From the National Association of Postmasters of the US
President Bob Rapoza welcomed NAPUS Postmasters to the Leadership Conference. He said the speakers may tell them what they want to hear, but make no mistake: Postmasters’ titles and future employment are at stake—and the stakes are much higher than they were 12 months ago.
He said NAPUS must change with the changing times; some of the organizational changes will require constitutional amendments. Rapoza urged Postmasters to attend their chapter conventions to consider the proposed changes and participate in NAPUS’ future. He said adapting to the new environment is not like being on a diet, rather, it will require a change in lifestyle.
He said the unknowns, rumors, the inaction of Congress and the changes the Postal Service is trying to make at an accelerated speed have affected the USPS brand and are a distraction to customer service, as well as taking a toll on all postal employees.
Despite all that, Rapoza pledged that job protection for Postmasters is his top priority. “Make no mistake,” he declared, “the Postmaster organizations are the only stakeholders left concerned about saving Postmaster jobs and the Postmaster title.”
He told Postmasters the message they need to take to Capitol Hill is it is time for our congressional leaders to compromise, make concessions, settle the prefunding issue, refund USPS overpayments, protect rural post offices and get out of the way and let Postmasters do their jobs.
“NAPUS will continue to be influential in the decisions made for Postmasters,” he promised. “As we work through all the current issues, we have maintained a positive attitude with those we deal with—we have not lost hope. We will work through what has become the most challenging times ever and we will prevail!”
Postal Board of Governors Chairman Thurgood Marshall Jr. told Postmasters that, like every American, he has a great deal of respect for Postmasters. “That role,” he said, “is the fabric of our society and as enduring as the union itself.” He recognized the important role Postmasters play on the postal stage.
He said lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to hear from NAPUS members, here and back in their districts. In an environment of declining mail volumes, the Postal Service cannot continue with the status quo. “Unless we change our business model,” he said, “and adjust to the times, we won’t be able to survive in a form our country needs and deserves.”
“The word ‘service’ is part of our name,” he said, “and shapes everything expected of us and what we do—that will never change. When our board meets to review plans, service and access to services are very important.”
Marshall explained that each member on the board balances multiple obligations in fulfilling their oaths of office: keeping the Postal Service on solid financial footing and meeting the needs of its customers and communities it serves. “We must never lose sight of the important roles our employees play,” he stressed.
He thanked Postmasters and their employees for helping make this transitional period as fair as possible. “We want to come out of this a stronger organization and best positioned to capitalize on the opportunities of the present and future. I look forward to working with you to achieve these goals.”
PM Retired President Jack Wilkins admitted that retirement is good. But, he countered, that doesn’t mean retirees forget their years of service and careers. “One of these days,” he said, “someone will realize that the work gets done at the grass-roots level—that means Postmasters being allowed to do what they do best: running an efficient office and working with their employees and communities.”
Retired Postmasters have taken on a number of roles: being active with their members of Congress and helping save post offices by being involved with NAPUS’ Post Office Preservation Committee. “They work relentlessly when they hear of a possible closing,” he said.
Wilkins pledged that retirees will continue to remain vigilant and ready to serve. “We still are Postmasters,” he declared, “and always will be ready to serve our fellow Postmasters.”
NAPUS Legal Defense Plan Attorney Phil Jones lauded the PM rep training classes presented the previous day. He said these classes highlight some of the main benefits NAPUS provides to its members. Jones said a significant number of cases he gets are from Postmasters who don’t have any training.
The second thing NAPUS membership offers is protection. Because most Postmasters don’t have any training, they don’t know much about what they’re trying to do and discipline is going to occur. “Being a NAPUS member,” he said, “gives you some protection because you can pick up the phone and call a trained PM rep—that’s your safety net.”
Jones also pointed out NAPUS has a ready reserve of experience: retired Postmasters. “Postmasters need to dedicate themselves to recruiting new members for NAPUS,” he stressed, “because that’s where the strength of this organization is.”
Postmaster General Pat Donahoe thanked Postmasters for the great jobs they do and acknowledged these are very tough times. “I know everyone is worried,” he said. “Keep doing what you’re doing; you do a wonderful job and your customers think the world of you. Over the next couple months, we will resolve what we need to resolve: fairness to the customers and employees.”
“The key thing is to get the issues behind us,” he vowed, “and then focus on growing the organization.” But some tough decisions need to be made. The PMG discussed some new marketing strategies the agency will pursue.
Donahoe said people trust the Postal Service more than anything else; then there is the security. A new ad out on First-Class Mail emphasizes that mail is important and mail is safe.
“We have to make a lot of changes,” he urged. “As we make these changes, there are plenty of opportunities to grow this organization.”
Postal Regulatory Chairman Ruth Goldway told Postmasters that, while the PRC is an advisory agency, it’s frustrating the commission doesn’t have as much say as she would like. “We do have some influence,” she said. In its analysis of going from six- to five-day delivery, the PRC did a lot of research and determined the USPS would save $1.6 billion versus the agency’s estimate of $2.5 billion.
From that debate and the impact on rural areas, people had concerns. And the issues raised were discussed on Capitol Hill and among the people who have the power to make the decision to go to five days. Goldway pointed out the balanced review the commission provides will make whatever decision is made more understandable.
The other big issue the PRC has dealt with was the plan to cut 3,500 post offices. “We had extensive participation from the Postmaster organizations,” she said, “and lots of expert information was provided that countered the USPS.”
Goldway acknowledged the Postal Service, due to NAPUS’ advocacy, has improved the notice process for communities whose post offices are being considered for closure. She urged NAPUS members to encourage communities to interact with the PRC.
“The most important thing about the Postal Service,” she said, “is it is a reflection of the U.S. government and part of the system that binds the nation together. People believe in the Postal Service; it’s highly trusted and valued because you’re there in the communities serving and they count on you being there. If we don’t give them a system to explain their point of view, that system won’t be trusted or valued in the future. So we have to keep up what we’re doing, even if we don’t win all the battles. It’s important for us all to do our fair shares.”
Secretary-Treasurer Ruthie Cauble told NAPUS members she is so proud to have been elected to this office on two occasions to serve Postmasters. She said NAPUS is in good financial condition right now, but expenditures must be adjusted with the declining membership base.
“Many members thank me for my work on behalf of NAPUS and I appreciate that,” she declared. “I want to assure you you never have to thank me.”
Executive Director Charlie Moser told Postmasters about the exciting, new knowledge-based link coming soon to NAPUS’ website. Members will be able to go online and search using key words and pull up myriad documents and options. Members also will be able to register online—securely and safely—for NAPUS conferences and conventions.
In discussing the Retail Access Optimization Initiative, he said that, after criticism from Congress, citizens, the efforts of NAPUS’ retirees and the PRC’s advisory opinion, the Postal Service imposed a five-month moratorium on closings. When the moratorium expires May 15, there still we be attempts to close offices, but there may not be such aggressive attempts. “You’ll see a shift to reducing hours,” he said, “which means an office could be open six hours or less. That will impact us.”
It all ties into the CFR rule changes that went into effect Dec. 1, which say a post office can be turned into a station or retail network and allow that office to be run by someone other than a Postmaster. “We don’t think anyone can run a post office better than a Postmaster,” he declared, “and we can back that up 100 percent.”
He said there will be reductions in hours, but NAPUS will not stand for these offices not being run by Postmasters. “You have to know we’re working in your best interests,” he pledged. “Control what you can in your post offices. Not only is there post office preservation, NAPUS is not going to rest until we have Postmaster preservation.”
Jerry Hulick, NAPUS’s supplemental insurance plans adviser, encouraged Postmasters to educate themselves as much as possible in preparation for possible early retirement offers that may include incentives. He recommended Postmasters watch a series of videos available from Human Resources.
Hulick said decisions have to be made based on a Postmaster’s and his or her family’s situation; it will be a different decision for each Postmaster. He cautioned a number of firms will try to get their business, so it’s important to understand every aspect of what they are going to do. “If you don’t understand a recommendation someone is making to you, don’t do it,” he urged.
There are many factors that come into play when considering retirement. “Whatever decisions you make, make them very carefully,” he counseled.
NAPUS Director of Government Relations Bob Levi said NAPUS aims to protect the integrity of the Postal Service, universal service and Postmasters serving the American public. He suggested the crisis facing the Postal Service may be the penultimate moment in many Postmasters’ careers. “What are we going to do?” he asked. “If we’re at this moment in time when our very existence as an institution and agency are being challenged, let’s get that jump start to fight again” he urged Postmasters.
“Our goal is to push Congress to act. A bill may not be everything we want, but perfection cannot be the enemy of the good. You have to look for ways to move the ball down the field.”
Postal legislation S. 1789, co-authored by Sens. Lieberman, Collins, Carper and Brown, was scheduled for a cloture vote today, but has been deferred until later this week or until April. Despite the vote being delayed, Postmasters still should make themselves visible and viable while they are here this week.
Levi said that, even though they’re not taking up the bill right away, Postmasters should convey to the senators NAPUS supports the substitute amendment. “We asked for many things included in the manager’s amendment,” he pointed out. Sen. Sanders was key in getting those items in the amendment.
He compared NAPUS’ legislative program to riding a bicycle. Trying to ride a unicycle is almost impossible. But the back wheel of the bicycle is our political operation: PAC.