Diary

Next up: Bailing out the postal unions

In case you hadn’t noticed, the US Postal Service was in the news last week. According to the latest reports, they are now losing more than $1B per month. Yes, you read that correctly – they are losing over $1 billion per month.

They can whine all they want about the bad economy and more electronic communication costing them business and so on, but please – if you’re bleeding more than a billion bucks a month you need to just throw out what you’re doing and start from scratch. Oh, but it’s not quite that simple of course – and the story gets worse

The Postal Service’s most pressing financial concern is a $5.5 billion payment owed to the federal government on September 30th, the end of its fiscal year, to cover retirees’ health benefits.

So on top of losing $1B/mo they are supposed to come up with billions more just for retiree health benefits. That isn’t even counting pensions my friends. Where does this death spiral end? Before pondering that, let’s check in with the largest postal unions.

The AFL-CIO’s National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is (surprise!) fighting any change to the status quo. They are keeping an eye out on the debt limit deal to ensure that none of what they see as their entitlements are touched. And they also want to keep the incredibly wasteful Saturday delivery alive.

Postal employees’ pensions and health benefits are fortunately off-limits in this first round of cuts in discretionary spending, though we will have to defend the continuation of six-day delivery during the appropriations process. But a second round of cuts could expose our fringe benefits to reductions, depending on the outcome of negotiations within the so-called “Super Congress.”

And of course any GOP attempts to downsize will be fought tooth and nail. Gee, anyone not in these postal unions would see them as a big part of the “central cause”.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dennis Ross (R-FL) have introduced a postal reform bill that fails to address the central cause of the financial crisis facing the Postal Service and instead proposes to recklessly downsize the Service and threaten the mailing industry and the U.S. economy.

The AFL-CIO’s American Postal Workers Union (APWU) points out another area of downsizing the unions are fighting. Hey, neighborhood post offices are great, but if they can’t stand on their own then how can you justify them (unless you’re a unionized postal worker)?

“The American Postal Workers Union will stand with our neighbors to demand that post offices, stations, and branches remain open — and expand the services they offer — wherever they are needed,” APWU President Cliff Guffey said. The USPS announced July 26 that it plans to study 3,700 post offices, stations and branches for possible closure.

A month ago, the APWU went so far as to run an ad on the three major news networks to “dispel the persistent myth that our work is funded by taxpayers.” I’m glad we resolved that!

There are a couple other unions involved – the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPHMU) – but you get the idea.

How about Congress? Well we already saw earlier that the Issa-Ross bill is a non-starter with the unions. What were some reactions from Capitol Hill after this week’s news? Delaware Democratic Senator Tom Carper, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees USPS, weighs in. I’m guessing all Democrats share his feelings.

“While today’s announcement that the U.S. Postal Service lost $3.1 billion in the last three months is disappointing, it does not come as a surprise. Our troubled economy – coupled with the continued migration to electronic forms of communication – is putting the future of the Postal Service in jeopardy, and it’s happening faster than expected. Putting the Postal Service back on stronger financial footing is something I’ve been trying to do for a long time now, and my comprehensive postal reform bill takes the necessary steps to help keep the Postal Service solvent.

“My bill, the Postal Operations Sustainment and Transformation (POST) Act of 2011, would give the Postal Service the room it needs to manage itself and avoid becoming the latest victim of Congressional gridlock. It would also address the Postal Service’s massive overpayments to the older Civil Service Retirement System and would ensure that the Postal Service has the resources it needs to meet its future retiree health care obligations. My bill requires all parties – postal management, employees and customers – to make sacrifices. It also gets Congress out of the way by providing the flexibility and tools necessary to address the problems plaguing the Postal Service in an effective way.

“The U.S. Postal Service is sinking quickly, and if we do nothing, we face a future without the valuable services the Postal Service provides. We have the opportunity to keep it afloat, but we must act now. I urge Congress and the Administration to join me in pushing for this much-needed reform so we can prevent the Postal Service from going broke by the end of the year.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear a Democrat talking about “shared sacrifice” I check to see whether someone pinched my wallet. And “getting Congress out of the way” doesn’t mean injecting Congress into the middle of it – it means leaving them alone and letting them go belly up as far as I’m concerned, if that’s what it takes to break the union’s stranglehold on the USPS.

I don’t know what Carper’s idea of “reform” is – but based on the union positions it means maintaining the status quo and pumping in help from DC. But wait, I thought the USPS never got a penny of taxpayer dollars, so what kind of “help” does this “reform” mean? And sorry Senator Carper, but they are already broke – and getting $34M/day further in the hole.

I’ll be the first to say it – the Democrats and the postal unions are holding USPS hostage.