President Young makes a point during week-long meeting of NALC Executive
Council in Texas. Pictured (l-r) are Vice President Gary Mullins, Young, Executive Vice President Jim Williams and Secretary-Treasurer Jane E. Broendel.
The union’s stance and strategy regarding two of the hottest topics in Congress this year – Social Security and postal reform – dominated a week-long meeting of the NALC Executive Council February 7-11 in Irving, Texas, setting the stage for year-long involvement of NALC activists in both debates.
In the end, NALC President William H. Young made clear that the NALC had not yet endorsed any legislation in the 109th Congress on either topic, but would be weighing various proposals and information before reaching any decision.
“We are open to listening to the proposals and recommendations by members of both political parties in the House and Senate, by the Bush administration, from our friends in the labor movement, and from all organizations and individuals that can add to the public debate,” Young said. “No one is excluded. Furthermore, this union has not yet placed its seal of approval on any specific legislation in the new Congress, and may not for several months to come.”
“We intend to fully participate in the dialogue as legislation is drafted and moves through Congress and will have the strong and unified voice of over 121,000 NALC activists with us,” he added.
On postal reform, Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, has introduced H.R. 22 in the House nearly mirroring legislation that was unanimously approved last year by the House Government Reform Committee, but which was blocked from House floor action on direction of the White House. In the Senate, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chair Susan Collins R-ME, is preparing to reintroduce legislation that may include some revisions from the language approved unanimously by that panel last year.
On Social Security, President Bush has proposed siphoning up to 33 percent from payroll taxes under the current formula and earmarking it for private accounts. That proposal, yet to be submitted in legislative form, has been met with widespread criticism, especially from the AFL-CIO and retirees organizations.
Although the question of how to stabilize Social Security for the long-term future remains open for debate, President Young emphasized that diverting payroll taxes into private accounts is not the answer, saying it “would make Social Security’s financial problems much worse, not better.”
“The resulting budget deficits would add trillions to the national debt,” he said.
At the council meeting, Young’s remarks were augmented by extensive presentations by George Gould, assistant to the president for legislative and political affairs and other members of NALC’s Legislative Department, and by James Sauber, the union’s research economist.
All Resident Officers made reports to the council on activities they were involved in:
Executive Vice President Jim Williams reported that the NALC was 92 percent organized as of November, 2004, a fraction below a year previous, and urged that all efforts be made to sign-up non-members. Williams announced that the next round of advocacy training will be March 6, and a new three-week leadership training program will begin in July, spread over a five-month period, including periods to work on training projects. The selection application packets will be available shortly from National Business Agents, branch presidents and on the NALC website. He gave new data showing the continued success of the Dispute Resolution Process.
Vice President Gary Mullins reported on the status of cases sent to arbitration, with only 1,176 unsettled at the end of 2004. President Young noted that in 1998, the number of unsettled cases was over 28,000. Mullins, who coordinates the activities of the Contract Administration Unit at NALC, discussed the unit’s action in administering and enforcing the National Agreement. He also reported that he has begun supervision of the union’s Computer Department which is working to upgrade the computer system at headquarters and in the field.
Secretary-Treasurer Jane E. Broendel reported that the size of the city letter carrier craft has increased to 228,181 with NALC active letter carrier members at 209,962. Broendel also said plans were already underway for the 65th Biennial Convention in Miami, August 7-11, 2006. She added that dates have been established for the 66th convention in Boston – July 21-25, 2008, and that exploratory work has begun for a city to host the 2010 convention.
Assistant Secretary-Treasurer Jim Korolowicz reported that Customer Connect, the joint effort of the union and Postal Service to increase business through first-hand contact by letter carriers with their customers has brought in over $60 million to the Postal Service.
Director of City Delivery Fred Rolando reviewed the many issues and agreements involving route inspections during the past two years, culminating with the Service’s unilateral termination of the new route inspection memorandum on December 7, 2004. Rolando also noted that NALC initiated on October 27, 2004 an Interpretive Step grievance on the use of the Carrier Optimal Routing (COR) process because it is inconsistent with the provisions of the M39 handbook. He also discussed the relevant issues involved in the Interpretive Step grievance initiated on October 27, 2004 regarding management’s use of DOIS.
Director of Safety and Health Brian Hellman, who recently moved over from Director of Life Insurance, noted that the NALC and USPS are meeting regarding the New Generation 3 vehicle, with the first units scheduled to be deployed in 2006. Hellman also reported that the USPS continues to deploy bio-detection system (BOS) equipment, and reported that the USPS and NALC, along with the federal government, are developing plans for antibiotic distribution in the case of an anthrax attack.
Director of Life Insurance Myra Warren, who also oversees much of the NALC Building operation, notified the Council that the contract to manage the cafeteria was cancelled in January and was being replaced with some vending machines, a new self-service coffee maker, and other items. Warren has just begun her duties as Director of Life Insurance after serving as Assistant Secretary-Treasurer.
Director of Health Benefits Thomas H. Young, Jr. (who was unable to attend the meeting) issued a report read by President Young on the status of enrollment in the NALC Health Benefit Plan following the most recent Open Season, with data still being collected prior to a final report. Young announced that the NALC Health Benefit Seminar will be October 16-18, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Director of Retired Members Donald T. Southern was pleased to report that over 15,000 NALC members have contributed to COLCPE (Committee on Letter Carriers Political Education), of which nearly 7,000 have used payroll deduction. Southern pointed out that campaigns for off-year congressional elections are not far off and the necessity to build up COLCPE to ensure that Congress accomplishes the goal of letter carriers on postal reform and Social Security legislation.
The Council also received reports from all 15 National Business Agents and the National Trustees on issues in their respective areas.