Congressman’s Call for Concessions Should Drive Postal Workers to the Polls

Burrus Update:

A recent guest editorial in the Washington Times by a California congressman demonstrates just how important the November elections are for postal workers. In an article about the Postal Service and contract negotiations, Rep. Darrell Issa declares: “No union has or ever will lobby for a layoff, so it’s up to USPS management and Congress to demand concessions.”

Demand concessions?

Yes, Rep. Issa wants Congress to demand layoffs and other concessions from postal workers.

Well, consider this: If the Republican Party takes control of the House of Representatives in the fall election, Rep. Issa will become chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which oversees the Postal Service. As chairman, he would have tremendous influence over legislation affecting postal employees and other federal workers — deciding which bills are considered and how they are handled.

Filled With Inaccuracies

In his Sept. 20 column, Rep. Issa suggests that concessions by postal workers would be in the interest of taxpayers and postal customers — although as the top-ranking Republican on the House committee he certainly should know that the Postal Service does not rely on taxes for funding.

Rep. Issa also asserts that the American people could soon be asked for a postal bailout. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I pointed out in a Sept. 22 letter to the congressman [PDF], the Postal Service does not need a bailout, and no one has requested one — not the USPS, not its customers, not its unions, and not Democratic lawmakers.

In fact, two independent and respected auditors have concluded that the Postal Service has overfunded its retirement fund by $50 billion to $75 billion. If the USPS were permitted to apply the overpayments to the Postal Service’s future retiree healthcare obligations, the agency’s financial crisis would be resolved. That is the goal of a bill (H.R. 5746) that was introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) on July 15. The bill to fix postal finances has 103 co-sponsors, but Rep. Issa isn’t one of them.

As we have pointed out many times, the requirement to pre-fund future retiree healthcare liabilities was a politically-motivated feature of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. No other federal agency or private company is required to make such payments, which cost the USPS more than $5 billion annually for 10 years.

Rep. Issa’s article is filled with other inaccuracies, which he uses to support the premise that postal workers should pay for Congress’ poor judgment in implementing the pre-funding mandate. His clear bias against postal workers is troubling.

Forty years ago, following the near collapse of the post office and a wildcat strike, Congress concluded that the American people would be best served by a mail system that took politics out of the equation. The Postal Reform Act of 1970 established the United States Postal Service as an independent agency of the federal government and decreed that the Postal Service and unionized employees would be permitted to engage in collective bargaining, with disputes settled through binding arbitration. Apparently, Rep. Issa is dissatisfied with the results of free collective bargaining, and wants to return to the politicization of the Postal Service.

For APWU members, the stakes couldn’t be higher. It is imperative that union members vote on Nov. 2 and give serious consideration to what their votes will mean for the future of the Postal Service — and their jobs. Watch your mailbox for information about union-endorsed candidates.

William Burrus

Read President Burrus’ letter to the editor of the Washington Times [PDF], which responds to Rep. Issa’s article.