A bill that would destroy the Postal Service as we know it passed a House subcommittee on Sept. 21 by a vote of seven to four, along party lines. Republicans voted in favor of the bill; Democrats voted against it. The bill, H.R. 2309, was co-sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), chairman of the postal subcommittee.
Prior to the vote, Rep. Issa amended the bill, which he first introduced on June 23, to include numerous provisions that are even more controversial than those contained in the original version:
The amended version includes a provision to grant authority to a newly-established control board to carry out layoffs, in spite of any provisions in collective bargaining agreements that might limit them. In addition, it says that employees who are eligible for retirement must be laid off before employees who are ineligible, and dictates that retirement-eligible employees with the longest service must be separated first. The new language also forbids the payment of severance pay to retirement-eligible employees.
The new version of the bill continues provisions from the original that would empower a newly-created “solvency authority” to unilaterally cut wages and abolish benefits.
The amendment doubles – from $1 billion to $2 billion – the value of mail processing facility closures mandated by the bill, and it continues the provision found in the original version which requires $1 billion worth of post office closures. The new version also includes many changes to mail delivery, such as a requirement to reduce “door delivery” by 75 percent within two years.
In addition, the amendment includes several changes that would negatively affect workers who are injured on duty, including one that would cut the monthly compensation of totally disabled employees from 66.66 percent to 50 percent, once they meet the age and service requirements for retirement.
Democrats on the subcommittee argued strenuously against the bill and offered several amendments of their own; all of them were defeated by the Republican majority.
APWU President Cliff Guffey denounced the bill. “This is a brazen attempt to dismantle the United States Postal Service and render it ripe for privatization,” he said. “It is a blatant attack on unionized workers.
“The bill does not address the cause of the Postal Service’s financial crisis. It does nothing to correct the requirement to pre-fund the healthcare benefits of future retirees, which forces the USPS to fund a 75-year liability in a period of just 10 years,” Guffey said. No other government agency or private company is required to make such payments, which cost the USPS approximately $5.5 billion annually. “The bill also fails to address billions of dollars in USPS overpayments to federal pension accounts,” he noted.
“The Postal Service is a critical part of our economy. It is the center of a $1.2 trillion industry that employs 8 million people, including printers, mailers, and other businesses that rely on the Postal Service,” Guffey said.
“The post office is where the flag flies across America, and it is an integral part of our national life. Yet the bill would destroy this great institution – shutting thousands of offices, slashing service, and punishing workers.”
Guffey called on all union members to participate in rallies set for Tuesday, Sept. 27, to Save America’s Postal Service. Events are planned in every congressional district across the country, as part of a campaign by the four postal unions to win support for legislation to avert a collapse of the nation’s mail system.
The APWU is working with the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association to organize the activities. (Please send high-resolution photos of your event to firstname.lastname@example.org.) To find the location of the rally nearest you, visit www.SaveAmericasPostal Service.org.
The unions are urging support for H.R. 1351, which was introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA). The Lynch bill would prevent the financial collapse of the USPS – without closing thousands of post offices, eliminating hundreds of mail processing facilities, delaying mail delivery, laying off 120,000 workers, cutting postal workers’ pay, or ending collective bargaining rights.
H.R. 1351 would allow the Postal Service to apply billions of dollars in pension overpayments to the congressional mandate that requires the USPS to pre-fund the healthcare benefits of future retirees.
“We are fighting for our lives,” Guffey said. “I urge every APWU member to attend a rally, and to ask his or her member of Congress to support H.R. 1351.”