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Federal Disability Lawyer

Robert R. McGill, Esquire "Representing Postal and Federal Workers for FERS & CSRS Disability"

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More Commentary

Outsourcing: the exporting of America-Remember when the postal service set up three bulk mail processing plants in Mexico where workers were paid $1.20 an hour?

Commentary: Disability Retirement and the Law Today-

OPM is constantly and aggressively attempting to change the laws concerning disability retirement, to make disability retirement laws more difficult to overcome.

Disability Retirement and your Medical Documentation

(Robert McGill, attorney)

Jumping to Conclusion By James E Varner

Corporate Sweatshops: Bastion of Inhumanity by Lee Simons

Why a Union Member? by Lee Simons

Let's not destroy the world's greatest mail system By Dan Sullivan

USPS still doesn't get it By Dan Sullivan

Postal Commission A Stalking Horse for Privateers By Dan Sullivan

"Going Postal The Tip of the Iceberg." 

By Al Ainsworth

Nebraska PM Bans Book, Then Suspends and Fires Union Rep By Al Ainsworth

FMLA Takes A Supreme Hit by Steve Albanese
Postal Employees entitled to Unemployment Compensation By Fredric Jacobs
Sexual Harassment Is Not About SEX...IT'S ABOUT POWER!! By Nancy Goins
RATS IN THE HOUSE!  By Claudia Richardson

Disclaimer: Views expressed on this page  are those of the writer and not PostalReporter.com.

"Editorials" features longer and distinctively personal commentary from readers on topics that don't seem to fit in a letter to the editor. Send postal related articles to PostalReporter.com via here or  PO Box 161, Walnut Creek, Ca. 94597. Note: PostalReporter.com reserves the right to refuse articles which contain inappropriate language or addressing any subject which may be deemed offensive to others.

Editorial to PostalReporter.com (March 2, 2005)

 by David Cross NALC Branch 5420, Brick, NJ

The recent (February 24, 2005) letter from the Board of Governors to Susan Collins is interesting on several counts. The letter details six elements which the Governors believe a Postal reform package should contain. From an employee/union member point of view I find a few things in the letter exceed my admittedly low expectations from this source. I wish to discuss a couple of the issues raised in the letter and then add a point or two of my own.

            1. The call to remove the escrow payment burden includes a sarcastic-sounding reference to “so-called savings” and probably represents frustration at the need to deal with a problem which is entirely the handiwork of the current administration. While the Board of Governors is charged with the responsibility of running the Postal Service like a business, the closest equivalent to the escrow account in the business world is the ransom note, popularized by kidnappers and other hostage-takers.

            2. The Board of Governors is similarly unsympathetic to the Bush administration’s other major attempt to sabotage the Postal Service- the arbitrary assignment of the cost of retirement benefits earned during military service by Postal CSRS employees to the Postal Service. The Governors properly place this requirement in the context of veteran’s preference then conclude: “It is unfair effectively to penalize USPS for hiring those with military service, and it is neither equitable nor efficient for this cost to be assessed effectively as a Postal tax upon the use of the mail by millions of Americans.” In the current tax-averse political climate, calling the military surcharge a tax is a baby step away from calling it treason. Here the Board is biting the hand that appoints it.

            3. Ironically, the Board of Governors is calling for an expansion of collective bargaining. This is the only part of the letter that clearly lives down to my expectations. The motive, of course, is not to help or protect employees. The intent is to reduce Postal Service costs by severing Postal employees from the protection of Federal statutes governing benefit levels. The expectation is that benefits arrived at through negotiation and arbitration will be much cheaper than currently mandated benefits. To assure this result, the Board of Governor’s proposal calls for an arbitrator who “should be required by statute to factor into the decision the economic history of the employer, present financial health and ability to pay, as well as anticipated future growth, productivity, and total labor costs.” Clearly, the plan is for the Postal Service to negotiate in bad faith and then have an arbitrator impose draconian benefit cuts based on management’s doomsday scenario financial projections. I particularly appreciate the use of an omniscient and omnipotent arbitrator to accomplish this end. Hopefully, after he has solved the “labor cost problem” he will entertain us all by walking on water.

            4. The fourth item on the Governors’ wish list is that “USPS should be granted more rate flexibility and authority to introduce new postal services.” The endorsement of rate flexibility is uncontroversial and expected. The reference to the “authority to introduce new postal services”, while admittedly vague, is surprising. This suggests that the Board of Governors would actually entertain the idea of expanded postal services which, in turn, could increase postal revenues. There is a conflict of fundamental beliefs in view here. On the one hand, it is an item of faith within the administration that private enterprise should be the preferred provider of virtually all non-military services and that government agencies should be shrunk or eliminated, not expanded. On the other hand, the mandate to run the Postal Service based on sound business practices prizes the efficient use of its network. In this view, if you can increase revenue by expanding volume and services faster than you increase investment in the network, you are operating in a more efficient and business-like manner.

            While many politicians and political appointees are conflicted on this issue, my experience is that Postal employees are generally indifferent as to whether the Postal Service expands in size or contracts. I think indifference on this subject is a mistake- we have a dog in this race. Of course our unions have at least an institutional concern insofar as a smaller Postal Service requires fewer employees and fewer employees means fewer members. The more important reason for concern, however, is that a smaller Postal Service, particularly if it is smaller in terms of revenue, is less likely to remain viable in the long term. The reason for this is that the Postal Service has large fixed costs that can not be reduced at will or in proportion when revenue declines. If fixed costs consume a greater portion of revenue, postal services will become less competitive, reinforcing the revenue decline. In addition to costs associated with the physical network (buildings, machines, vehicles, fuel, etc.), there are important fixed costs related to retirees. These costs are usually referred to as unfunded liabilities and include the legitimate costs associated with providing health care benefits as well as the arbitrary but real costs associated with the escrow account and CSRS military service benefits funding.

            These concerns may sound abstract and remote. However, a similar scenario has already played out in the steel industry and is well underway in the airline business. In many cases, the effect on retirees in these industries has been a catastrophic reduction in pensions and benefits. The point here is that it is in the interest of postal employees to see revenues maintained or increased. New services help to achieve this objective. Similar concerns should cause employees to endorse programs that improve efficiency.

            Another abstract matter of absolutely vital importance to Postal employees is the federal budget deficit. As mentioned before, there is no plausible business-related justification for the escrow account and CSRS military service benefits funding requirements. They are transparent scams. Nevertheless, even lawmakers who view these statutes with disdain will have to think twice about fixing them, because fixing them will add to a budget deficit that is already out of control. Looking further ahead, it is my belief that a failure to fix the deficit problem will also reduce the future value of both our health benefits and pensions. The latter assertion may be surprising because our pensions are wholly pre-funded by contributions made by employees and the Postal Service during our careers. Unfortunately, our pension funds are similar to the Social Security trust funds in that they consist of IOUs from the Treasury. I believe that if the day comes when the Treasury can not pay full pensions to military retirees and full benefits to Social Security recipients it will also cut postal pensions. Our pensions are fully funded and theirs are not, but I don’t think that’s the math that counts.

Editorial to PostalReporter.com

On improving the work environment during Postal Reform

Bill O’Flaherty, letter carrier, Walla Walla

May 18, 2004


It was the prison abuse scandal in Iraq that brought Philip Zimbardo’s name to public attention again.  Zimbardo is Emeritus Chairman of the Psychology Department of Stanford University, and preeminent in his field in this era.


The major networks were searching for answers to the pictures of degradation and sexual abuse that young American adults were inflicting upon unarmed, naked prisoners.  There were just a few bad apples in the barrel, said the military.


That had sometimes been my opinion of the postal service, so I listened to his interviews and read back on Zimbardo’s studies.  Zimbardo defended the guards, not because they were American, but because of what had been inflicted upon the guards by the military breakdown during the rising native insurgency.


Zimbardo explained that unsupervised power leads to abuses.  He began demonstrating his theories in a famous student/prison experiment in Palo Alto in 1973 where he admits he accidentally turned normal people into abusive, dangerous people.  Since then, Zimbardo has worked with prisons all over America.


I wish he’d work for the Postal Service.  His theories on the unequal distribution of power go along way in explaining what I see in my work place.  Fear, hostility, retribution, apathy, toadyism, there seems hundreds of examples of people in power toying with the employees.  In my Post Office, people I respect have called it a hellhole (my supervisor) and a war zone (a union guy), Stalag 99362.


All over the country there are anecdotes and evidence of the “negative aspect” and “hostile affrontive interaction” of the Postal environment, sometimes resulting in extreme pathological reaction.  It’s not a myth.


The major effort of any internal reform movement must address this unequal distribution of power and what Zimbardo calls, "The environment of arbitrary custody."  Because we understand that it’s not necessary to blame the apples, it could be the barrel that is rotten, the Postal Service should move aggressively at the internal reform of its power structures.


We need a chain of cooperation, not a chain of command.


To truly “reform” the United States Postal Service, we need to move as far away as possible from environments where letter carriers feel like prisoners, and supervisors and postmasters act like guards.  Reform that, and we thrive.


Zimbardo’s major works can be read at:  http://www.zimbardo.com/


 Bill O'Flaherty


Once they called us Heroes

by Dan Sullivan

April 6, 2004

The health and safety of its workers has never been a high priority in the Postal Service.  In the early 20th Century postal workers often came down with serious lung diseases caused from working in dusty mail rooms. 

  In the 70s and 80s  the backbone of its mail sorting operation was a machine that sorted letters and destroyed the wrists and forearms of LSM operators.   

In the fall of 2001,  when two workers at the Brentwood facility in Washington, D.C. died  of Anthrax inhalation and others fell sick, the Postal Service's first response wasn't to close the facility to protect  workers, it was to get the mail out.

Now we have huge flat sorting machines that sort magazines and large envelopes while tearing apart the shoulders and backs of the men and women who work on them. 

Moving the nation's mail  has always taken its toll on the workers.

As for the  ill and injured, workers who sacrifice their bodies and offer up their pain in  service of the mail?   They're just a cost of doing business.  The Postal Service pays their medical bills and finds them light duty work.   They deal with the pain on their own.

But that's all changing now.   It's a global economy.  Everyone is cutting costs.  So just as  American businesses outsource work to India and China to fatten the bottom line, the Postal Service is hoping  to outsource  ill and injured workers to the private sector.  

They're starting with a test program in the Long Island District.   According to Paul Hogrogian, President of Mailhandlers Local 300, union officials were told on April 1 that, because of a decline in mail volume, the Postal Service no longer has sufficient work to keep all of its ill and injured employees working in light duty assignments. 

Having used their bodies up, the Postal Service now wants to wash  its hands of   ill and injured workers.

Initially, 12 employees will be  put off work and placed on the workers' comp rolls.  They'll get two-thirds of their wages - or three-quarters if they have dependents - until other work can be found for them in the private sector under the OWCP vocational rehabilitation program.

"Should the OWCP successfully place these employees in positions outside of the Postal Service, the employees would cease to be postal employees,"  Hogrogian says. 

"If the new positions pay less than their postal position, OWCP will pay the difference. However, the employees would lose all postal benefits (health insurance, life insurance, TSP, etc.). The benefits would be that of their new private employer, not the Postal Service. The employees would also cease to accrue creditable time towards their federal retirement plans."

The plan makes up in simplicity what it lacks in heart.   Use them until they break.   Then toss ‘em on the scrap heap.   Thanks for nothing, schmuck.  Nobody told you to hurt yourself working on a Postal Service machine or delivering mail.

Maybe the Postal Service should change the name of its Human Resources Office  to Human Disposal Department.

There will be challenges, of course,  to the Postal Service's plan to dump  its ill and injured employees.  Even damaged  workers are covered by the no-layoff clause and there are anti-discrimination laws on the books that conflict with the goals of the USPS Human Disposal Department.  

But if the outsourcing of the Long Island 12 withstands challenge from  workers, the unions and the courts - and USPS anti-labor relations bosses will be working overtime to see that it does -  the Postal Service will probably implement the program nationwide at some time in the future.

Every postal worker will then be just one illness or accident away from losing his job.  Just a disposable part in the big  postal machine. 

So do yourself a favor while you still  can.   Write a letter to your congressional representatives expressing your outrage.   Let  them know  that ill and injured postal workers shouldn't be treated like disposable waste.   Contact  APWU President Bill Burrus and your local officers to let them  know how you feel.

It's been less than three years since two postal workers died and others became seriously ill from Anthrax. 

Back then  they called us heroes.  

Tell your congressional representatives and union leaders you don't honor heroes by treating them like bums.

Thanks to Dan for sending this excellent article to PostalReporter.com

When Types of Discrimination Compete for Legal Recognition Should Anti-Gay Religious Practices Be Accommodated in the Workplace? By SHERRY F. COLB ----  Jan. 14, 2004-In arecent decision a district court rejected claims of religious discrimination by a self-described devout Christian. The case is of note because it pits two sets of  antidiscrimination interests against each other. Under  thefederal workplace anti-discrimination law, known as Title VII. Employers have a legal obligation to reasonably accommodate employees' religious practices, unless such accommodation would inflict an undue hardship upon the employer's business.

-Former postal worker successfully sued USPS, alleging harassment for  display of his religious beliefs -Salt Lake Tribune (1/12/03)

 Commentary: Disability Retirement and the Law Today-The Office of Personnel Management is constantly and aggressively attempting to change the laws concerning disability retirement, to make disability retirement laws more difficult to overcome. Such attempts at changing the law always comes in incremental steps, and may not seem like “blockbuster” cases at the time; but the reverberating effects of such cases can be far-reaching, and impact upon Federal and Postal Workers for years to come. (Robert McGill, attorney)
Editorials by Postal Employees
 The Struggle For Our Livelihood-by Dan Kuralt
 What's it Worth? by Lee Simons
 Why a Union Member? by Lee Simons
 It’s a Question of Honor by Lee Simons
 A Business Agent's Perspective by NBA Donald L. Foley
 A Business Agent's Perspective by NBA Donald L. Foley
 Disability Retirement : Applicant's Statement of Disability- Atty Robert McGill
 Dues payers will be singing the blues when presidents meet in St. Louis
 Workers deserve more than rumors By Dan Sullivan
 EEOC: USPS discriminated against diabetic Tractor Trailer Operator- Dan Sullivan
 Attendance Crackdown Underway -By Dan Sullivan
‘Prestigious' or not, PMG Award still looks like chump change By Dan Sullivan
 The People We Choose as Leaders by Dan Kuralt
 Everyone is entitled to my opinion II  by Mike Ganino
"Everyone's entitled to my opinion" or "What in the hell is going ..?"Mike Ganino




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