Service decided to begin outsourcing urban and suburban mail delivery with the recent creation of Contract Delivery Service.

S. 1457 would permit the Postal Service to renew and create new Highway Contract Routes (HCRs), the contract routes the USPS has traditionally used in rural areas to transport mail in bulk between rural post offices, as it has for decades. HCR contractors do perform incidental deliveries on their routes, but their main function is to transport mail in bulk – a function specifically authorized by existing law. The legislation would, however, prohibit the Postal Service from attempting to evade other public policies firmly established by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 (PRA), as amended and reaffirmed by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). These policies include a preference for Veterans in hiring and the right of collective bargaining for workers employed by the Postal Service. Neither the contractors employed by the Postal Service nor any association to which they belong are afforded these rights or covered by these policies. The creation of CDS contractors was designed specifically to evade these obligations.

But perhaps the most outrageous claim in the letter is the assertion that “99 percent of our contract delivery services are performed by small, minority- or women-owned businesses.” Combining unlike categories (company size, race and gender) is a cute device to get a large percentage to cloud the issues and to mislead your reader, but it is really beneath the Postmaster General to do so in a communication sent to all 100 members of the Senate.

It is not accurate to assert that the individual contractors who bid on part-time, low-wage, no-benefit CDS contracts to deliver mail in urban and suburban neighborhoods are “small businesses.” In fact, they are exploited workers, working in urban and suburban neighborhoods alongside career postal employees who enjoy decent pay and benefits. There are tens of thousands of minorities and women who would love to work as career letter carriers for the U.S. Postal Service.

These workers deserve the same pay and benefits as career postal employees. It is true that the USPS has long used contractors to transport mail. But to suggest that delivery has been contracted out since 1785 is misleading. The Post Office began city delivery with career employees in the 1860s and rural free delivery began in the early 20th Century. What happened before that may be interesting as a historical matter, but is largely irrelevant.

Contractors do go through background checks, but to suggest that they are subject to the same level of oversight as career letter carriers is to be blind to reality. Once a contract is signed, very little supervision occurs and the widespread use of sub-contractors leads to a total loss of accountability.

Postal Record article | PMG letter to Congress| July President’s Message

Related link: More news on Contracting Out Mail Delivery