October 2011 Update
There are extraordinary events underway which will have a long-lasting impact on the Postal Service both nationally and at the local level. National contract negotiations, area mail processing studies, and the now styled “great Postal debate” in Congress have brought levels of uncertainty to an all time high. This is not only true for Postal employees, but also for the mailing industry and the American public.
Of paramount importance, of course, is the current debate in Congress which will determine the future of the Postal Service. Before examining the potential actions which may be taken by Congress the underlying causes of the current situation should be identified. This is because they result in no small part from previous Congressional actions. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was passed by Congress in 2006. This law required the Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years of future health care benefits payments for retirees within a 10 year time frame. It has been stated in numerous forums that no other government agency or private corporation is required to carry this incredibly unreasonable burden. Aside from this pre-funding requirement, it has been reported that the Postal Service has overpaid its retirement obligations to CSRS by approximately $75 billion and to FERS by about $6.8 billion as of the close of fiscal year 2009. Included below is a link to a letter written to Congress by Ralph Nader which outlines the current situation. I’ve decided to include this letter as it represents a well reasoned analysis which comes from outside the Postal community. Ralph Nader Letter
The National and Local Union have been working together to address pending Congressional action. In order to engage the public in this debate, the Union’s banded together and rallied on September 27th in support of House Resolution (H.R.) 1351. This resolution was introduced by Congressman Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and is aimed at remedying the overfunding of the Postal CSRS and FERS accounts. H.R. 1351 has bi-partisan support consisting of 226 co-sponsors. Unfortunately, H.R. 1351 is stuck in committee while another bill, H.R. 2309, is working its way towards the full House of Representatives. H.R. 2309 was authored by Congressman Darrell Issa of California and the bill has one co-sponsor. This bill represents an extreme and unnecessary approach to the current situation and will have a devastating effect on the Postal Service, its employees, and its customers.
H.R. 2309 has several troubling provisions. This bill provides for the establishment of two boards comprised of unelected officials. The first board would supervise the closure of thousands of Post Offices and other Postal facilities. The second board has been described as a “solvency authority” which would seize complete control of all Postal operations. This second board would also have the authority to nullify any existing Union contract and to “reject, modify or terminate” any provision of a Union contract in order to reduce costs. H.R. 2309 also contains provisions aimed at cutting the pay and benefits of Postal employees. Some have suggested that this bill is a blatant attack on organized labor generally and Postal Unions specifically.
Turning to Local issues, the Local Union was notified in September of numerous Area Mail Processing (AMP) studies. These studies propose the consolidation of many facilities. In Minnesota the facilities of Duluth, St. Cloud, Mankato, and Rochester, are being evaluated for possible consolidation into either the St. Paul or Minneapolis P&DC’s. With respect to North Dakota, the Minot facility is being evaluated for possible consolidation into Bismarck and the Grand Forks facility is being evaluated for possible consolidation into Fargo. Results of the AMP studies should be announced sometime in November.
National negotiations continue and I’ve included links to the Contract Updates on the home page of the web site. Should a tentative agreement be reached, that agreement will be subject to ratification by the Membership. The parties will proceed to arbitration in the event that negotiations end in impasse.
These are difficult times and it is more important than ever that we stand together.