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NALC disappointed, but determined, as Senate passes S. 1789

The United States Senate adopted a deeply flawed postal reform bill on Wednesday, voting for S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act, by a vote of 62 to 37.

The legislation embraces a downsizing strategy and fails to fully lift the onerous burden to fund decades of future retiree health benefits decades in advance. If it were to become law, it would be almost impossible to save Saturday mail delivery for the American people and their businesses.

The bill gives the postmaster general the authority to propose a switch to five-day delivery in two years—at a cost of 80,000 jobs—if he believes such a change is necessary to preserve the “solvency” of the Postal Service, subject to review by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Although the bill reduced the level of required pre-funding, the cost of the mandate is still too heavy to allow the USPS to regain a sound financial footing.

“We’re disappointed, but we are determined to fight on,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said after the vote. He reminded letter carriers that the legislative process is far from over. “It may take months to get a bill through the House of Representatives,” he said, “but we will not rest in this struggle to defend a strong and viable Postal Service.”

Despite the truly regressive nature of the House Republican bill, H.R. 2309, the NALC’s top priorities—preserving six-day delivery and fixing the pension and health care funding provisions of the law—have a lot of bi-partisan support in the House. Indeed, a majority of representatives support both H. Res. 137 (regarding six-day service) and H.R. 1351 (regarding pension equity). President Rolando vowed a spirited campaign in the House. Once that body acts, the process will not be over. A conference committee would have to reconcile the competing bills, and President Obama would be able to weigh in on the legislation—since a final bill that passed both houses would not become law unless he signed it.

“I want to thank the thousands of letter carriers who joined together to lobby the Senate this week,” Rolando said. “We flooded the Senate this week with tens of thousands of calls and other contacts. We did not prevail in striking the five-day delivery provision or the regressively unfair FECA cuts in S. 1789, but we did protect tens of thousands of letter carrier jobs by winning the adoption of the door-to-door delivery amendment sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer [D-NY]. We also removed an anti-FEHBP health care proposal thanks to an amendment from Senator Jay Rockefeller [D-WV].

“We thank both of those senators as well as Senators Udall of New Mexico and Akaka of Hawaii for leading the fight on all our amendments. Thanks also go to Senator Bernie Sanders [I-VT] for his months of relentless work to support the Postal Service and its workers.

“Last, but not least, I want to thank the staff of our Legislative and Political Affairs Department who worked ’round the clock for the members. We are grateful for all their hard work.

"Keep your chins up, brothers and sisters,” Rolando concluded. “This fight to save America’s Postal Service is far from over.”