In recent days, the nation’s postal workers have been subjected to some misleading attacks in the news media.
From NALC President Fred Rolando:
Last Thursday, for example, a panel of conservative guests on the Fox Business Network’s “Money Rocks” program trotted out the notion that the United States Postal Service is no longer relevant and should be privatized. But in an odd twist, that contention quickly fell by the wayside when one guest said postal workers were “thoroughly unskilled labor who should be bumped down” to drive cabs — but couldn’t be because African immigrants were taking the taxi-driving jobs. That led the other guests to call him “a nasty racist” and more, and a shouting match ensued.
Then, California Rep. Darryl Issa penned an op-ed piece for Tuesday’s Washington Times that blithely ignores many of the financial realities the Postal Service faces. For example, much of his column dealt with a supposed taxpayer bail-out of the Service—when in fact no one is requesting a bail-out or help from taxpayers.
National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said that such developments make clear once again just how much letter carriers have at stake in November’s congressional elections, in making sure that anti-labor forces do not gain control of Congress.
President Rolando has already taken several steps this week to get the facts out, from appearing on Fox to writing a letter to the Washington Times to other media efforts. The NALC will set the record straight in the face of these misleading attacks.
Letter to Washington Times in response to article by Rep. Issa
September 21, 2010
Letter to the Editor
To whom it may concern:
It’s election time in an era of extreme political polarization. But that does not excuse misleading the public with false claims that the Postal Service is seeking a taxpayer bailout. Nor does it excuse Congress interfering with collective bargaining between the financially self-sufficient Postal Service and its unions. Unfortunately, the opinion piece by Rep. Darrell Issa (RCA), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, fails on both counts. (“Time for another government bailout,” September 20, 2010.)
The Postal Service is not seeking a taxpayer bailout. Rather it is proposing to use a massive surplus in its pension account within the Civil Service Retirement System (paid for by postage rate payers and postal employees — its own funds, not taxpayer funds) to cover the cost of future retiree health benefits. The cost of prefunding these future retiree health benefits, some $5.6 billion per year, was imposed on the USPS by Congress in 2007, just as the economy crashed. This requirement, which no other agency or private business in America faces, caused the recent financial crisis at the USPS not the internet or the recession, though both factors have made things worse.
In fact, in the absence of the prefunding requirement, the USPS would have been profitable in two of the past three years, despite the Great Recession.
Rep. Issa’s editorial is woefully uninformed or misinformed about the Postal Service, particularly in the area of labor relations. The Postal Service has plenty of flexibility to downsize and it has done so massively in recent years — it has cut more than 100,000 jobs since the recession began in late 2007. The no-lay-off clause in the postal unions’ contracts that the Congressman criticizes covers only workers with more than six year of service — leaving some 160,000 career and non-career employees subject to lay-off if need be.
Perhaps it would make Rep. Issa happy if even more middle class Americans were thrown out of work, but postal downsizing can be achieved through attrition rather than lay-offs. Sadly, this downsizing is being driven more by Congressional inaction on resolving the unfair pension and prefunding burdens on the Postal Service than by poor economic conditions. Yet Representative Issa proudly vows to block legislation to even temporarily alleviate these problems.
Other Issa claims are both puzzling and false. He says “unions have balked at the idea of changing contracts that refuse to allow necessary lay-offs even if workers would be retrained and offered the opportunity to fill other positions in the federal government.” Such a proposal has never been made at the bargaining table or offered in Congress. How can “the unions” have balked? His claim that a postal arbitration board “does not have to consider the financial condition” of the Postal Service during binding arbitration is similarly groundless. Boards are required to consider all the evidence presented by the parties — and the Postal Service has always made its financial condition a central part of its case before arbitrators. The notion that professional arbitrators would ignore such evidence is frankly preposterous.
Rep. Issa says Congress must represent the clear interests of taxpayers and customers and demand concessions from postal employees. But politicizing the Post Office by getting Congress involved in the collective bargaining process is the last thing we should do. It would jeopardize one of America’s great institutions. The Postal Service has not received a dime of taxpayer support in more than 25 years and American mailers enjoy extremely high quality services at postage rates that are among the most affordable in the world.
Rather than meddling in collective bargaining, Congress should seek a bipartisan solution to the basic pension and health care issues that have unfairly hampered the Postal Service in recent years. The USPS has more than fully funded its future pension obligations (it has a surplus of $55-$75 billion) and has already socked away more for future retiree health benefits ($37 billion) than any other company in America. Letting the Postal Service use its fairly calculated pension surplus to fully fund post-retirement health benefits makes perfect sense. Injecting partisan politics into the Post Office does not.
Fred V. Rolando
NALC President withdrawing endorsement of Rep. Issa:
Earlier this month, I sat down with our resident officers and our political and legislative staff rto discuss the mid-term elections. Specifically, we discussed which candidates to endorse. Over the course of those discussions, we decided to endorse Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). Not only does Congressman Issa serve as the ranking member (the highest-ranking Republican) on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but he had also taken very positive positions on issues pertaining to letter carriers and the challenges facing the United States Postal Service. The fact that he could become the next chairman of our oversight committee, if his party takes control of the House of Representatives, made this endorsement of national importance.
Unfortunately, I am writing to you today to alert that the NALC is withdrawing the endorsement of Congressman Issa.
At a dinner reception, Rep. Ed Towns (above) and Rep. Darrell Issa spoke of the need to protect the Postal Service in this economic crisis and beyond.