We Got the Power

Miami APWU Retiree chapter president at a postal reform meeting
(l to r) Sardebra Wright (President, Miami Area Local Retiree Chapter of the American Postal Workers Union) Congressman Joe Garcia, Edith Owens (President, Miami Gardens Democratic Club) and Margie Lee (AARP Miami Gardens Director).


By: Sardebra Wright, President

At an early age, my mother drilled into my siblings and my head to always fight for our rights and for what is right. It is something that I will always live by. We all have an assignment on this earth and every day we should do our best to achieve that assignment, including improving our quality of life. I was forced out of the postal service on disability in 2009 under the NRP program which has since been dismantled. There is a class action suit that will yield cash settlement to be divided by everyone who was taken advantage of. It’s unfortunate that the postal service mistreats their employees and retirees. At this very moment Congress must be forced to act on our behalf. Many retirees don’t understand how changes will affect us, but they will. In 2006, Congress passed a bill requiring the postal service to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. We are the only agency, government or private held to that impossible standard. And again all eyes are upon the retiree.

Most employees are unaware of what happens to their pension when they retire. If you retire on disability, you are not subject to a postal penalty. The accepted retirement age at the postal service is 62 and if you apply for voluntary retirement you receive a 5% penalty for each year short of age 62. Did you know that the age for full social security depends on the year you were born? I was born in 1957 and my full social security age is 67 years and 6 months. So if I apply for social security benefits at age 62, I will not receive the full amount and I won’t be able to retrieve that shortfall when I reach the age of 66½.

Additionally, when you retire on disability, you are told continuously to apply for social security disability. Once you are approved, your postal pension is offset by 100% the first year and by 60% every year after that. In other words, we don’t receive our entire postal pension. You will get social security disability and 40% of your postal pension. Postal employees get a pretty raw deal.

H.R. 2748 also known as the “Postal Reform Act of 2013” would weaken the postal service; jeopardize postal jobs and retirement benefits for future and current retirees. This bill thought up by Representative Issa would force an increase in our healthcare contributions. When you’re on a fixed income you usually live on a budget and sometimes slight changes to that budget can cause big adjustments. This is why we have to get Congress to understand how their actions affect us. We have to put a face on the problem, so when our legislators make decisions they see us not words or numbers on paper, but people. We are making appointments with legislators and asking if we can discuss postal reform with them. We are fighting.

The time has come to stop being a victim because if we don’t help ourselves we will become volunteers. Frederick Douglass said “if there is no struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without demand, it never has and it never will”. We have to demand what is ours. We worked and paid for these benefits and the time has come to take back our power.