Twenty-seven senators have signed a letter to the sponsors of the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) asking them to approve amendments to the legislation that the APWU supports. The bill – which the APWU says is “unacceptable in its current form” – is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote in the next few weeks.
Everyone understands that the Postal Service is in the midst of a serious financial crisis that must be addressed,” the senators wrote on Feb. 14. “But we believe that this financial crisis can be solved in a way that does not substantially slow down the delivery of mail and harm rural America.”
The letter was initiated by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who also was instrumental in negotiating the agreement with the Postal Service to impose a six-month moratorium on consolidations. It was sent to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who introduced the bill on Nov. 2, 2011. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved an amended version of the legislation on Nov. 6.
The 27 senators who signed the letter believe significant improvements can be made to S. 1789 before it reaches the Senate floor. If the bill’s sponsors agree, changes could be made through a “manager’s amendment” prior to a vote by the full Senate.
What They Want
The group is supporting amendments to maintain current service standards, protect rural post offices, maintain six-day delivery, and establish a blue-ribbon panel to examine how the Postal Service can earn additional revenue by offering new services.
“As we move forward with reforms, we must prevent cuts to service standards that will allow for the closure of 252 area mail processing facilities,” they wrote. “The Postal Service has already reduced its number of mail processing facilities from 675 to 508 over the last six years, and the Postmaster General has made clear that any additional reductions would result in a substantial decline in the reliable and expedient postal service that Americans have come to expect.”
The senators are also pressing lawmakers to include provisions that would more aggressively address the requirement that forces the USPS to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. Were it not for the pre-funding requirement, the Postal Service would have reported an operating profit of $200 million in the first quarter of FY 2012.
“Over the short-term, we believe that the Postal Service should be allowed to recover more than $10 billion in overpayments it has made to its pension plans,” the 27 senators wrote. “Further, we believe that the Postal Service should not be required to pre-fund 75 years worth of future retiree health benefits over a 10 year period.
“Over the long-term, we believe that the Postal Service must develop a new business model for it to succeed in the 21st Century, just like virtually every other postal service in the industrialized world has already done.”
The senators endorsed provisions of S. 1789 that would allow the USPS to contract with state and local governments to issue hunting and fishing licenses, copy and notarize documents, and ship wine and beer, but said the concept should be expanded. “We would ask that manager’s amendment language be included to establish a blue-ribbon commission of entrepreneurs, innovators, postmasters, experts in the mailing industry, and labor to develop a report recommending a new business model for USPS to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability.”
APWU Praises Efforts
APWU President Cliff Guffey praised the senators for their efforts to resolve the Postal Service’s financial crisis without destroying service and harming workers.
He is asking union members to contact their senators and urge them to support the amendments to S. 1789 that are outlined in the letter. “Thanks go to the many APWU members who reached out to their legislators to oppose this bill in its current form,” he said.
“At this critical time, it’s important that we continue to get our point across,” Guffey said. “We must keep up the pressure and ensure that Senate makes the necessary changes to this bill before it reaches the Senate floor for a vote.”