Burrus: Postal Bill Sponsored By Sen. Carper Needs Major Modifications

Burrus Update

Of significant concern to postal employees is a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), which includes both positive and negative features for the Postal Service: The “Post Act” (S. 3831) would correct in part the colossal policy blunder of requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund future healthcare liabilities.

But the Post Act also includes significant negative features: It would give the USPS sweeping authority to close small post offices solely for financial reasons, and would require arbitrators to consider the financial health of the Postal Service when contract negotiations end in arbitration.

On balance, this legislation is not worthy of support — unless major modifications are made.

According to the U.S. Constitution, the purpose of the Postal Service is “to bind the nation together.” This objective cannot be met if the USPS is permitted to close hundreds of rural post offices, which serve as the center of their communities. If implemented, this provision of the law would help satisfy the demand of large mailers to restrain postage rates by reducing service to a large swath of America. The Post Act would dramatically change the mission of the USPS from providing service to the entire nation to serving a small sector of the business community.

Sen. Carper was a prominent supporter of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which imposed the pre-funding requirement and created the financial challenges that now confront the Postal Service. Another principal feature of the law — which was included at behest of large mailers — limited postage rate increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

This legislation, which was adopted in 2006, is the primary reason that the Postal Service has experienced serious financial difficulties in recent years. Now, to “compensate” for that mistake, Sen. Carper proposes the Post Act, which would alter the role of the Postal Service in American society.

The provision of the Post Act that would require arbitrators to consider the financial health of the Postal Service when deciding labor disputes is presented as a reasonable approach to labor relations; but in fact, it is a deliberate effort to reduce the wages and benefits of postal employees. Lacking the will to look postal employees in the eye and tell them that they should take major pay cuts and benefit reductions, this proposal is couched in terms of moderation.

The APWU will oppose any legislation that denies citizens reasonable access to postal services or that attempts to weaken postal bargaining.

William Burrus

2 thoughts on “Burrus: Postal Bill Sponsored By Sen. Carper Needs Major Modifications

  1. The Carper bill is nothing short of dismantling the Postal Service. The bill serves to further undermine the fundamental premise of a national post and convert that ideal simply into a subsidized delivery service for corporate interests. It threatens tens of thousands of good middle class jobs and it does nothing in terms of maintaining let alone preserving service for the American public.
    The postal network is a critical national asset that could be utilized to enhance service and reduce costs for any number of state and local agencies. The network provides reasonable cost delivery for important print industries that are adapting to the electronic age. Magazine and journal publishing is still an essential way of disseminating information and information is the basis of a thriving democracy.
    Congress must step back and redefine the Postal Service in way that does not inevitably lead to privatization. The first step would be restoring reasonable mechanisms for funding retiree pensions and health benefits instead of using the Postal Service as a cash cow to hide other budget deficiencies.
    Second, Congress must return to a basic understanding that the Founders had with respect for the need for an entity that facilitates the distribution of information. There needs to be an understanding that the Postal Service is an asset much like the national highway system.
    Third, Congress must rationalize a stultifying and paralyzing rate system that essentially subsidizes parts of the mailing community. There is a national purpose and public good in extending preferred rates to newspapers and certain media but virtually no public purpose is served by creating a system that rewards direct mailers and advertisers far beyond their contributions to the system. The current rate system was based on a business model that was philosophically inconsistent with the postal mission as well as being practically unsustainable. It is a system that paid homage to volume and extolled quantity over quality.
    Fourth, this is a good place to begin recognizing that good jobs, middle class jobs, jobs with decent salaries and reasonable benefits are critical to our economy. The corporate ideal of minimizing the costs of labor at the expense of all else fails to acknowledge that in a consumer economy the consumers must have livelihoods and incomes that allow them to participate in the economy. Postal jobs are jobs that are appropriately paid for and the wages and benefits of postal workers sustain business communities across the nation. We need more, not fewer jobs of this caliber.
    Finally, in order to escape from the cycle of submission to narrow aspects of the mailing industry the solution is not to compete more with private industry but to find ways to become a better supplier of value to state and local governments. The postal network offers broad penetration and participation and can be utilized as a government to government or government to population service provider.
    It may be fashionable to deride government these days but governmental bodies from the federal to the smallest county provide essential services that simply are not going away. The Postal Service can be a part of providing those services more efficiently and more effectively.

    Mr. Carper’s effort simply continues the focus on unsustainable models and solutions.

  2. Mr. Burrus is exactly right. The constitution serves as the founding fathers guideline for uniting the country with the commonality of universal service. Allowing the “universal service concept to be hijacked for the profits of big business is another example of how politicians are evolving into overpaid schills of big business. American history and heritage should NOT be sold down the river for the sake of money.
    If Senator Carper had not made the mistake of including the “pre-funding of retiree health benefits” clause in the first place he would not have to backtrack now. If the Senate rolls back this provision the Postal Service would not have any financial problems.
    Once again the government has “fixed” the Postal Service until it broke.
    Whe will Congress start acting honestly and provide the service to the American people that they should when they are not running for election?

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