Government affairs

News media coverage of President Rolando’s Senate committee testimony

On Jan. 21, NALC President Fredric Rolando was among those called to testify before a Senate committee hearing on the financial state of the U.S. Postal Service. Here’s a rundown of some of the news media coverage.

Postal reform consensus develops; 5-day delivery dead (The Washington Post)

Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson, who writes the popular "Federal Diary," devoted an entire column to the hearing, with NALC President Fredric Rolando the first person quoted, followed by Postmaster General Megan Brennan, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and others.

"There is a remarkable degree of consensus across a broad range of stakeholders – including the unions, postal management and a representative sample of mailing industry companies – about the most important reform elements," said Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Those elements of the legislation include reforming an onerous retiree health benefits prefunding obligation and requiring eligible retirees to participate in Medicare, allowing the Postal Service to provide new products and services, including the delivery of beer, wine and booze, making a 4.3 percent “exigent rate” surcharge permanent and using Postal Service specific financial assumptions when calculating pension liabilities.

No one was more quoted in the article than Rolando; Davidson quoted him referring to recent billion-plus annual operating profits being “totally wiped out” by pre-funding charges.

Davidson went on to note that some lawmakers, unions and customers had taken a stand against eliminating Saturday delivery, and said, "The Postal Service got the message." A USPS spokesman acknowledged as much and said the agency now is advocating for proposals "capable of gaining broad support," about which Rolando testified.

Davidson’s column was distributed to newspapers across the country via The Washington Post’s news service (e.g., in Keene, NH’s Sentinel Source) as well as via the Associated Press (e.g., in the Reading [PA] Eagle).

Lawmakers Agree on Urgent Need to Overhaul Postal Service (Government Executive)

Government Executive story’s headline cites the urgent need for reforms by Congress. Rolando plays a prominent role in the story, speaking for the consensus effort and then providing an optimistic concluding paragraph:

In fact, those groups -- including the Postal Service itself -- have formed a coalition based on those ideas.

“That’s what’s really different,” National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said after testifying at the hearing, referring to the more divisive approach taken in the 113th Congress. Also unlike the 2014 push for postal reform, ending Saturday mail delivery is now absent from the list of USPS legislative demands.

Going forward, Carper said he hoped to meet with Johnson, other members of the committee and their staffs to discuss what they learned from the hearing and what they must still address. While no one appears to be completely satisfied with the senator’s bill, there is some optimism.

“It’s not perfect,” Rolando said. “It needs work. But we’ll get there.”

Postal union: End “pre-funding” (Politico)

Politico’s well-read short item on the hearing focused solely on Rolando, NALC and pre-funding:

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, urged Congress Thursday to eliminate or drastically reduce a mandate that requires the U.S. Postal Service to “pre-fund” future retiree health care benefits. Testifying at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Rolando said, “No other enterprise in America—public or private—faces a legal mandate to pre-fund future retiree health insurance.” He attributed 86.3 percent of the Postal Service's reported loss of $56.8 billion since 2007 to the pre-funding mandate. Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the Postal Service must fund retiree health premiums literally decades ahead of time. The mandate required the Postal Service pay $5.4 to $5.8 billion annually between 2007 and 2016, and, starting in 2017, to make actuarial-based payments.

USPS reform is long overdue, stakeholders say (Federal Times)

Federal Times’ story had this paragraph high up:

But the panel said the most significant issue fueling the service’s losses is a 2006 law that requires it to pre-fund retiree health benefits, a condition that applies to no other federal agency.

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