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Editorial to PostalReporter.com
(March 2, 2005)
by David Cross NALC
Branch 5420, Brick, NJ
The recent (February 24, 2005)
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
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
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
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/
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
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
"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 â€˜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
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
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
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.
postal worker successfully sued USPS, alleging harassment
for display of his religious beliefs
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
Struggle For Our Livelihood-by
by Lee Simons
a Union Member? by Lee Simons
a Question of Honor
by Lee Simons
Business Agent's Perspective
Donald L. Foley
Business Agent's Perspective
Donald L. Foley
Retirement : Applicant's Statement of Disability- Atty Robert
payers will be singing the blues when presidents meet in St.
deserve more than rumors-
By Dan Sullivan
USPS discriminated against diabetic Tractor Trailer Operator-
‘Prestigious' or not, PMG Award
still looks like chump change
By Dan Sullivan
People We Choose as Leaders
by Dan Kuralt
is entitled to my opinion II
"Everyone's entitled to my opinion"
or "What in the hell is going ..?"Mike Ganino