Washington Postal Scene — By Bill McAllister
Forty-eight years after President Richard M. Nixon pleaded with postal unions to support his plan for an independent postal service, another Republican president appears to be saying those unions might have achieved too many benefits with their collective-bargaining rights.
That seems to be what Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget for fiscal 2018 is saying.
The president wants to roll back some of the gains the postal unions have made in the almost five decades since Nixon gave them bargaining rights in return for their support of his plan for a new United States Postal Service.
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The Trump budget for fiscal year 2018 says it offers the USPS $46 billion in “savings” by reducing mail deliveries and hitting postal workers’ benefits.
Not surprisingly, the postal unions are in full battle mode with the president.
“This budget proposal is Robin Hood in reverse,” claimed American Postal Workers Union president Mark Dimondstein. “It robs from the workers to give more and more to the wealthy.”
“Taken in their entirety, these are draconian attacks on hard working postal workers and our families,” the union chief said.
“Sadly, the new administration seems to have ignored the growing consensus in the mailing industry over ways to strengthen the Postal Service,” said Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
“If enacted, the Trump proposals would threaten the long-term viability of the Postal Service and the huge industry it supports,” he said.
What is infuriating the unions is a proposal to increase pension contributions by workers by a total of 6 percent during the next six years.
Specifically, Trump wants worker contributions to the Federal Employee Retirement System to rise by 1 percent every year for the next six years.
That would result in “a pay-cut of thousands of dollars a year for each FERS postal employee,” the unions say.
The president’s budget would eliminate cost of living adjustments (COLA) on FERS retirement benefits, reduce COLAs for current civil-service retirees, and base all future retirement pay on a high five-year average instead of the current three-year average.
The planned retirement of Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has prompted fears that his legislation to help the USPS out of its current financial woes will die in June with the Utah Republican’s departure from Congress.
Rep. Gerald Connolly, a senior Democrat on the committee, is not one of those who has given up on the Chaffetz legislation.
“Our Postal Service Reform Act is the culmination of years of hard work and compromise,” he told Linn’s.
“Mr. Chaffetz was crucial in helping move the legislation along, and he should be commended, but our effort is bigger than any one person,” Connolly said.
“We brought every stakeholder to the table on this bipartisan effort and the bill overwhelmingly passed our Committee. Now Congress must help the Postal Service transition to the 21st century economy and I am hopeful that our bipartisan legislation will do just that.”
The Postal Service has two million people signed up for its mail preview service and is adding more than 10,000 people a day to the service.
That’s what Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan told the National Postal Forum in Baltimore May 23.
It was the first time that the USPS has issued a national news release about the program, called “Informed Delivery.”
Until now, the Postal Service had depended on direct-mail announcements and news stories to tell the public about the program.
“As promised at last year’s Forum, Informed Delivery is now available in virtually every community in America,” Brennan told the Baltimore audience.
“Informed Delivery makes mail even more dynamic, adding a new layer to the evolution of the mail experience,” she said.
What the Postal Service is clearly hoping is that the program will lure more big mailers back to the mail, slowing the sagging mail volumes that spell trouble for the future.
Three large mailing organizations have attacked the Postal Service’s new wage agreement with the National Association of Letter Carriers, saying the pact shows that the USPS “cannot be trusted … to control its own costs.”
In a June 1 essay, titled “USPS — Spendthrift Monopolist,” the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, the Association of Magazine Media, and the Association for Postal Commerce argued that a price cap is essential to force the Postal Service to control its spending.
Postal workers are paid “nearly twice what the private sector pays for similar work,” the three mailing groups say.
They cited the NALC agreement, saying it offers too much money for union members and converts lower paid city carrier assistants into career postal workers.
“We have no argument with the nation’s postal workers,” the mailers said.
But the USPS wants the Postal Regulatory Commission to eliminate its price cap.
That would lead to ruin for the Postal Service, the mailers say, arguing the price caps are needed to save them from “out of control postal costs.”