November 17, 2011
The Honorable Senator Thomas Carper
513 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
513 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Carper:
I no longer serve as President of the American Postal Workers Union so I do not have the privilege of meeting with you on postal matters and sharing experiences about our mutual connections to the State of West Virginia. During one visit you graciously introduced me to your son who demonstrated the making of a productive career; I want to wish him well.
The purpose of writing this open letter is to put in perspective current efforts to reform the Postal Service. It is undeniable that legislation is necessary to address the short and long term finances of the United States Postal Service. It serves no purpose for me to engage in the causes of this financial dilemma because regardless of the reasons, legislation is necessary to continue government mail services into the future. I do want to bring to your attention the contradictions in the Bills introduced in the House and Senate, most notably, S. 1789, which you are a co-sponsor and avid supporter.
The stated purpose of your legislation is to return the Postal Service to financial self-sufficiency now and for the long term. To accomplish this task you propose a number of steps that seem to go far beyond the stated purpose. You address the PAEA funding for future health care obligations by increasing the funding period from 10 years to 40 years and propose that the 100% funding requirement be reduced to 80%. If this payment schedule had been adopted in the 2006 PAEA the Postal Service would presently have $15 billion in reserve and would not have exhausted its borrowing authority. So your proposal in S. 1789 is a correction to your own legislation and it will adequately address the current USPS financial difficulties.
You balance this correction with proposed changes that have nothing to do with the current financial crisis, including mandating interest arbitrators, five day delivery, consolidations, curb side delivery and Medicare. I fail to understand how you have bridged the gap between correcting your previous decision and engaging in personnel policies. If you do not have confidence in the ability of postal management to make operational decisions you need new managers, not the substitute of 535 elected officials who have other more important priorities.
Combining your proposal to require arbitrators to set wages consistent with USPS financial obligations with the authority of Congress to impose payments on a schedule as determined by Congress you will set in motion a cycle of Congressional decisions being borne exclusively by the employees. Following an extension of the philosophy of your proposal, assume that Congress determines that the Postal Service must pay X which influences their finances negatively; this obligation is then converted to wage reductions equal to the new imposed commitment. In this particular instance, you propose that current and future postal employees pay the employer’s (USPS) share of future health care through wage and benefit reductions during their working career. If Congress intended that the Postal Service must pre fund future health care cost, the logical application would be that it must be a factor in current rates.
The proposals on 5 day and curbside delivery are not remotely relative to the financial issues driving reform. They are service decisions that must be in the control of management without outside interference. Can you imagine Congress dictating to Apple Computer or Wal-Mart the days that they offer service? In the 1971 PRA and the 2006 PAEA, Congress repeated the intent to have the Postal Service function like a private business, yet you continue to substitute your judgment for theirs.
The United States citizens enjoy the best postal services in the world at the cheapest rates. They have achieved this sterling record through a dedicated work force and productivity gains that are the envy of the private sector. Continuous intervention by Congress is unnecessary and as evidenced by the 2006 PAEA is counterproductive. The most positive action by Congress at this date would be to repeal or modify the payment for future health care and get out of the way. Further modifications are intended to satisfy political objectives and have nothing to do with mail services.
President Emeritus APWU