|Guest Essay: Postal Service is a vital hub for America
By William B. Cook | Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 11:00 pm
I am writing this essay on behalf of the 800 members and their families of Northeastern New York Branch 358 National Association of Letter Carriers, of which I am a member and the president.
Branch 358 represents the letter carriers in the Glens Falls region that this newspaper serves. On June 26, The Post-Star printed an editorial that declared the Postal Service as broken and inefficient. This message is replete with inaccuracies.
For the record, since 1982 the Postal Service has not received any taxpayer support and does not need it now. We deliver to 150 million American homes and businesses six days a week. In fact, the customer base is not shrinking; it is increasing at the rate that equals the size of Houston, Texas, every year.
Like many businesses in this trying time, the Postal Service faces financial challenges due in part to the recession. However, unlike private business, the Postal Service and its employees are required by law to pay into the federal government all monies for pension and health benefits. In turn, the federal government is to use that money for the benefit of the 575,000 employees and the retirees.
The federal government is requiring the Postal Service and its employees to pre-fund 75 years of health benefit obligations in 10 years for all current and future employees/retirees. No other federal agency and no private business are required by law to do this. At the same time, Congress is refusing to allow the Postal Service to access and use monies in two pension funds that are permanently and significantly overfunded to the tune of $81.5 billion.
The Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers have supported legislation to provide a permanent and simple fix by allowing the Postal Service and its employees to use the excess money to fully fund the health benefit fund for the past four years. If Congress had passed the legislation the Postal Service would be on solid financial ground today and would have made profits in two of the last four years. How many other businesses could say that? Failing to act, Congress has made the Postal Service the most successful business to be on the brink of insolvency.
With the failure of Congress to act to free up the $81.5 billion that belongs to the Postal Service and its employees, the Postal Service is taking drastic steps. However, it is not accurate to say that the Postal Service in "no longer contributing to its employee's pension fund." The Postal Service has stopped paying its employer portion into one of the two pension funds that is overfunded by $6.5 billion. All other contributions are being made into the two pension funds.
Another step the Postal Service is taking is closing post office stations in cities. Note that it is not only the cities, such as Glens Falls, Schenectady and Albany that are at risk of and being affected with closures. In this region, Keene and Keene Valley are also affected, for example. If the residents of the Glens Falls area are unhappy about what is happening to their local post offices, then I strongly urge you to contact U.S. Rep. Gibson's office to ask him for help. Ask him to support fixing the Postal Service.
Rep. Gibson is only one of five of 28 members of the New York State House of Representatives delegation who has not supported releasing the money that belongs to the Postal Service and its employees. Continued failure to act will most likely mean further unnecessary contraction in postal services in the Glens Falls area.
The United States Postal Service is indisputably the most efficient postal service in the entire world. The Postal Service has the confidence of 83 percent of all Americans. It generates $65 billion in sales annually, serving as a hub of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry that includes paper manufacturers, magazines, shippers, financial service providers, direct mailers and merchants of all kinds. This industry employs some 7.5 million Americans. Millions of American citizens and businesses depend on mail delivery six days each week. In fact, the only way we can get our prescription drugs by mail, according to statute, is if the Postal Service delivers six days a week.
While the industry is changing, we are not obsolete as this editorial suggests.