Representative Issa introduces draconian postal reform bill
Misguided bill is ‘a missed opportunity,’ Rolando says
June 23, 2011 — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), chairman of the committee’s subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia, introduced a comprehensive postal reform bill today in the House of Representatives. Sadly, it fails to address the central cause of the financial crisis facing the Postal Service—the destructive and unique mandate to massively pre-fund future retiree health benefits that accounts for 100 percent of the Postal Service’s losses over the past four years. Instead, the bill proposes radical changes that would recklessly downsize the U.S. Postal Service in a way that would seriously damage the $1.3 trillion mailing industry and the entire U.S. economy.
“We are very disappointed in the Issa/Ross bill,” NALC President Fredric V. Rolando said. “We hoped for a more common sense, practical and non-ideological approach to an institution that has historically engendered strong bipartisan support. Instead, we got a draconian downsizing plan and a misguided and unjustifiable attack on hard-working postal employees who provide the most affordable and highest quality mail service in the world.”
Rather than taking sensible action to avert a financial crisis that would result from the failure of the Postal Service to make the next unaffordable $5.5 billion pre-funding payment for future retiree health benefits (due in September), the bill seeks to take advantage of the pending cash crisis to force a massive downsizing and to launch a frontal assault on the pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights of postal employees. Indeed, it fails to even mention the massive surpluses in the Postal Service pension accounts that two private, independent auditors have confirmed over the past two years—surpluses that can and should be used to resolve the financial crisis caused by the pre-funding mandate.
Under the Issa/Ross plan, tens if not hundreds of thousands of good middle-class jobs, many of them filled for decades by military veterans, would be needlessly destroyed.
The core of the bill is the creation of two unelected groups authorized to take extreme steps to cut costs and reduce services, one to generate lists of post offices and facilities to be closed and one to serve as financial overseers with the power to alter or nullify collective bargaining agreements and to make other operational decisions to reduce expenses. The Board of Governors and Congress would be effectively marginalized under the bill.
The bill would allow the Postal Service to eliminate Saturday delivery—inconveniencing millions of residents and businesses—and would repeal the right of postal employees to bargain over health and life insurance benefits, a right won more than 40 years ago. It would also inject political issues into the process for resolving collective bargaining impasses and unfairly restructure interest arbitrations by giving pro-management factors top priority in the law.
“It seems the war on collective bargaining that we have seen in the states has come to Washington,” Rolando said.
NALC is in the process of studying the lengthy Issa/Ross bill in detail. Meanwhile, the union will continue to work with the Obama administration and with leaders in the Senate from both parties to develop more moderate and sensible solutions to the Postal Service’s problems.
We will also seek to work with Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and the bipartisan group of 153 other co-sponsors of his bill, H.R. 1351, to make progress in the House of Representatives. H.R. 1351 would allow the USPS to use its pension surpluses to cover its pre-funding costs, thereby resolving the immediate financial crisis without collateral damage.
“We regret very much that Representatives Issa and Ross have taken this approach. We view it as a missed opportunity,” President Rolando said. “Historically, the constitutionally mandated Post Office has been an issue that has been spared the destructive impact of partisan politics. We remain hopeful that a more reasonable, bipartisan bill can be developed in the House using H.R. 1351 as the starting point.”