May 2021 Update
May has shaped up to be a month of significant developments. The two primary areas where this has happened involved Emergency Federal Employee Leave (EFEL) and Postal Reform. In addition, Local 323 is currently holding an election to select a Delegate to the 2021 LIUNA Convention. Mailing of the ballots to the Membership will occur on or before June 4th.
President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 into law on March 11th. The ARPA included the Emergency Federal Employee Leave (EFEL) benefit for when people are unable to work because of COVID-19. The Postal Service issued a series of provisional guidelines while awaiting official guidance from the Office of Personal Management (OPM).
These official OPM guidelines were issued on April 30th. This resulted in a situation with all EFEL from March 11th through May 3rd being designated as conditional. On May 7th, the Postal Service sent letters to all employees who had been conditionally approved which outlined the documentation required for their EFEL request(s). These employees had until May 21st to provide their documentation to management.
The Local Office and the Branch Offices have been deeply involved in issues related to EFEL. Our first objective was to ensure that no Mail Handler or MHA was improperly denied leave to which they were entitled; secondly, we strived to ensure that management did not request documentation beyond the scope of OPM guidelines.
Numerous documents were provided to the Branch Offices, both before and after the issuance of OPM guidelines. The Branch Representatives often received this information before it trickled down to the work floor. Each Representative in every Branch worked to provide EFEL information to the Membership. I am confident that we possess a sound understanding of the issues and we will keep an eye on these issues going forward.
EFEL benefits are available to both Mail Handlers and MHAs. They will continue through September 30, 2021, if funding remains available. Contact your Steward, Branch Office, or the Local 323 Office if you have questions or need help.
The prospect of meaningful Postal reform appears to have gained some momentum. On May 13th, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed two separate bills which address USPS finances and operations. The first bill is the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021 (H.R. 3076). This bill was passed by a voice vote, with bipartisan support, and without amendment. It may now proceed to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. The provisions of H.R 3076 include codifying six-day delivery, requiring Postal retirees to enroll in Medicare at 65, and eliminating the pre-funding mandate related to retiree health benefits.
The second bill the Committee passed, was the Postal Service Improvement Act of 2021 (H.R. 3077). This bill passed with only Democrat votes. The provisions of H.R. 3077 require that mailed elections ballots have a USPS trackable bar code and other specific indicia; and it provides for extending paid parental leave to Postal employees. It is worth noting, that Republicans opposed all amendments offered by the Democrats. These amendments concerned upgrading the USPS delivery fleet to electric vehicles and more strict service standards. H.R. 3067 is now also preceding to a full House vote. The future may not look too bright for this one.
A Senate version of the Postal Service Reform Act was introduced in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 19th. This version was introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), who are respectively the Ranking Member and Chairman of the Committee. Chairman Peters has stated that there are 10 cosponsors from each side of the aisle. This seems to suggest that Postal Reform may be accomplished.
The Postal Service Reform Act is still a way from the goal line, and we’ll be keeping an eye on this issue as things develop.
The process of holding an election for a Delegate to the 2021 LIUNA Convention is ongoing. The Local Executive Board appointed Tony Stickler of the NDC Branch, Nicole Rodriguez of the St. Paul Branch, and Jarred Hoover of the Minneapolis Branch, to serve as Judges of election. The Nomination Meeting was held on May 20th at the Local Office. Ballots will be mailed on or before June 4th and counted on June 28th. I would like to express my thanks to Tony, Nicole, and Jarred, for stepping forward to conduct this important election. This election provides every Member with a say in how their Union is run.