Guffey: Senate bill “a mixed bag”
APWU News Bulletin 12-2012, April 27, 2012 | PDF
The Senate passed an amended version of the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) on April 25, and legislative action on postal reform will now move to the House of Representatives.
“Although the bill is flawed, the amended version is far better than the original,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey. “That is a result of the tremendous effort of APWU members, postal customers, and elected officials who appreciate the importance of the Postal Service to American life. Thank you for your hard work,” he said.
“With the moratorium on the closure of mail processing plants and post offices set to expire on May 15, we must now turn our attention to the House. We expect to face very tough challenges there,” Guffey said. “But we will do everything we can to get a good bill. We call on our members, small businesses, individual customers, and lawmakers to re-double our efforts to Save America’s Postal Service.”
“House leaders have not yet given any indication of how they plan to proceed,” said Myke Reid, APWU Legislative and Political director.
The House could consider H.R. 2309, a bill sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), which would destroy the Postal Service. More than half of the members of the House are co-sponsors of another bill, H.R. 1351, which postal unions support, but Rep. Issa, the chairman of the House committee with jurisdiction over the Postal Service, has refused to allow it to come up for a vote. The House also could consider the Senate bill.
A Mixed Bag
“The Senate bill is a mixed bag,” Guffey said. It would provide the USPS, which is facing imminent collapse, with short-term financial relief, by returning $11 billion in USPS overpayments to federal pension funds to the Postal Service. “Keep in mind,” Guffey said, “this is money paid by postal customers, workers and the Postal Service – not taxpayers.”
The legislation also would restructure USPS payments to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees, spreading the payments over 40 years – instead of the current 10 – and reducing the funding mandate from 100 percent to 80 percent. No other government agency or private company is required to make such payments.
“These are positive steps,” Guffey said, “but they do not go far enough. As a result, the USPS will not have access to the capital it needs to meet the challenges of the future,” he said.
Another improvement, Guffey said, is that the 21st Century Postal Service Act would allow more community input in the decision-making process for closing or consolidating post offices and postal facilities. It also would give the Postal Regulatory Commission authority to reverse USPS decisions on these issues.
In addition, the bill would provide limited protection for service standards for a minimum of three years. “Although we sought stronger, longer safeguards, this is an improvement over the original bill, which did nothing to preserve service,” Guffey said. “Protecting service is essential to preserving the Postal Service – and postal jobs.”
But the legislation also would have devastating consequences for the thousands of postal and federal employees who were injured on the job and who receive compensation from the Office of Workers Compensation Program (OWCP), Guffey noted.
Among other provisions, the bill would authorize the Postal Service to offer retirement incentives. It also would allow the USPS to negotiate with postal unions to create a health plan separate from the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.
The legislation also would require arbitrators to consider the financial condition of the Postal Service, along with other relevant factors.
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