Union protest against US postal reform proposals set for Thursday

Postal unions in the United States are stepping up the pressure on US lawmakers to oppose legislative proposals designed to rescue the US Postal Service. The US Senate is expected to attempt debate the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S.1789) when it returns from its Easter recess next week.

The bill would look to help tackle the massive annual losses being recorded by USPS each year through various measures including a restructuring of pension and healthcare funding arrangements, and help for USPS to cut its operating costs.

But unions reject the proposals, saying they focus too much on downsizing USPS.

The National Association of Letter Carriers is organising a series of protests outside Senate offices around the country for Thursday (April 12) urging lawmakers to oppose the bill.

NALC claims the bill would actually hurt the Postal Service, allowing it to reduce service standards while shutting mail processing plants.

The union’s president, Frederic V Rolando, spoke at an industry conference organised by Rutgers University’s CRRI, from which press were kept out, to say that the postal reforms being considered by the Senate lacked “long-term vision”.

Rolando said the legislation needed to be more comprehensive, and that a review was needed to come up with a new business model for USPS.

In remarks later released to the press, the NALC president said that USPS management had “thrown in the towel” at the highest level in response to the current crisis of drastically-reduced mail volumes.

“Too many in Congress and in Postal Service management believe the only solution is to give up: laying off employees, closing post offices, shutting down other Postal Service facilities, eliminating routes and reducing service,” said Rolando.

“Such crude amputations can only produce more dissatisfied customers who are ever more reluctant to use the Postal Service.”

Business model

NALC is opposing proposals to eliminate Saturday deliveries and the potentially 150,000 job cuts demanded by USPS management to respond to smaller mail volumes.

But while the NALC president is urging senators to block the current bill, and is opposing the rival reform proposals currently in the House of Representatives even more vigorously, Rolando warned on Friday that if Congress takes no action at all, “Postal Service management will start dismantling itself on its own.”

The union, which represents about 284,000 active and retired letter carriers, believes that most of the current financial problems at USPS are caused by the Postal Service’s onerous pension and healthcare funding arrangements.

Rolando said he believed a business model was needed at USPS that would make best use of its key advantage – its widespread last-mile network. This would include building e-commerce delivery, adding new products and services and giving USPS more flexibility in its pricing.

“The fundamental error in the legislation before Congress and in the plans advanced by the Postal Service management is that they see only problems, not opportunities,” said the NALC president.

The union favours the idea of a stakeholder commission, as put forward by Senator Bernie Sanders, to review USPS and come up with recommendations for a new business model.

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