APWU President Cliff Guffey has been asked to testify about the unionâ€™s tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose powerful chairman has publicly condemned the new agreement and said it is too generous to postal employees.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said the April 5 hearing will â€œexamine the sustainability and affordability of the postal workforce, in light of the USPSâ€™s looming insolvency and poor financial outlook.â€ Contract renewals present the best chance for the USPS to find savings, Issa said, but the Tentative Agreement â€œlooks like a missed opportunity.â€
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), chairman of the Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy, also expressed â€œserious concernsâ€ about postal employeesâ€™ pay.
The union president was undaunted. â€œPostal workers are part of the great American middle class. Political leaders should find ways to create new and better jobs â€“ they should not try to knock ours down,â€ Guffey said.
â€œThe Tentative Agreement is an example of the benefits of collective bargaining â€“ even in difficult economic circumstances,â€ he added. â€œThe proposed contract is good for postal workers and good for the USPS.
â€œThe unionâ€™s main goals were to preserve jobs and to lessen the hardships associated with excessing. The Tentative Agreement will help accomplish those objectives. The USPS is seeking to reduce costs and increase workforce flexibility. The agreement will help management meet its objectives as well,â€ he said.
Not the First Time
The April 5 hearing will not be Rep. Issaâ€™s first incursion into the APWUâ€™s collective bargaining process. In September 2010, during negotiations, he wrote in a guest editorial in the Washington Times that, â€œNo union has or ever will lobby for a layoff, so itâ€™s up to USPS management and Congress to demand concessions.â€
Citing the USPSâ€™ financial difficulties, Issa said in September that the â€œpostal lobbyâ€ would seek a â€œbailoutâ€ of the USPS, and he implied that employees are the source of the Postal Serviceâ€™s financial difficulties.
â€œNothing could be further from the truth,â€ Guffey said. â€œAs we have pointed out many times, the requirement to pre-fund future retiree healthcare liabilities is the cause of the USPS economic crisis.
â€œThis unique and unreasonable requirement of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) is pushing the Postal Service toward insolvency,â€ he said. No other federal agency or private company is required to make such payments, which cost the USPS more than $5 billion annually for 10 years.
â€œThe Postal Service does not need a bailout, and no one has requested one â€“ not the USPS, not its customers and not its unions,â€ Guffey added. â€œIn truth, the USPS is bailing out the federal government.â€
Two independent auditors have concluded that the Postal Service has overfunded its Civil Service retirement fund by $50 billion to $75 billion. If the USPS were permitted to apply those overpayments to the Postal Serviceâ€™s future retiree healthcare obligations, the agencyâ€™s financial crisis would be resolved. The Federal Employees Retirement System is also overfunded by approximately $9 billion.
â€œPostal workers did not cause the Postal Serviceâ€™s financial difficulties,â€ Guffey said, â€œbut our Tentative Agreement has features that will help the Postal Service address them.
â€œAcross the nation workers are being stripped of the right to collective bargaining,â€ he said. â€œWe will not stand idly by and let the American dream slip away.â€