Postal worker rallies continue

Postal workers rally in front of the Piedmont/MLK Jr. Post Office in Northeast Portland Nov. 8 to save Saturday and door-to-door delivery. Congress is considering several bills, two of which will dramatically cut service. The rally was one of four held by NALC Branch 82 the week of Nov. 7. Following this event, USPS management warned the union that any letter carriers caught picketing in uniform would be immediately suspended and possibly fired.

Portland-area letter carriers and their allies held early morning rallies the week of Nov. 7 to encourage Congress to save the U.S. Postal Service, without layoffs and cutbacks.

The postmaster general is proposing massive post office closings, reducing days of delivery and service standards, as well as huge workforce cuts starting Nov. 18 if Congress doesn’t act to fix it.

“The cuts are not necessary. The postal service is not broke,” said Jim Cook, president of Portland-area National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82, which organized the rallies.

“Despite competition from the Internet and the severe recession, the U.S. Postal Service had remained profitable. The financial problem was created by Congress and Congress can fix it.”

Cook pointed to a 2006 congressional mandate requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund 75 years of retirement benefits within 10 years, which  costs USPS $5.5 billion per year and makes the Postal Service appear to be losing money. No other U.S. government agency is required to pre-fund retirement in this manner.

“This was a union-busting trick by the Republicans,” Cook said.

A labor-backed bill in the U.S. House (H.R. 1351), which has a bi-partisan majority of co-sponsors (226), would address the pre-funding issue. The bill, however, is bottled up in committee by its chair, right-wing U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.).

Issa has introduced his own bill, which would gut collective bargaining rights for postal workers and privatize much of the work, among other things.  H.R. 2309 was approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Oct. 13. The bill had not been acted on by the full House at press time.

A postal reform measure in the Senate — the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) — cleared the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Nov. 9 on a bipartisan vote of 9-1. The committee is chaired by Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Postal worker unions oppose this bill too, saying pre-funding retiree health insurance is still the top policy priority. The measure ties the future of Saturday service to profitability and mandates the phase-out of door-to-door delivery for 35 million households and businesses, putting 80,000 postal jobs at risk.

“A retiree health pre-funding mandate will make profits impossible,” NALC said.

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