The House of Representatives voted 388-32 on Sept. 15 to approve a measure that would provide the Postal Service relief for one year from a requirement to prefund retiree healthcare benefits from its operating budget.
APWU President William Burrus praised the vote on H.R. 22, and urged the Senate to move quickly to adopt the House bill.
Under current law, the USPS is required to pay $5.4 billion to the Retiree Health Benefits Fund by Sept. 30, the end of Fiscal Year 2009. The Postal Service has said it doesn’t have sufficient funds to make the payment.
“This was an important accomplishment, but the bill is not yet law,” Burrus said. “Our focus must now shift to the Senate.
“I encourage APWU members to contact their Senators and ask them to support the House bill,” he said. The Senate is considering similar legislation, but the Senate version (S. 1507) contains an anti-labor amendment, which postal unions vehemently oppose.
APWU Legislative & Political Director Myke Reid applauded the work of union members, who helped mobilize overwhelming support for the House bill. “We must now get to work to make sure the Senate approves H.R. 22,” he said.
The bill drew criticism before the vote from some Republican legislators, who said it constituted a “bailout.” But the chairmen of the House committee and subcommittee that have oversight responsibility for the Postal Service refuted those claims in a letter to House members the day before the vote.
Rep. Eldolphus Towns (D-NY and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), wrote, “The bill is not a bailout,” the letter said. “No taxpayer funds will be provided to the Postal Service.” It would lower the payment the USPS must make into the Retirement Health Benefits Trust Fund this year.
“No other government agency or private company is required to prefund retiree benefits on such an aggressive schedule,” the letter notes, and points out that “the trust fund currently contains about $32 billion.”