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As prospects dim for postal reform, Senate bill already encountering flak

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Only days after it was introduced, a proposed Senate overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service is taking its lumps from both organized labor and the mailing industry.

“This bill is fatally flawed,” Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said in a Friday statement denouncing the legislation as a betrayal of USPS employees.

The Association for Postal Commerce, which represents business mail users, has some “significant issues” with the measure, such as its idea for widening the Postal Service’s discretion in applying an inflation-adjusted cap on rate increases for standard mail and other areas where it dominates the market, the group’s president, Gene Del Polito, said in a phone interview Monday.

Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.,  introduced the bill Thursday as lawmakers were leaving town for their customary August break, meaning that no action will be possible until next month at the earliest. The two are the chairman and top Republican, respectively, on the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service. Their bill came after months of discussion; a joint news release makes clear that both believe there’s still a ways to go.

“This bill isn’t perfect and will certainly change as Dr. Coburn and I hear from colleagues and stakeholders, including postal employees and customers,” Carper said. More pointedly, Coburn described the bill as a “rough draft of an agreement subject to change.“

But dialogue takes time and, with time running out for action, that tentative note underscores the growing odds that Congress will once again fail to approve any kind of comprehensive postal fix.

For one thing, the Senate bill differs significantly from the measure approved last month by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; for another, the Postal Service is doing a bit better than expected this year.

How much better will become clearer this Friday when the mail carrier releases its third-quarter financial results. But as Federal Times has previously reported, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe said last month that projected losses—originally pegged at $7.6 billion in fiscal 2013—will be closer to $6 billion. That may be relatively good news from a balance-sheet standpoint, but politically it means less pressure on Congress to move. And next year is a mid-term election year, meaning that lawmakers will even be  less inclined to take the kind of tough votes that any serious postal overhaul is sure to demand.

Among other features, the Carper/Coburn bill would:

Require the Postal Service to continue Saturday mail delivery for at least one year while pressing the agency to replace door-to-door delivery with cluster boxes or curbside delivery when cheaper.

Require the Office of Personnel Management to recalculate the Postal Service’s pension obligations based on assumptions tailored to USPS employees rather than the federal workforce as a whole. Long story short, this step would likely reduce the amount that the Postal Service would have to pay into the two main federal pension programs and thus free up money for other purposes.

Revamp the federal workers’ compensation program.

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Comments

  1. Robby cowen Says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    95% of all postal employees are dying to have Saturdays off. Really the only impediment to eliminating this wasteful Saturday service is the NALC since the loss of dues will hurt the National Officers lifestyles of living high on the hog within the Beltway. By the way I have been an NALC member for 32 years and have held several local officers. Brother Rolando will you please allow the rank and file to vote in a referendum on this issue? If the majority want 5 day delivery then what’s the problem?

  2. pammy Says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    The postal service receives no tax payer money. Why does it have to subsidize the mailing industry? There are 9 postal products that do not cover the cost of processing. If they had, it would have created an estimated 1.5 billion dollars in revenue. If Congress would eliminate non-profit status for political mail, this would bring in an estimated 15 billion dollars annually. If these two things were done, the U.S. Postal Service would be making 16.5 billion more revenue. Then we would not have to be degrading the postal service.

  3. tired of the crap Says:
    August 5th, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    What a bunch of idiots…they can’t even run the government without having to furlough their employees and they are the ones that are going to solve the postal crisis….They are the problem if they hadn’t enacted the idiotic requirement to pre-fund the health care 75 years in advance there would not be as much of a crises….Saturday Delivery should have been eliminated years ago whenever We started to have fuel (OIL) PROBLEMS why waste all that fuel delivering advertisements that are declining…..Most of the public allready think We don’t work on Saturday as it is…..UPS/FEDEX Only deliver on Saturday for a premium. They seem to make money….WAKE UP CONGRESS AND LET THE ONES WHO KNOW HOW TO RUN A BUSINESS RUN IT. THE UNIONS ARE JUST SELFSERVING WHO WANT MORE MEMBERS IN ORDER TO HAVE MORE DUES

  4. Mikey Murray Says:
    August 6th, 2013 at 11:12 am

    No residence needs delivery more than 3 times a week.

  5. sickofidiots Says:
    August 7th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Ending Saturday delivery would cost the USPS approximately 7.7% of their business and save only 3% of their yearly losses. This is no way to do business. If the USPS stayed open on Saturday and added more products, they could be making billions more. Most people only have Saturday to go to the post office. You don’t kill service just because a bunch of moron GOP’s passed the PAEA of 2006. As far as the union comment goes….you wouldn’t have the job, the benefits and the wages you have now if it were not for the union bud! Do you think the USPS would hire most of you on your pass work history, skills or education. You got the job because the union fought for it. The union do not have anything to do with this crisis!

  6. sickofidiots Says:
    August 7th, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Mr. Murphey, just where do you think the union’s get their money to operate from? Do you know how much it costs to file one grievance? Did you know that Arbitration costs thousands of dollars just for one case. How cheap do you think it is to negotiate with the USPS for months or even years a bargaining agreement that negotiates YOUR wages, benefits and no-lay off clauses? They get the money SOLEY from union dues. Unless you want to donate?

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