January 2015 Update
Implementation of management’s “4 – walls” concept is continuing. All installations are impacted; some seem to taking things in stride, while others appear to be utilizing a crisis management criterion when adjustmenting schedules. If anything is sure, it is that it will take a while for things to get straightened out. The representatives at both the Local and Branch levels remain actively engaged in addressing these issues.
Congress appears to be taking a renewed interest in the operation of the Postal Service. On January 16th Representative Rick Nolan once again urged Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to halt the closure of the Duluth mail sorting facility which is scheduled for April 2015. In a letter to Mr. Donahoe, Nolan expressed serious disappointment with the Postal Service’s failure to fulfil its obligations to adequately study the impact of consolidations on service standards and inform the public of the impacts. “The Duluth mail processing facility is one of the most efficient in the nation,” Nolan said. “It must be kept open to serve the people of our region in a manner to which they are entitled.”
On January 27th Representative Dave McKinley (R-WV) and Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced House Resolution 54, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Postal Service should take all appropriate measures to restore the service standards that were in effect as of July 1, 2012. The key word of course is “should” and that indicates a Resolution which is advisory rather than binding. So even if this Resolution is passed it remains unclear whether Postal management will heed “the sense of the House of Representatives.”
Postal Service issues are also being addressed in the Senate. On January 26th Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced an amendment that would stop the U.S. Postal Service from continuing the closure of facilities for two years, preventing delays in services that will impact Michigan families and small businesses. Senator Stabenow joined Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 11 other Senators in authoring this amendment to legislation currently before the Senate. The amendment would also re-establish overnight delivery standards for first-class mail.
On January 29th Senator Jon Tester met with incoming Postmaster General Megan Brennan to discuss strengthening the Postal Service, including the need to improve delivery standards in rural states like Montana. Senator Tester emphasized the Postal Service’s delivery standards have become a disaster for USPS and for the Montana families that rely on the Postal Service to deliver medication, election ballots and ultimately, to stay connected. He also voiced the need to reform funding of the Postal Service’s employees’ retiree health benefits to maximize returns and limit the waste of current funds.
While Local 323 does not represent the Mail Handlers in Montana, this State falls under the purview of the Dakotas District and prudence requires that we monitor the situation for any potential impact to our Membership in North Dakota. Moreover, with the 2015 NPMHU Legislative Conference looming on the horizon, it is important that we remain up-to-date on all Postal issues being discussed in Congress.
February 15th will mark the 2nd anniversary of the creation of the MHA position and the elimination of the PTF position from the 200 man year installations. Dozens upon dozens of MHAs have been converted to career Mail Handlers in both States; and while the process hasn’t worked perfectly in every situation, it’s encouraging to see the progress our organization has made in this area of contract administration.
As always more progress needs to be made so the work continues.