Notion that USPS Can’t Afford Unions Is a Cheap Shot at Workers

APWU  News

APWU President William Burrus has again refuted assertions about the financial condition of the Postal Service that appeared in a recent column in The Daily Caller: “The Postal Service Can’t Afford Unions.”

In an Oct. 18 letter [PDF], Burrus wrote that if Tad DeHaven, the author of the column, “knew what he was talking about, he could be dangerous.”

Burrus dispelled DeHaven’s claims that the Postal Service’s current financial situation arises from “the combination of a weak economy and growing competition from cheaper, quicker electronic communication alternatives,” and that “a big drag on the Postal Service’s bottom line is the pesky postal unions.”

“An article devoted to explaining the poor financial position of the Postal Service that never once mentions the congressionally imposed mandate to pre-fund future retiree costs (in amounts of more than $5 billion annually for 10 years) is clearly biased,” Burrus wrote, noting that no other government agency of private company bears this burden.

“I am not surprised that a right-wing publication such as yours wishes to avoid mentioning these fundamental facts,” Burrus said.

The union president pointed out that without the pre-funding obligation, which is unrelated to the wages and benefits of postal employees, the USPS would have experienced surpluses of $3.6 billion over the three-year period from Fiscal Year 2007 through 2009 — despite the fact that mail volume declined by 30 percent.

Burrus refutes DeHaven’s claims that postal unions are a “giant anchor on an already sinking ship.” The author claims that the rights and benefits postal employees have fought long and hard for — such as no layoffs, healthcare premiums, and limited use of part-time workers — have pushed the Postal Service into the red.

The union president noted that the APWU is currently engaged in collective bargaining, and the union welcomes the opportunity to discuss increased flexibility of its workforce.

“We have long maintained that our members can perform many of the tasks historically reserved for supervisors and postmasters,” Burrus wrote. This would eliminate the need for the USPS to pay premium wages for performance of routine administrative tasks.

Burrus also mocked DeHaven’s that arbitrators do not have to consider the financial condition of the USPS when reaching a decision. He pointed out that every arbitrator who has ruled on the Collective Bargaining Agreement did consider the financial condition of the Postal Service.

Instead of requesting a bailout from American taxpayers, Burrus wrote, congressional action to correct the Postal Service’s $142 billion overpayment to its pension and healthcare funds is needed.

“The next time that you are inclined to take a cheap shot at workers,” Burrus wrote, “I suggest you at least present a façade of impartiality and get your facts straight.”