National Association of Postal Supervisors
Legislative/Regulatory Update – April 6, 2011
Tuesday’s House oversight hearing into the tentative APWU contract and postal worker pay fell far from its billing as “Wisconsin Comes to Washington.” House Republicans appeared unready to take on the nation’s largest postal labor union, the Postal Service or the newly-minted labor contract the two have struck.
Prior to the hearing, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) had warned that his panel would grill Postmaster General Pat Donahoe on why the Postal Service had not sought greater concessions from the American Postal Workers Union during its recently-concluded contract negotiations, resulting in the 4.5 year deal that the Postal Service says secured $3.8 billion in savings. Issa called the APWU negotiations a “missed opportunity” for the Postal Service in relieving its financial burdens.
But at Tuesday’s hearing, more committee Democrats showed up than Republicans. Few of the Republican panel members asked tough questions about the labor contract. Some even denied that the hearing was intended as an assault upon labor. Democrats extolled the virtues of the Postal Service and postal workers and asked why business mailers were receiving as much as $4.5 billion in postage discounts.
The only clash came during a heated exchange between APWU President Clliff Guffey and postal oversight subcommittee chairman Dennis Ross (R-FL) over Ross’ accusation that APWU was paying its members to vote for the contract. Ross charged that the APWU website was promoting incentive payments to locals to vote for the contract. Guffey denied the charge, explaining that the union was encouraging locals to participate in the ratification vote, not telling them which way to vote.
USPS representatives stressed the need for Congressional relief from the blunder Congress made in a 2006 law requiring USPS to pre-fund future retiree healthcare payments at such an excessive rate, pushing the Postal Service toward insolvency. Donahoe said realignment of the prefunding payments was “the big issue” demanding Congressional attention.
The only way to get the Postal Service back on track, Donahoe said, was for Congress to change the laws governing its pension and retiree health benefit payments. The “big money” would come from reforming the retiree benefit system and getting rid of Saturday delivery, he said.
Donahoe, Board of Governors Chairman Louis J. Giuliano, and Governor Jim Miller repeatedly stressed the importance of the increased worker flexibility within the union contract, permitting USPS to use up to 20% part-time workers in clerical work, and up to 10% in vehicle maintenance divisions. The previous contract had set a 5.9% limit. The new arrangement takes a more flexible approach to part-time and full time workers, who could have their work patterns vary from week to week depending on requirements.
NAPS Legislative Counsel