2012 February 09 - postalnews blog

Archive for February 9th, 2012

Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ introduces legislation to reform USPS’s profit-exhausting mandates

Yesterday, Rep. Waters introduced H.R. 3916, the Protecting Post Offices Act, which would reduce the operating costs of the US Postal Service to provide continued service in urban and rural communities and save 28,000 American jobs. She is joined by American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO in support of this much needed legislation to stabilize the US Postal Service.

In 2011, USPS was expected to post a deficit in excess of $8 billion. “It has become clear that the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) has had an adverse impact on Postal Service’s finances preventing them from becoming profitable once again. In the current environment of reduced mail volumes, inability to raise prices and the exceptional pre-funding payments into the Retiree Health Benefits Fund, the US Postal Service (USPS) has experienced incredible loss.”

The Protecting Post Offices Act would replace mandated Retiree Health Benefits Fund pre-funding amounts with actuary numbers for payment starting in 2012. H.R. 3916 would also prevent the closure of post offices in high poverty and unemployment areas, saving inner city and rural post offices from closure and preventing the loss of 28,000 letter carrier and postal worker jobs.

“The pre-funding requirements and restrictions on providing non-postal services mandated by PAEA has placed USPS in a very compromising position hampering it’s ability them to generate profits and stay competitive in this tough economy. As a result of this, USPS is slated to close 667 post offices across the nation, putting 28,000 Americans in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Our urban and rural communities have been hit the hardest by joblessness. We must do all we can to prevent further job loss in America.”

H.R. 3916 will also allow USPS to provide non-postal services, assisting them in revamping their business plan to increase profits and functionality of local post offices. Lastly, this bill will allow the Post Master General to change rates for market-dominant products without the approval of the Postal Regulatory Committee, allowing them to stay competitive with other mail servicing companies like FedEx and UPS.

“While the postage stamp remains one of America’s best bargains, it comes at a significant cost to the US Postal Service. This loss in profits has not only put the American postal workers in danger, it has also placed residents in urban and rural areas in jeopardy of losing reliable daily postal services, possibly missing out on time sensitive items like medication. I am confident that through the passage of this piece of legislation we will not only protect the American postal worker but assist in making the US Postal Service profitable again by keeping local post offices open, and increasing their functionality to better serve their communities.”

Final APWU Contract now available

The official 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement [PDF]between the USPS and the APWU is being printed and will be ready for shipping shortly, Director of Industrial Relations Mike Morris has announced.

In the meantime, copies can be viewed and downloaded from the APWU Web site. Orders for printed copies will be accepted online at the APWU Store, by phone at 800-789-0072, or by mailing an order form to APWU Store, PO Box 221494, Chantilly VA 20153.

The contract will be available in two formats: The spiral bound edition may be purchased for $4 per copy, and a traditional paperback version may be purchased for $3 per copy.

APWU Contract 2010-2015

Republicans on House panel approve bill to cut postal, federal pensions

From the American Postal Workers Union:

A House committee approved legislation on Feb. 7 that would cut pensions for postal and federal employees, while increasing the contributions the workers must make toward their retirement. The party-line vote was 22-16, with Republicans voting in favor of the retirement cuts and Democrats voting against.

“This bill is an outrageous attack on postal and federal employees,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey. “Some politicians are quick to cut benefits for middle-class workers, but they fight to the death to protect tax breaks for the super-rich.”

“Despite its name, the ‘Securing Annuities for Federal Employees Act’ would cut retirement benefits for postal and federal workers and make them pay more for less,” said Legislative Director Myke Reid. “This bill would amount to a pay cut for our members.”

The legislation (H.R. 3813) was shepherded through the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by a pair of politicians who are well-known opponents of postal workers: Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL). The two are co-sponsors of H.R. 2309, a bill that would destroy the Postal Service as we know it.

Increases Costs, Cuts Benefits

H.R. 3813 would increase the amount postal and federal employees contribute to their retirement by 1.5 percent, with the increase phased in over three years, beginning in 2013.

Employees with less than five years of service would face an increase of 3.2 percent. (Employees in the Federal Employee Retirement System [FERS] currently pay 0.8 percent of salary into the pension fund. Employees enrolled in the Civil Service Retirement System [CSRS] currently pay 7 percent to their retirement system.)

It also would reduce pensions for employees with less than five years of service by calculating annuities based on the average of employees’ high-five salary years instead of their high-three years, which is the current method. In addition, their pensions would be calculated at a lower rate of 0.7 percent per year, down from 1 percent.

“This bill would amount to a pay cut for our members.”

– Legislative and Political Director Myke Reid

The measure would eliminate the supplemental annuity provision, which augments benefits for employees who retire before they are eligible for Social Security benefits at age 62.

Following committee adoption of the bill, the House Rules Committee voted to merge it with the H.R. 7, a $260 billion highway bill, which the House is expected to consider during the week of Feb. 13.

APWU members are encouraged to contact their representative as soon as possible and urge them to oppose the bill as it is currently written.

via House Panel Approves Bill to Cut Postal, Federal Pensions.

Three Long Island Postal Workers Charged With Using Their Positions to Steal Cash

MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced today that three United States postal workers have been arrested and charged with stealing more than $4,000 in separate incidents in post offices in Massapequa Park, Hicksville, and Uniondale.

This morning, DA Investigators arrested Harold Gutierrez, 49, of Uniondale; Rita Haynes, 56, of Roosevelt; and Lisa Jimenez, 45, of the Bronx and charged them with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. Gutierrez was also charged with misdemeanor Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree. Each defendant faces up to four years in prison if convicted and is scheduled to be arraigned later today in First District Court, Hempstead.

The investigation of these cases was conducted by the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General, and referred to the DA’s Office for prosecution.

Rice said that between July 2010 and September 2011, Gutierrez stole $1,471 from the Massapequa Park Post Office by improperly ringing up customers. Gutierrez would falsely enter customer transactions or omit retail customer transactions entirely, keeping the cash for himself. Gutierrez used the cash to pay for personal living expenses, and admitted to investigators that he had also stolen DVDs from Netflix and Blockbuster mailings.

In a separate incident, Rice said that between November 2009 and February 2011, Haynes stole $1,542 from the Hicksville Post Office by failing to scan or enter retail customer transactions and short-ringing customers’ stamp purchases, a process where Haynes would charge a customer less than their actual purchase was worth and then keeping the difference.

In another separate incident, Rice said that November 2009, Jimenez, working at the Uniondale Post Office, sold money orders for $500 and $1,000 to two different customers. Jimenez then voided the money orders, unbeknownst to the customers, and then fraudulently created two money orders in the same amounts made payable to two of her family members.

“These three defendants violated the trust placed in them by their employers and the innocent customers they were hired to serve,” Rice said. “Corruption at any level of government is unacceptable and I will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to root out waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Deputy Chief William Wallace of the Government & Consumer Frauds Bureau is prosecuting the cases for the DA’s Office. Gutierrez is represented by Daniel Russo, Esq. Jimenez is represented by Eric Sachs, Esq. Attorney information is unavailable for Haynes.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Senator Carper statement on USPS financial results

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Postal Service, released the following reaction to the announcement that the U.S. Postal Service lost $3.3 billion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012:

“While today’s announcement that the U.S. Postal Service lost $3.3 billion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012 is disappointing, it unfortunately does not come as a surprise. While the magnitude of the losses themselves is bad enough, the fact that they came during a period of the year that is usually the most successful for the Postal Service is truly shocking. The Postal Service has reiterated that if nothing is done, it could be insolvent by fall 2012.

“Our troubled economy – coupled with the continued migration to electronic forms of communication – is putting the future of the Postal Service in jeopardy, and today’s news shows that it’s happening faster than expected. I have been saying for some time now that Congress needs to come together on a plan that can save the Postal Service and protect the more than eight million jobs that rely on it. The bipartisan 21st Century Postal Service Act (S.1789) strives to help the Postal Service adjust its operations to reflect the changing demand for its products and services while also giving it tools that can help it be successful in the 21st century. This bill – the only bipartisan proposal from Members in either Chamber – presents a comprehensive solution to the Postal Service’s financial challenges. If we do nothing, our nation could face a future without a Postal Service.

“While the situation facing the Postal Service is dire, it is not hopeless. That is why we need to pass this bipartisan and comprehensive bill as soon as possible. It is my hope that Congress and the Administration can come together on this plan in order to save the Postal Service before it’s too late.”

Heart Health Forever Stamp Lands Featured Role on NBC’s ‘The Biggest Loser’

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2012  — In a move to raise awareness of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the U.S. Surgeon General, the host from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” and the American Heart Association joined the Postmaster General in dedicating the 2012 Social Awareness Heart Health Forever stamp.

The stamp plays a key motivational role in a competition featured on The Biggest Loser, airing Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. ET. The episode also includes a sweepstakes announcement to encourage letter writing.

All 50 million of the 45-cent First-Class Forever stamps, available in sheets of 20, are available nationwide today at usps.com/shop, 800-782-6724 and at most Post Offices. The back of the stamp sheet offers heart healthy tips.

The Heart Health Forever stamp was dedicated today at MedStar Washington Hospital Center by U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.

“Prevention is the key to eliminating heart attacks and strokes,” said Benjamin. “We are giving Americans information and tools to make healthier choices to prevent tobacco use, access healthy foods and find enjoyable ways to get regular exercise. The Heart Health Social Awareness Stamp and the Million Hearts Campaign are great reminders of the importance of prevention.”

“Nothing touches the heart like a letter from a loved one,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “We hope Americans will use our 2012 Heart Health Social Awareness stamps for writing letters to loved ones and friends.”

Donahoe also referenced the tips on the back of the stamp sheet for maintaining a healthy heart.

Joining Donahoe and Benjamin in dedicating the stamps were American Heart Association Board of Directors member Barry Franklin, Ph.D.; Physician Executive Director of MedStar Heart Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center Stuart F. Seides, M.D.; and, Allison Sweeney of The Biggest Loser.

“The American Heart Association wants to thank the Postal Service for issuing this exciting new Heart Health stamp, particularly during American Heart Month,” said Association board of directors member Barry Franklin, Ph.D. “It’s a wonderful way to deliver an important message to the public — by making simple changes to your lifestyle, you can build a healthier life free of heart disease.”

“We love the stamp and its heart health message,” said Seides of MedStar Heart Institute. “All too often, we see the challenges people face when they neglect or just plain forget to exercise their hearts.”

“Every day our contestants inspire millions by sharing their journeys so we’re very excited for the Heart Health Stamp because it not only shares valuable information but it also encourages show fans to support their favorite contestant,” said The Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney via a recorded message broadcast during the event.

Biggest Loser Sweepstakes
As part of The Biggest Loser Feb. 14 airing, the stamp will be the centerpiece of the national “Watch It. Write It. Win It.” sweepstakes. For an 11-week period, viewers are invited to watch, write and win by sending letters of encouragement to their favorite Biggest Loser contestant(s). Viewers may submit an unlimited number of separate letters addressed to one contestant at a time. Letters also can be addressed to previously eliminated contestants from this season. Letters will be drawn at random to win one of three prizes:

  • Grand Prize:  One week, all expense paid trip for two to the Biggest Loser Resort.
  • Second Prize:  Four weeks of Biggest Loser prepared meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) — delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Third Prize:  Tickets for two with airfare to the Biggest Loser Grand Finale that will air in May 2013.

Sweepstakes information will be available on Feb. 14 at Post Offices nationwide and at this link the day after the show’s airing:  usps.com/biggestloser.

Printed on the back of the stamp sheet are tips for maintaining a healthy heart.
Coronary heart disease, or CHD, is the leading cause of death among women and men in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to be. Many cases of heart disease can be prevented. By making just a few simple lifestyle changes, you can lower your risk of developing CHD and help protect your heart for a lifetime.

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and avoiding foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats, and sugar promotes heart health. Such a diet can help control blood cholesterol levels and prevent high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes — all risk factors for heart disease.
  • Exercise and control your weight. Regular physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy heart, but you don’t have to be an athlete to reap the rewards. Getting a moderate amount of exercise most days of the week will lower your risk for heart disease and help maintain a healthy weight. Ask your doctor how much and what kind of exercise is right for you.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking causes your arteries to narrow and your blood pressure to rise, which can lead to a heart attack. No matter how long a person has smoked, quitting will dramatically lower the risk of developing heart disease. If you don’t smoke, protect your heart by avoiding secondhand smoke.
  • Manage stress. Did you know that prolonged emotional stress can harm your heart? Regular exercise and supportive relationships with family and friends can help relieve stress and improve your physical and emotional well-being. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if anxiety or depression interfere with your ability to function.
  • Sleep well. Sleep is essential to your heart. Adults who get less than 7–8 hours of sleep each night have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
  • Get regular health screenings. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can creep up on you without symptoms. Simple tests are available to detect these conditions, and medicines can be prescribed to control them if diet and exercise prove insufficient.

Other 2012 Stamps
Customers may view the Heart Health Social Awareness Forever stamp as well as many of this year’s other stamps on Facebook at facebook.com/USPSStamps, through Twitter @USPSstamps or on the website Beyond the Perf at beyondtheperf.com/2012-preview. Beyond the Perf is the Postal Service’s online site for background on upcoming stamp subjects, first-day-of-issue events and other philatelic news.

How to Order the First-Day-of-Issue Postmark
Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at a local Post Office, at The Postal Store website at usps.com/shop or by calling 800-STAMP-24. They should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

Heart Health Stamp
Special Cancellations
PO Box 92282
Washington, DC 20090-2282

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes by mail. There is no charge for the postmark. All orders must be postmarked by April 9, 2012.

How to Order First-Day Covers
The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamp issues and Postal Service stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 800-STAMP-24 or writing to:

Information Fulfillment
Dept. 6270
U.S. Postal Service
P.O. Box 219014
Kansas City, MO 64121-9014

Philatelic Products: visit usps.com/hearthealthy
There are four philatelic products available for this stamp issue:

  • 468761, First-Day Cover, $0.89.
  • 468765, Digital Color Postmark (DCP), $1.60.
  • 468791, Ceremony Program, $6.95.
  • 468799, Cancellation Keepsake (DCP w/Pane), $10.95.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

A self-supporting government enterprise, the U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, 151 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. With 32,000 retail locations and the most frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of more than $65 billion and delivers nearly 40 percent of the world’s mail. If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 35th in the 2011 Fortune 500. In 2011, the U.S. Postal Service was ranked number one in overall service performance, out of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world, by Oxford Strategic Consulting. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity. The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency for six years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.

Follow USPS on Twitter @USPS_PR and at Facebook.com/usps.

SOURCE U.S. Postal Service

 

USPS losses continue in first quarter

The US Postal Service announced today that it had suffered a loss of $3.3 billion in the first quarter of 2012. Not mentioned in the press release which follows is the fact that $3 billion of the reported loss is due to the Congressionally mandated prefunding of potential future USPS retirees health benefits. The USPS now has a total of $44 billion in past profits sequestered in the Treasury’s “trust fund”. Those details are buried on page 18 of the report.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service ended the first three months of its 2012 fiscal year (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2011) with a net loss of $3.3 billion. Management expects large losses to continue until the Postal Service has implemented its network re-design and down-sizing and has restructured its healthcare program. Additionally, the return to financial stability requires legislation which gives the Postal Service typical commercial freedoms, including delivery flexibility, returns over $10 billion of amounts overpaid to the Federal Government and resolves the need to prefund retiree healthcare at rates not assessed any other entity in the United States.

Stronger than expected holiday shipping activity, driven by strong growth in online merchandise sales and successful USPS marketing efforts, helped the Postal Service grow its competitive Shipping Services business in the first quarter, with revenue totaling $2.8 billion, an increase of $179 million or 7 percent over the same period last year. However, declines in First-Class and Standard Mail of $650 million were 3.7% percent of total revenue and greatly exceed the gains made in the package business. First-Class Mail declines due to electronic migration of transactions are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Mailing Services revenue, excluding First-Class Mail parcels, totaled $14.5 billion, a decrease of 2.9 percent. First-Class Mail continued to decline, with revenue decreasing 4.1 percent compared to the same period last year. First-Class Mail revenue has declined nearly 15 percent and volume has declined 25 percent since volume peaked in 2006. While some of the decline is attributable to economic weakness since 2007, the more significant factor is the continuing transition to electronic alternatives.

“Technology continues to have a major impact on how our customers use the mail,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe. “While it has helped us grow our Shipping Services businesses, it has had a significant negative impact on some of our much larger sources of revenue, particularly First-Class Mail. Revenue from Shipping Services represents about 17 percent of total revenue and, even with continued growth, cannot fully offset the decline in First-Class Mail revenue.”

To return to profitability, Donahoe has advanced a plan to reduce annual costs by $20 billion by 2015. The plan includes continued aggressive actions to generate additional revenue and reduce operating expenses. To reach the goal, the Postal Service also needs changes in the law. “Passage of legislation is urgently needed that provides the Postal Service with the speed and flexibility needed to cut costs that are not under our control, including employee health care costs,” Donahoe said. “The changes will give the Postal Service a bright future and provide the nation with affordable and reliable delivery for generations to come.”

Other details of the first quarter results compared to the same period last year include:

  • Total mail volume of 43.7 billion pieces, a 6 percent decrease.
  • Operating revenue of $17.7 billion, a 1.1 percent decrease.
  • Operating expenses (before prefunding of retiree health benefits and the impact of discount rate changes for worker’s compensation liability) of $17.8 billion, a 1 percent increase.
  • Transportation expenses increased by $105 million, or 6.3 percent, due to rising fuel costs. The Postal Service continues to decrease controllable costs, including an 8 million decrease in work hours, or 2.8 percent. Total compensation and benefits expenses decreased by $180 million, or 1.4 percent.

The Postal Service continues to suffer from a severe lack of liquidity. “Absent significant changes in the law to allow normal commercial freedoms, the Postal Service will default on both retiree health benefits pre-payments to the federal government due this year,” said Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett. “Even if legislation changes or eliminates the prefunding payments, we may reach our $15 billion debt ceiling in the fall of this year.”

USPS 1st Quarter 2012 Financial Results (Form 10-Q)

Video: The Republican War on Postal Workers

Senator Bernie Sanders on the Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC:

The Republican War on Workers – YouTube.

NTEU: Breaking Pension Promises to Fund Transportation Bill is Wrong

From the National Treasury Employees Union:

Washington, D.C. –The leader of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) said today she is appalled that the House Republican leadership would break pension promises made to federal workers years ago to fund a transportation bill.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday voted to increase pension contributions of federal employees, eliminate a supplement promised to workers with decades of service and change the way pensions are calculated for new employees, decreasing the value of federal pensions by nearly 40 percent.

What is particularly egregious, said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley, is that bill sponsors rationalized cutting the pay and retirement of middle-class federal workers, saying such moves were necessary to reduce the deficit. “This most recent action removes the pretense of deficit reduction and is clearly a gratuitous attack on the public servants who protect our borders, safeguard our air and food supply and look after our life savings.”

She was reacting to yesterday’s approval by the House committee of H.R. 3813, a measure that would increase pension contributions for federal workers and slash their pensions, and plans by House Republican leaders to use the savings to offset costs for a transportation bill.

“Why look to highway trust funds and gas taxes to fix crumbling roads and bridges when you can find the funding by reneging on federal pension commitments and cut federal pay?” the NTEU leaders said.

H.R. 3813 was introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.); among other steps, it would require all federal employees to pay an additional 1.5 percent toward their retirement, a move President Kelley described as “a steep pay cut.”

Such a change would increase the contribution of a federal worker earning $50,000 a year from $400 annually to $1,150, and for a potentially much smaller pension, Kelley said.

“I find it outrageous that the Oversight Committee would seek to impose this regressive legislation on federal employees who already are contributing $60 billion to deficit reduction through the current two-year pay freeze,” Kelley said. “It is especially discouraging when you consider that the House simply refuses to address the pressing need for shared sacrifice, particularly from the wealthiest Americans.” She further noted that the pension cut provisions in the Ross bill are also included in H.R. 3630 to offset a payroll tax cut extension.

Kelley added: “How many other spending increases and tax cuts will the Republican leadership call on federal employees to bear the full cost of? I guess the Republicans’ idea of shared sacrifice is that they have lots of ways to share the money they take away from the only group actually sacrificing —middle class federal workers.”

In a news briefing earlier this week, the NTEU leader stressed the need for shared sacrifice and said NTEU will continue to oppose efforts aimed at further cuts in federal pay or retirement programs while there are no other groups contributing to deficit reduction.

She was especially critical of the Ross legislation for its provision eliminating, at the end of this year, the Social Security supplement of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), a payment that accounts for about one-third of the value of the pension for those who meet age and service requirements to retire before age 62.

Kelley called it “unconscionable” to consider eliminating the Social Security supplement when so many federal employees have based their retirement plans on receiving it—as promised by Congress when they joined the federal workforce.

Two NTEU members, both long-time employees of the Internal Revenue Service, told the press briefing of the impact of such a development on them.

One said she would have to rethink her retirement plans, which are based in large part on spending more time with her husband, a retired federal employee himself, who is in poor health. Loss of the FERS supplement, she said, would make that virtually impossible.

The other told his story and said he considers payment of the supplement to be a promise made by Congress in exchange for his career commitment to federal service. “A promise made is a promise that should be kept,” he told the press.

As the nation’s largest independent federal union, NTEU represents some 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.