January 2019 Update
Our hearts went out to the Federal employees furloughed from their jobs during the government shutdown. Particularly to those required to perform their duties knowing that they wouldn’t receive a paycheck until the shutdown ended. Without question, no one should be subjected to these circumstances.
Yet the Postal Service remained open, the Mail kept moving, Postal employees continued working, and continued to receive their paychecks. Indeed, the government shutdown showed the difference between our employment in the Postal Service and the employment of people working for Agencies of the Federal government.
In 1970, Congress passed, and President Nixon signed the Postal Reorganization Act (PRA). This replaced the old Post Office Department with an independent establishment of the executive branch called the United States Postal Service (USPS). The USPS officially began operations on July 1, 1971, when the Postmaster General ceased to be a member of the President’s Cabinet. As an independent establishment, the operations of the USPS are managed by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the USPS Board of Governors, and the Postmaster General. The members of the Postal Regulatory Commission and the USPS Board of Governors are appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. The Board of Governors choose the Postmaster General, who also serves as a member of the Board. This framework separates the USPS from the Presidential and Congressional governmental funding process which results in the USPS continuing to operate during government shutdowns. We’ve continued operating through all of them.
The PRA established direct collective bargaining between the USPS and the employee Unions over wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. Since the passage of the PRA the collective bargaining process has produced many National Agreements, or contracts, which define our rights in the workplace.
Wage increases are one example of the difference between Postal employees and Federal employees. As Postal employees, we bargain directly with the USPS over wage increases. If negotiations fail to produce an agreement, the dispute is submitted to an arbitrator for a final and binding decision. Federal employees receive wage increases differently. Each year, the President may recommend an annual pay raise for Federal employees to Congress. The Congress may accept the President's recommendation or make its own proposal. Any annual pay raise for Federal employees usually takes effect in January of each year. It’s worth noting that on August 31st of last year, President Trump wrote a letter to Congress saying that he intends to nix federal employee pay raises that were due to take effect in January 2019. Should such a pay freeze be put in place, it will not be applicable Postal employees. Again, our wage increases are bargained directly with the USPS.
The way wage increases are achieved is just one example of the difference between Postal employees and Federal employees, there are many more. Still, there are some areas where Postal employees and Federal employees have the same rights and benefits; although, Postal benefits may be provided to employees at a lesser cost due to collective bargaining. This is the result of the PRA continuing certain rights and benefits for USPS employees. Provisions concerning veteran’s preference, workers compensation, Civil Service Retirement System, Federal Employees Retirement System, Federal Employees Group Life Insurance, and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, are examples of benefits available to both Postal employees and Federal employees.
The status of an independent establishment of the executive branch results in the USPS continuing to operate during government shutdowns. This benefits the businesses, consumers, and the American people who rely on the services of the USPS. This also benefits us as Postal employees as we continue to work and receive our paychecks. At least, I consider it a benefit not being subjected to the hardships experienced by Federal employees during the shutdown. Unfortunately, the independent status of the USPS also results in Postal employees being ineligible for off days granted by the President; such as the holiday given to Federal employees last Christmas eve. Still, I think we’re better off.