The following was distributed by the Greater Seattle Area Local 28 of the American Postal Workers Union:
The U.S. Postal Service announced July 30 that it will not make $11.1 billion in payments to a federal fund, scheduled for August 1 and September 30, that were required by Congress under a 2006 law. By comparison, postal revenues in 2011 were nearly $66 billion; the payments would have comprised more than one-sixth of annual revenue.
The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, passed by a lame-duck Republican Congress, forced a unique burden on the Postal Service: a series of payments that were supposed to “pre-fund” health benefits for future retirees. In practice, the law has pumped $20.9 billion from postal coffers into the U.S. Treasury and nearly exhausted postal finances. This “forced loan” to the federal budget was supposedly to cover benefit costs through the year 2081 — for 75 years.
In a July 30 statement, Cliff Guffey, national President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), stated that, “The pre-funding payments — not the Internet and not losses from postal operations — are responsible for 82 percent of USPS red ink since the pre-funding mandate was implemented.”
“It is clearly a stupid law, one that makes no sense to continue, and one that has caused more needless damage than any legislation in recent memory,” says David Yao, Vice President of the Greater Seattle Area Local of the APWU, which represents postal clerks, maintenance and motor vehicle personnel. “While postal employment has dropped to match declining mail volume, it is Congress that has wrecked postal finances; Congress must restore them.”
Threats to Customer Service in Washington State
Postal unionists charge that the sabotage of postal finances by the 2006 law threatens customer service. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has announced plans to slow down the delivery of first-class mail by 2014, which would allow the consolidation or closure of mail processing plants in Tacoma, Everett, Olympia, Pasco, and Wenatchee, with a loss of around 400 jobs. The APWU opposed the plan to reduce first-class mail service standards.
Delivery of mail on Saturdays could end, as well as delivery to home mailboxes away from the street. Hours at 168 rural post offices in Washington face drastic cuts in hours. And consolidation means the closure or relocation of postal stations, such as the downtown Redmond post office that moved July 30, or Seattle’s East Union and International Stations that will close next spring.
Saving Postal Service is a Political, not a Financial Problem
To restore postal finances and preserve customer service, repealing the 2006 pre-funding mandate would seem obvious. In addition, postal overpayments into federal pension funds total many billions. Legislation introduced in Congress calls for the return to the Postal Service of pension overpayments, and the repeal of pre-funding. However, those bills are stuck in Congress, while the Republican House leadership has pushed its own postal bill that would mandate service cuts and little financial relief.
A July 15 editorial in the Federal Times called the House of Representative’s failure to act “disgraceful” and described the inaction of House leaders as “contempt for the Postal Service and a lack of respect for the law and for the obligations of their own institution.”
APWU President Guffey observed that “the postal debacle is a manufactured crisis, and it is being exploited by those who want to privatize the Postal Service.”
The APWU urges citizens to contact their congressional representatives to urge repeal of the pre-funding mandate, and the return of postal pension overpayments. It is important that Washington, D.C., hear that Washington state is opposed to reducing first-class mail standards, opposed to delivery reductions, opposed to slashing rural post office hours, and in favor of maintaining our world-class, publicly owned postal system.