Letter Carriers urge to Franken to shape postal reform

Retired Letter Carriers Emmet Burdash and Forence Jaeger spread the word about "postal reform" to drivers passing by.

Letter Carriers delivered a message to Minnesota Sen. Al Franken on April 17, gathering outside DFLer’s office in St. Paul to urge him not to support efforts afoot in Congress to dismantle the U.S. Postal Service.

Roughly 50 people took part in the early-evening demonstration, organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers. Members of other union organization, including AFSCME and the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, boosted turnout.

Letter Carriers handed out fliers to drivers passing by, and they spoke to a member of Franken’s staff about their concerns regarding the so-called “21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012,” expected to get a vote in the Senate sometime this spring.

Letter Carriers warned that passage of the bill would be a bad deal not only for Postal Service workers – who stand to lose an estimated 150,000 jobs – but for customers as well. The bill would close post offices, slow down delivery, eliminate Saturday service and cut back door-to-door delivery for 35 million households and businesses.

Chris Wittenburg, national business agent for the National Association of Letter Carriers, said the bill is “just a nightmare.”

“This bill is going to eliminate door-to-door delivery,” he said. “It’s going to eliminate Saturday delivery. It’s going to diminish the delivery standards and just further the downward spiral of our country’s post office.”

The message Letter Carriers wanted to deliver to Franken, Wittenburg said, was to keep up the fight on behalf of the Postal Service, its delivery standards and its employees.

“We need to shape postal reform,” he said. “We need Sen. Franken to take out the stuff (in the bill) that’s bad and replace it with reforms that make sense. And we think he will do that because he’s been very good to us.”

While it is true that the Postal Service is facing a big deficit, it is not true that draconian cutbacks and layoffs will fix the problem.

The postal deficit is largely a product of a 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund its retirees’ health care and pensions 70 years in advance. In effect, the Postal Service is putting money aside for the retirement benefits of employees who haven’t even been born yet.

Were it not for those unnecessarily onerous payments, the Postal Service would have broken even for the past five years.

The Postal Act of 2006 is “taking a lot of resources away from the post office that doesn’t need to be taken,” said Emmet Burdash, a retired letter carrier who joined the event outside Franken’s office. “If they could fix that, they would save a lot of money. Some of the other money problems they have would go away.”

The senator was not in his office during the public demonstration, but a member of his staff addressed the group, assuring them that Franken’s top priorities when it comes to postal reform are protecting jobs and preventing a downward spiral that destroys the post office.

Letter Carriers are urging supporters to call their senators toll-free at 1-888-863-6103, and ask them to vote “no on S.1789 to save America’s Postal Service.”

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