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NALC responds to PMG’s workroom floor video

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe issued a video message on Aug. 14 that was played on the workroom floor. The video provided an assessment of developments in Washington on the legislative front and addressed the subject of a separate Postal Service health plan.

“In both cases, what the PMG did not say was more important than what he did say,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said.

On postal legislation, Donahoe said in the video that he was encouraged by the introduction of S. 1486 by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), which followed the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s passage of Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) postal bill in the House.

But what the PMG failed to note was that neither bill provides a real solution to the postal financial crisis. In fact, both bills would continue the mandate to massively pre-fund retiree health benefits (after a brief moratorium), and both would pay for that mandate by slashing service and jobs.

Both bills also call for elimination of Saturday and door delivery, at the cost of nearly 100,000 postal jobs, and for slower mail service, which would drive even more business away and deepen the USPS’ financial crisis.

“The PMG’s comment that there are some positive aspects in both bills is bizarrely beside the point,” Rolando remarked. “Sure, there are a number of individual provisions in the bills that are good in isolation—but both bills would hasten the destructive downsizing and service cuts we’ve faced for years, and both would attack the collective-bargaining rights of postal employees.

“Mr. Donahoe should be demanding much, much better from Congress,” the president said.

The postmaster general also talked about the issue of health benefits and his plan to create a separate Postal Service health plan, either inside or outside of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP). He mentioned that he is working with the unions on this issue—but he failed to make clear that neither the NALC, nor the other postal unions, will support any plan that involves leaving FEHBP.

And although Donahoe rightly focused on the importance of taking full advantage of Medicare benefits as a way to reduce the Postal Service’s costs for retiree health benefits—indeed, it is crucial for reducing the crushing cost of pre-funding—he did not mention that fully integrating those benefits into Medicare can be easily achieved within FEHBP.

“NALC is committed to working with the Postal Service on reducing health care costs for both employees and the agency,” Rolando said. “But we are insisting that any legislative changes in this area be proposed as part of a broader reform package to be offered as an alternative to the destructive bills now before the House and Senate.”

Such a package, the president said, would reject service cuts and measures aimed at undermining the collective-bargaining rights and living standards of city carriers and other postal employees, and would focus instead on mutually acceptable reforms on health care, pension valuations, pre-funding, new products, pricing and governance provisions.