December 20, 2014
Before Congress adjourned on Dec. 16, senators and representatives approved a government spending bill that also weakens restrictions on the big banks that crashed the economy in 2008, allows mega-donors to make substantially bigger contributions to political candidates, and reduces pensions for some current retirees.
But Congress fled the capital without addressing urgent postal issues, despite unrelenting efforts by the four postal unions. The unions’ strategy ran on two tracks:
- We sought to include a one-year moratorium on a reduction in service standards and plant closings in a spending bill that Congress had to pass to avoid a government shut-down;
- We also worked to hammer out agreement on a stand-alone postal bill.
The situation is urgent because the lower service standards are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 5. In addition to disrupting the lives of thousands of postal employees whose work assignments will be changed, the reduction in service standards will slow mail throughout the country and virtually eliminate overnight delivery of first-class mail. It also will set the stage for the closure of 82 mail processing plants.
Despite the explicit demands of 51 senators and 178 representatives, and the untiring efforts of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. John Tester (D-MT), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) and others, the spending bill doesn’t include the moratorium.
“It’s an outrage,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Eight years after Congress ginned up a fake financial crisis for the Postal Service, its members still refuse to take even the smallest steps to prevent a major hit on this great national treasure.”
While the spending bill encourages the Postal Service to conduct required impact studies before closing the facilities, the “encouragement” doesn’t carry the force of law. (The USPS neglected to conduct up-to-date studies with the requisite community input before approving the plants for closure.)
“In keeping with its dismal record, the 113th Congress closed out its final days by shirking its responsibility to protect the timely delivery of U.S. Mail and the millions of people who depend on it,” Dimondstein said.
Efforts to pass a stand-alone postal bill also fell short.
“While the legislative effort was unsuccessful, we appreciate the work of APWU activists who made the case for a moratorium with lawmakers,” said Legislative and Political Director John Marcotte. “Thanks to that outreach, we have newly strengthened relationships with many congressional offices and now, the bipartisan ranks of legislators saying ‘no’ to postal cuts stands in the hundreds. Despite this missed opportunity, our support for lasting, commonsense postal reform that benefits all Americans is not diminished,” he said.
Dimondstein looked to the future. “While Congress has failed to act, our campaign against the Postal Service’s disastrous cuts to America’s mail goes forward,” he said. “The APWU remains committed to working with our sister postal unions and supporters to fight for a vibrant, public Postal Service. Whether it’s in the halls of Congress, at facilities scheduled for closure, at rallies across the country, or in the lobby of Postal Service headquarters, we will continue to tell a much-needed truth: the Postal Service cannot cut its way to prosperity.
“America’s businesses, consumers, and communities deserve postal innovation and they demand prompt, reliable service,” the union president said. “That’s why independent agencies such as the USPS Office of Inspector General repeatedly highlight the flaws in the Postmaster General’s plans.
“And that’s why new allies, such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, continue to join the movement against the looming mail slowdown and consolidations. Together with our allies, the APWU is fighting the cuts, community by community and plant by plant, to preserve good service and good jobs.