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The Crisis Is Not Over

By:  Steve Albanese,
Assistant Legislative Director

American Postal Workers Union


There seems to be a state of complacency falling over members of our union.  Many believe that the recommendations of the President's Commission to reform the Postal Service are dead.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Those proposals are still very much alive as the 109th congress begins its work.  Representative John McHugh of New York introduced HR-22 on the very first day of the new congress.  This bill does not contain any of the regressive proposals from the Commission but it does re-open debate on Postal Reform.  

We now wait for the Senate to introduce its companion bill and there is growing concern over what that piece of legislation will contain.  Our main concerns deal with preserving our collective bargaining rights, controlling discounts that encourage contracting out our work and changes to our OWCP rules that will lead to reduced benefits.  We anticipate serious disputes in all of those areas.  

The Bush administration is committed to get some type of Postal Reform now and the results of the 2004 election have led to an agenda more ambitious than before. Bear in mind that the republican majority has increased in both chambers.  The mailing industry is seizing on this opportunity now because no one can predict the future political landscape. Some will argue that our concerns are exaggerated but let's examine the administration's track record of recent times.

Department of Homeland Security
And Civil Service Rules


Over three years ago when this agency was established the Bush administration successfully lobbied congress to deny DHS employees union representation.  Their main argument was that collective bargaining would interfere with the agency's mission to protect America.   Using national security as the hammer DHS employees were denied collective bargaining rights.


With the Unions now out of the way the Bush administration is unilaterally changing Civil Service rules as it applies to DHS employees.  Other federal workers who don't have collective bargaining rights are soon to follow.  The changes will impact their pay, their promotions and their seniority rules.


According to recent articles in the Washington Post and the Federal Employees News Digest the aim of the administration is to eliminate current Civil Service pay and promotion rules and replace them with pay for performance standards and employee evaluations.   The current system that provides step increases based on longevity would be eliminated.  Under the new proposed rules you will get a pay raise only if you receive a satisfactory evaluation from your supervisor.  The amount of that raise would be determined by geography and comparisons to the private sector.  A copy of the Washington Post article is attached.


If enacted, promotions and changes in grade will not be decided by seniority.  These advances will be decided on supervisory evaluations and recommendations.


The Bush administration has announced that they plan to expand these concepts to all other Federal agencies and eventually replace all civil service pay and promotion rules.

How Are We Affected?


We are the big fish in this pond.  Due to full collective bargaining our pay and benefits have grown at a faster rate than other Federal employees.  Clearly we have been the most successful group.  Our competitors don't have the political muscle to end collective bargaining but they do intend to chip around the edges.  Introducing pay for performance concepts in the federal government will allow Postal negotiators to make comparisons between those systems and ours.  Their hope is to someday have an arbitrator rule that all federal workers should work under the same rules or even worse legislate laws that require similar rules.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE


This administration is proposing changes in the Social Security Program.  Their plan to divert a portion of Social Security contributions into private investment accounts puts the benefits for everyone at risk.  It also will result in trillions of dollars of debt being passed on to our children and grandchildren. 
On top of that the 2006 budget calls for drastic cuts in social programs and benefits.  Here are just some of the options being proposed:


· Reduce COLA adjustments for Federal retirees
· Eliminate Social Security benefits for disabled and dependant children of younger disabled parents
· Eliminate disability benefits for veterans with ratings under 60%
· Increase out of pocket expenses for elderly for those who need specialized nursing care.
· Increasing the retirement age to 70 for Social Security benefits
· Calculating federal retirements on a "high 5" standard rather that the current high 3
· Decreasing the employer's matching contributions into the Thrift Savings program
· Decrease Medicare and Medicaid benefits

Changes in Overtime Rules

In addition to everything you've read so far, the Bush administration has unilaterally initiated Labor Department regulations that strip hundreds of thousands of workers of their overtime pay benefits.  These came even after Congress refused to pass legislative proposals to accomplish such a change.  Now affected workers will receive compensatory time off rather than pay when they work over 40 hours. 

COPA and APWU Stands Between Us and These Changes

Now more than ever we all need to reach down and give to COPA.  We need to have real access to the legislative process to protect our interests.   COPA funds provide that opportunity.   Our enemies are looking to strip us of our collective bargaining rights and if they are successful many of the aforementioned proposals and initiatives will become a reality for us all.    This is not a wild statement. Proof of these concerns is a matter of public record.  Regardless of age, race, social standing or geographies we are all at risk and need to wake up to that reality. 
Giving is easy to accomplish.  Just go to the APWU web cite and go to the COPA page.  Forms are there that will allow you to enroll in some type of contribution arrangement.  The easiest and most painless method is through Postal Ease, EFT or Credit card.  Do it now.

 

 

THE POLITICS OF FEAR

By Steve Albanese
Assistant Director of Legislation

How do you sell a bad idea to a majority of people?  You do that by getting the constituency to break up into special interest groups.  Pit each group against each other.  Offer something to each group at the expense of the other group and then get each segment to focus on their narrow interests.  The theory is that if each group believes they can achieve something even if it hurts someone, they will be likely to support it.  I call that the Politics of fear. 

Even though I don't like it, it seems to work.  Good examples would be the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections.  Gay rights, gun control, abortion, Medicare, war, national security and religion are examples of issues that were used to divide the constituencies and pit them against each other.  The goal was to get enough people from each group to vote their special interest or prejudice and up with more votes than the other guy.  Sure someone wins but when the dust settles everyone is at a loss to explain what was actually won.

This same strategy is now being used on the matter of Social Security.  Seniors are receiving their benefits and they want to keep doing so. Those near retirement are about to get their benefits and they will agree to almost anything to assure that.  Younger workers are being told that there will be nothing left for them unless drastic changes take place and the stage is now set for the politics of fear.

Watch the debates as they start to take hold.  Specific appeals will be made to each of these groups in the hope to garnering their support.

The seniors will be told your benefits are safe.  The only sacrifice will come from the young.  Down the road they will pay a little more and get less benefits but hey you need to watch out for yourself.  You did your part.  You're getting what you earned let the next generation work out their own problem.

Those near retirement will be told our plan will not affect you.  Be smart, let us make the changes we need and you will get your benefits.  Trust us.

The younger workers are being subjected to lowered expectations.  There are just too many of you out there.  When Social Security was started there were 16 workers for every one retiree.  Now the ratio is much less.  It's not our fault.  That's just the way it is and you have to accept the fact that things have changed.  Agree with us and at least there will be something for you down the road.  We'll even let you take some of your taxes and invest them.  You're smart you can invest wisely and come out way ahead.  Trust us.

DON'T FALL FOR ANY OF IT.  Yes we have a problem but it is our problem collectively.  It can only be solved if we address it in a united way.  We cannot let these "snake oil salesman" destroy one of the most successful government programs of our time.  Bear in mind those advocates for privatizing Social Security are mostly millionaires.  They will not be looking for that Social Security check to get them by in the golden years.  Once we go down that privatization road there will be no turning back.  Thirty years from now social security will be gone.  The millionaires will still be rich but the rest of us will be in a quandary as to how we survive as seniors.  The more prudent approach is to leave the program as it was designed.  A government program designed to paid for by all for the benefit of all.  If there are going to be sacrifices it is best that they be shared by all for the protection of everyone.

 

 

Effective Letter Writing Tips

  When writing a letter, keep these points in mind:   

  1. Email doesn’t work as well as a written letter sent via regular mail.  You must commit to writing real letters and mailing them. Email is too easy to create and send and generally does not get a response. 

 

  1. Don’t expect politicians outside your district to care about you (i.e.   respond to your mail).  Don’t let this prevent you from writing members of various committees, expressing your opinions and offering solutions – but the one thing politicians’ care about most is their job.  It’s always nice to let them know you’re watching.

 

  1. Your letter should never exceed 1 page.  You may enclose additional pages as reference material, but keep your letter focused.  Do not burden your representative with long volumes on every conceivable subject.

 

  1. Always type (and spell check) your correspondence.

 

  1. Always include a return address.

 

  1. Keep your letters professional and to-the-point.

 

  1. Sample letter structure:

 

    Opening paragraph (1 or 2 sentences) – states the problem; why you are writing this letter.
    Second paragraph (4-6 sentences) – usually explains why you feel this is a problem.
    Third paragraph (4-6 sentences) – gives suggestions and solutions for the problem described above.
    Closing paragraph (1 or 2 sentences) – asks for the recipient for a specific action at a specific time.

 

  1. Keep the number of issues down to a maximum of 3 (fewer is better) in your letter.  To address other issues, write separate letters.  Give your own views.  A personal letter is more valuable than a signature on a petition.  Personalize any available “form” letters.

 

  1. Always keep copies of your letters – they come in very handy later on down the line.

 

  1. For important letters (or legal purposes) where you want a response, send them Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested.  Across the top line of your letter, type the words “Certified Mail” along with the number, centered.

 

  1. Give reasons for your position.  If you have special knowledge on some issues, by all means share it.  Refer to research, data statistics, etc if you can.

 

  1. If you disagree with a legislator, let him/her know but don’t name call.

 

  1. Don’t pretend to have vast influence.  When a writer appoints himself spokesperson for some neighborhood, industry or group, he/she usually creates doubt about the views he/she expresses.

 

  1. Don’t become a constant “pen pal”.  Write often if you like, but be pertinent and brief.  In your letter seek a reply from the legislator.

 

  1. Write again.  When you establish a record of correspondence you will develop clout on future issues.

 

  1. Close your letter with a “thank you”.

 

  1. For letters to the editor, the same general pointers apply, but also be sure to follow the suggested guidelines printed in each paper.  Always include your phone number so they can verify you are the author.

 

Good Luck in your letter writing campaign.  Every letter counts.

 

Hatch Act Requirements for Postal Service Employees

 

COPA

Several Good Reasons to Give More In 2004

The Presidential Postal Commission Declares War on Postal Workers

 Your future is in the hands of Congress

Presidential Postal Commission Recommendations 

 

Cut Postal Workers Pay The Commission recommends a powerful Postal Regulatory Board appointed by the President.  That board would cap new workers and cut pay of current workers. 

Outsource Postal Jobs All jobs incidental to the delivery of the mail.  The commission recommends contracting out of motor vehicle maintenance, local mail transportation, maintenance, mail processing, retail services and support services.  

Elimination of the No Lay Off Clause This would force us to take small salary increases, jeopardize COLA and decrease benefits if we wanted to maintain this collective bargaining right. 

Cut Postal Benefits Remove postal workers from the federal employees health benefits program, pension programs and OWCP program.  These benefits are now guaranteed by law. 

Close Post Offices and Consolidate Plants Without the say of customers, employees or our elected representatives. 

Curtail Collective Bargaining The commission supports collective bargaining, so they claim.  They recommended that binding arbitration be eliminated and go to implementation of the last best offer.  They feel what is guaranteed by law should be part of the bargaining package. 

 These changes cannot happen until Congress changes the law. 

Hear what the special interest groups have to say: 

Time Magazine CEO Ann Moore endorsed Commission proposals that would curtail workers’ rights in negotiating for pay, benefits, and working conditions. “We fully support the Commission’s conclusion that the collective bargaining process needs revision,” she said, “today’s system of binding arbitration does not always provide an optimal solution.”

Asserting, “approximately 80 percent of the Postal Service’s costs are labor,” she advocated reducing those expenses through increased work sharing.  

RR Donnelly CO. CEO William L Davis, the largest commercial printer in the United States, testified before the senate and stated: “we support the recommendations of the Presidential Commission and we urge congress to push ahead right now.  The status quo is not acceptable.  When we talk about outsourcing, we don’t mean India, we mean Fedex!”  

Pitney Bowes CEO Michael J. Critelli “We at Pitney Bowes and the members of the Mailing Industry CEO council know that postal reform legislation needs to get done now.”

FedEx CEO Fred Smith and UPS Chairman Michael Eskew urged lawmakers to further restrain the Postal Service from using revenue derived through its letter-mail monopoly to “cross-subsidize” its services in the parcel and overnight delivery markets.  “We believe package delivery is well served by the private sector,” Eskew said. “The government does not need to be in it.”

Smith went a step further by urging Congress to repeal the USPS monopoly on mail delivery by 2008, giving companies such as his access to citizens’ mailboxes. In 2008, he noted, similar government protections for privatized European postal systems are scheduled to end. “This would be the single most important step that could be taken,” he said.

Your Voice  

President Bill Lewis urges you not to sit and watch as these major mailers convince your representatives that the postal service should adopt the Wal-Mart model for postal workers.  The APWU is prepared to fight this injustice in the halls of congress and at the polls.  I need your help and support if we are to be successful.  This battle for survival is your fight and you must step up.  You can start by giving to COPA, voting, working hard to get out the vote for postal friendly candidates and writing to your representatives. 

GIVE TO COPA TODAY

TOMORROW IS TOO LATE