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    Updated March 25, 2005    
    
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  No. 05-05  March 25, 2005       
 
 
 
"The final push for postal reform has begun"
--NALC President William H. Young

NALC Welcomes New Reform Bill
Introduced by Collins in Senate

Anti-labor Provisions Sought by USPS Board Not Included

   

Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee proposed her long-awaited version of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2005 in the U. S. Senate March 17, setting the stage for months of critical debate on major reform of the U.S. Postal Service. Her offering of S. 662 follows introduction of a similar bill (H.R. 22) with the same title in the House of Representatives earlier this year. Passage of the legislation would be the first significant reform in more than 30 years.

NALC President William H. Young said he welcomed introduction of Collins’ bill since it advances the cause of postal reform, a cause NALC has advocated for the past 10 years.

“I am especially pleased that the bill did not include any of the anti-labor measures proposed by the USPS Board of Governors,” Young said.

“The final push for postal reform has begun,” Young added. “NALC plans to be in the thick of things to ensure that letter carriers and their families will benefit from reform and that the Postal Service remains a strong, viable institution for decades to come.”

The new version of the Senate reform bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and George Voinovich (R-OH), resembles the version adopted unanimously by the Committee last year, but with some notable changes in the areas of postage rate indexing and financial transparency.

Bill Highlights

The bill would:

  • Protect postal employees’ rights to collective bargaining while streamlining the impasse resolution process with mandatory mediation instead of the little-used fact finding procedure.
  • Provide the Postal Service with greater flexibility to adjust the rates of competitive services and replace the current rate-making system for most USPS products with a price indexing system based on the Consumer Price Index.
  • Repeal the escrow account provisions of the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pension funding reform law, saving the USPS some $3 billion per year and return to the Treasury Department the liability for military pension benefits earned by former soldiers who now work for the USPS. Savings from these provisions would be partially directed toward financing unfunded postal retiree health benefit liabilities.
  • Transform the Postal Rate Commission into the Postal Regulatory Commission giving it the power to subpoena evidence and investigate complaints.
  • Increase the financial transparency of the USPS by subjecting it to certain Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements that normally apply to private companies with publicly traded stocks.
  • Mandate changes in workers’ compensation benefits for postal employees, including a three-day waiting period before continuation of pay (COP) benefits commence under OWCP and the conversion into a retirement annuity at age 65 of workers’ compensation benefits earned by totally or partially disabled postal employees.

NALC opposes the workers’ compensation changes in the bill, but supports advancing postal reform through the Congress.

April 7 Hearing

Chairman Collins announced that her Committee will hold a hearing on the legislation April 7 at which Postmaster General John E. Potter and Comptroller General David Walker of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are scheduled to testify.

“Mark-up” of the bill – the drafting of formal legislative language by the Committee followed by a vote to send it to the Senate floor – is expected to occur soon thereafter. Amendments, including those advocated by individual Committee members, the Bush administration and interest groups, could be debated at that time.

NALC and other postal stakeholders –- including the mailers, USPS competitors and other postal employee groups –- will be working to shape the bill as it advances through Congress. The union will vigorously defend the interests of letter carriers and pursue improvements in the bill throughout the legislative process.

“Our e-Activists and grassroots lobbyists – letter carriers who take part in various state legislative conferences here in Washington – will be invaluable to our efforts,” Young declared.

Although NALC is firmly committed to achieving comprehensive postal reform this year, its support for the proposals now pending before Congress will depend on the amendments adopted and the nature of the final bill that emerges from the legislative process.

   
 
Taking Carriers’ Concerns Directly to Congress
   
 
Region 1

Above: legislative activists from Region 1 (San Francisco) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol following their congressional breakfast and several days of lobbying with lawmakers from western states. Front row, second from right, is NBA Dale Hart. Below, Sen. (and current gubernatorial candidate) Jon Corzine (D-NJ) discusses letter carrier issues with New Jersey delegation at NALC Headquarters. Bottom left: NALC Executive Vice President Jim Williams greets Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) at New Jersey congressional breakfast as state president Tony Massa observes. Bottom center, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) addresses letter carriers at Region 2 gathering; bottom right shows Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) at Region 1 congressional breakfast.

Sen. Corzine
Rep. Donald Payne Sen. Larry Craig
   
 

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USPS to Fully Pay for Health Insurance Of Carriers Called Up to Active Duty

Steps Also Can Extend Life Insurance Coverage

   
   
 
 
 

Sixth COLA Accumulation at $156

   
   
 

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  Army General Downgrades Charge
Against Tennessee Carrier-Soldier
   

The U.S. Army has dismissed an AWOL charge against Knoxville, Tennessee NALC Br. 419 member Phil Goodrum, ending a court martial proceeding that could have led to a dishonorable discharge and disqualification from his letter carrier job. It limited further action against him to an Article 15 administrative proceeding.

Goodrum, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, was the focus of a two-page article in the March Postal Record after winning support from NALC President William H. Young and Executive Vice President Jim Williams to his challenge of the charges which came after service in Iraq, hospitalization due to war-related injuries, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said he was pleased by the Army’s action, but remained concerned about an April 1 administrative hearing on a charge of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Goodrum, who had been outspoken against the failure of the military to provide adequate armament to soldiers in Iraq, was charged with AWOL after he left a hospital at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, where his condition had been ignored, and checked into a private hospital in Knoxville.

He faced a court martial until the charge was downgraded on March 15 by Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, commander of the Army Military District of Washington. Goodrum currently is under care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Goodrum told the Washington Post that the decision to quash his court martial was “the fair and legal thing to do, and just."


   
 

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