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What does Postal Service-APWU contract mean for other postal unions?

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The U.S. Postal Service and its largest union have made it official, tying the knot on a contract that will run until May 2015.

“We worked together to negotiate a responsible agreement that is in the best interest of our customers, our employees and the future of the Postal Service,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement noting that the agreement with the American Postal Workers Union took effect Monday. The APWU’s membership overwhelmingly ratified the agreement in a vote announced May 11.

“I am pleased that we were able to negotiate a contract that will strengthen the Postal Service for the future and protect the job security of union members,” APWU President Cliff Guffey said in his own statement.

The lengthy contract contains provisions allowing both sides to claim gains. But its most notable feature is the creation of a two-tier wage structure that, according to the Postal Service, will mean an average of 10.2 percent less money for new hires.

Historically, unions have been leery of these kinds of arrangements because they risk driving a wedge between older and younger members. But with the Postal Service in undeniably awful financial shape, it’s easier to push the pain off on to people who aren’t even part of the bargaining unit yet. And the Postal Service may not want to stop there, Donahoe suggested at a congressional hearing last week.

The mail carrier is still negotiating with the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association to replace a contract that formally expired last November; agreements with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers are up for renewal this November.

“We expect to see the same type of framework in those contracts that we’ve been able to negotiate with the APWU,” Donahoe said. Asked later if Donahoe sees a similar wage fork as part of that framework, USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said only that “we’re looking into negotiating contracts that are in the best interests of our customers, our employees and the future flexibility of the Postal Service.”

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Rep. Paul Broun: Get rid of Energy, Education departments

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Rep. Paul Broun, R-G.A., has one demand to get his vote to raise the federal debt ceiling: eliminate the Education and Energy Departments.

In a townhall meeting with constituents Ma 19 that was captured in video on YouTube, the congressman makes his demand to the cheers of his constituents.

Pension cuts, by the numbers

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In this week’s cover story, we examine the major effect proposed changes to the Federal Employees Retirement System would have on federal employees. Here’s the chart we ran with the print version of this story. In it, we profile three real federal employees and model out the long-term consequences of such a change for them.

As you can see, the numbers are pretty sobering. Federal employees would likely lose tens of thousands of dollars in a few years if their FERS contributions were increased from 0.8 percent to 5.8 percent.

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The Postal Service gets its way at Burger King

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Listen up, people: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor even the temptation of a yummy breakfast shall keep mail carriers from their appointed rounds.

And anyone who suggests differently may be hearing from U.S. Postal Service lawyers.

Burger King found that out the hard way after airing a television ad geared around a fictitious carrier who sang: “With pancakes and eggs on my plate, the mail has to wait,” according to an article posted on a USPS site.

That didn’t sit well with the Postal Service, which probably has enough problems without the insinuation that your high-priority package is gathering dust as a USPS employee chows down. The attorneys swung into action and–the article said–Burger King agreed to broadcast a revised commercial that also portrays a pseudo delivery person, but in “a more positive manner” and in a uniform without the trademark USPS eagle logo.

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CDC publishes … zombie survival guide?

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has finally stopped wasting our time with swine flu and given us advice we can actually use: How to survive a zombie apocalypse.

CDC’s “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” blog — written by Assistant Surgeon General Ali Khan — briefly discusses the history of zombies and the viruses that could cause the dead to rise and start snacking on brains. It then segues into serious advice on how to make an emergency kit and evacuation plan, which would also be useful for hurricanes, earthquakes and other non-undead emergencies.

But the blog gets really funny when it seeks to reassure us that CDC would have matters well in hand if there were a zombie outbreak. CDC said it would help cities, states and other nations with lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts with the infected, and quarantining those who have been exposed:

Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas. (I will be volunteering the young nameless disease detectives for the field work.)

Getty Images

Oh, please. Anyone who saw the season finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” knows that [SPOILER ALERT] within a few months of the zombie apocalypse, CDC’s Atlanta staff will be down to just one alcoholic researcher, gradually succumbing to suicidal depression. Trust FedLine: You’d be better served by stocking up on baseball or cricket bats, axes and shotgun shells than waiting for CDC to save the day.

But there’s clearly a pent-up demand from the public for this kind of information: Zombie-related traffic crashed CDC’s public health blog Wednesday.

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USPS-canine relations still troubled

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Yep, dogs do occasionally bite, and there are plenty of mail carriers who can attest to it, according to new U.S. Postal Service rankings that put Houston at the head of the pack (lame wordplay totally intended).

For at least the fourth straight year, the Texas city led the country in hostile dog-carrier encounters with 62 in 2010. Runners-up were San Diego and Columbus, Ohio, with 45 each, followed by Los Angeles with 44 and Louisville, Ky., with 40.

In all, 5,669 postal workers were attacked last year, and the medical expenses cost the Postal Service almost $1.2 million. If you’re looking for any trends, warmer areas typically have more attacks because “dogs are out for longer periods over the year,” USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said in an email. For anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a canine’s canines, though, this won’t come as a surprise: The majority of attacks result from humans’ failure “to practice responsible pet ownership,” Saunders added.

The Postal Service issued the rankings in connection with Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs through Saturday. There’s apparently plenty to prevent: More than 4.7 million Americans are bitten each year, the bulk of them children, the agency said.

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P-Funk Mothership to land at Smithsonian

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Dr. Funkenstein descends from the Mothership. (Shout! Factory)

The legendary Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership is coming to the Smithsonian.

The Washington Post reports that George Clinton has donated the greatest stage prop ever to be part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture when it opens in 2015. The 1,200-pound Mothership will be part of the museum’s permanent music exhibition, alongside Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, James Brown’s stage costumes, and Lena Horne’s evening gowns. “But,” the Post notes, “it will be the only spaceship.”

This is the second Mothership — the first was abandoned in a Prince George’s County, Md., junkyard in 1982 during the band’s debt- and drug-fueled nadir and vanished. Despite the Post’s best efforts, it hasn’t been seen since.

To celebrate this glorious news, enjoy the video below of the Mothership landing in 1976, and re-read The Onion’s classic article “Clinton Threatens To Drop Da Bomb On Iraq.”

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Pension contribution hikes: What do you think?

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When it comes to the deficit, Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on much — except that public servants under the Federal Employees Retirement System should pay a good bit more for their pension to help bring it down.

Sound off below on this development. Do you think it’s fair that FERS employees will be asked to pay more, but the Civil Service Retirement System could remain untouched? If this happens, will it cause you to retire sooner than you planned? How big a bite will it — or other proposed changes — take out of your paycheck?

I’m also interested in talking to a few feds about how these changes will affect them. If you’d like to talk, e-mail me at slosey@federaltimes.com.

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National Jukebox starts with a bang

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Library of Congress technicians examined multiple copies of each 78 RPM record -- down to each individual groove -- to determine which is the most pristine copy and should be preserved. (Library of Congress)

The Library of Congress has a smash hit on its hands. Its new National Jukebox — which went live Tuesday morning and streams more than 10,000  recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925 — has gotten more than 1 million page views and 250,000 streams in its first 48 hours, the LA Times music blog Pop and Hiss reports.

There are some gems there — among them, an early version of the country standard “Wreck of the Old 97,” George Gershwin performing “Rhapsody in Blue,” and a half-dozen tracks by contralto Marian Anderson (who famously performed at the Lincoln Memorial after being banned from Constitution Hall because she was black, and wanted to sing for an integrated audience). The Atlantic highlights nine more great recordings here.

This being a government operation, their disclaimers are numerous and telling. The genre “ethnic characterizations” — which includes several minstrel songs — warns that they “may utilize outmoded and offensive stereotypes.” And under “humorous songs,” the Library begs us to “note that the use of the term ‘humorous’ indicates only the intention of the work at the time the recording was made.” Which means A) they ain’t funny no more, and B) don’t blame us for songs like “Mammy’s Shufflin’ Dance.” But the Library deserves credit for not censoring a part of American pop culture that, though highly offensive today, is a part of history and deserves to be studied.

Their “making of” section also shows the painstaking work that goes into transferring these recordings from dusty, fragile 78s to high-quality digital WAV files. For example, the songs weren’t always recorded or mastered at the correct speed — a common problem in those days. So the Library’s audio engineers sometimes had to play a keyboard note and tweak the record’s playback speed until the song fell into tune. (Of course, that also assumes the singer or guitar was in tune in the first place, which in the case of some old blues is up for debate.)

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GSA Administrator Martha Johnson: It’s the little things

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GSA administrator Martha Johnson said small changes can add up to big savings at the annual Coalition for Government Procurement partnership dinner May 11.

She said if GSA increased its average fuel economy of the 60,000 cars it purchases every year, it could save $4 million dollars and 1 million gallons of gas annually.

“Right now agencies face a budget that is far from certain,” Johnson said. She added agencies can help offset smaller budgets by operating more efficiently and by making small but fundamental changes in how they operate, such as buying collectively, increasing fuel economy or reducing space by employing telework.

“More than ever we need a government that  works and works well,” Johnson said.