URGENT MESSAGE TO ALL MEMBERS AND RETIREES From Loren Adams - Local President - Fayetteville, Arkansas October 14, 2003 THE SITUATION : The President's Commission on USPS Roy Braunstein (APWU National Legislative Director) spoke at the Arkansas state convention last week, Friday, October 10, and strongly encouraged locals over the whole country to call emergency meetings : to include non-members and retirees : and warn them that Bush is about to implement the recommendations of his President's Commission on the Postal Service. How can this be? By bypassing Congress! The Bush Administration, Braunstein reported, is in the process of setting the scheme up like the base closings amendments that do not need Congressional approval, amendment, or disapproval in order for the re-organization to become law. In fact, he said, Congress is not authorized to amend or edit this type legislation (base-closings type bill, similar to 1990s base-closings) : even one word cannot be edited in or out. It's a slam-dunk. The base closings trick will be redrafted to become postal facility closings and reorganization : a type of bill that has to be totally refuted by Congress within 45 days of introduction or else it automatically becomes LAW. You can be sure White House political operatives helped plot this latest deceitful tactic : as they have other issues in the past. But now it involves us, the postal workers. The special bill will include the outsourcing (privatization) of ALL clerk jobs, mailhandler jobs, maintenance jobs, all mail processing, and the closing of over half of all post offices, the consolidation of a sizable portion of processing centers (that in turn will be sold off to private corporate interests), the dismantling of all bargaining units (unions), and [in essence] the end of the Postal Service as we know it. A 3-member POSTAL REGULATORY BOARD would be established where the President would have to sole power to appoint and the Senate would only have the power to ratify. The President would have the power to appoint 2 out of 3 members from his own party. The bill, Braunstein reported, would also affect compensation for PRESENT retirees and would drastically cut their income and benefits.... I don't know specifically how this could be done, but Braunstein reports that it's so. This is why he said to include retirees in the meetings (and notices in lieu of meetings). Braunstein reported that the only postal workers left would be carriers : and even part of those would be outsourced. He then showed us the video from APWU Hdqtrs. featuring Bill Burrus' address to all APWU members with cut-ins of the Presidential Postal Commission before Congress : to underscore the exact words to drive the points home. The address and announcement was captivating. All locals will be receiving copies of the video to be played at meetings : some have received them already. Dennis Taff, State President, said he'd get us copies this week to be played at our meeting this Sunday. Braunstein is encouraging all members to contact mayors, legislators and congressmen. Local post offices will be affected. Braunstein reported this is the first time the postmasters' association has been in contact with APWU about having something in common: post office closings. I'm trying to not put too much into this announcement in order to be completely straight with you. Roy Braunstein said he had been working 7-days a week for the past 6 months spreading the news across the country. He said he was worn out, but felt compelled to get the message out because if Bush succeeds, this spells the end of our jobs (or a least of our good-paying jobs with union representation). Furthermore, Braunstein said Bush could introduce it just before the holiday (Thanksgiving & Christmas) recess so that it would go into effect before Congress would have time to return in January. However, he annotated this scenario by saying he actually expected it to be introduced sometime late January : to be approved/disapproved by Congress some time in February. He said the window of opportunity for Bush would close in June 2004 because of the election cycle, but any time before June : the act could be passed (or rejected by Congress, as the case may be). You may forward this message to other local presidents and officers nation-wide. CONGRESSMAN MARION BERRY OF NE ARKANSAS US Congressman Marion Berry addressed the Jonesboro conference. He actually spoke before Braunstein but backed up what the Legislative Director reported later. Rep. Berry also alarmed us by reporting that he hadn't taken a day off for the past 6 months because of the current war and budget crises. He warned us that unless the current Administration is replaced next year, the Republic will cease to exist. Rep. Berry called it the perfect storm and warned that unless America woke up, the republic would cease to exist (his words). The room was spellbound. Rep. Berry reported that as a result of outsourcing (Halliburton : Kellogg, Brown & Root subsidiary) services to our troops in Iraq, there was inadequate drinking water for our troops and insufficient services in several areas. Rep. Berry also brought out how the Bush Administration has eliminated $18 billion in veterans benefits this year : all the while touting a pro-military stance. He said the veterans are hurting : as well as the National Guard (whose ranks are being unnecessarily depleted because of the Iraq incursion). Berry reported that our military is being stretched thin while more military operations are being planned for a number of nations. Rep. Marion Berry was quite distressed over the national budget and the special $87 billion appropriations bill introduced by the White House, dubbed the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill. The bill was again an all or nothing / take it or leave it proposition : commonly used as a White House maneuver. The administration simply wants Congress to rubber-stamp the $87 billion : no questions asked. Of the $87 billion, $66 billion goes for the support of our troops and $21 billion goes for reconstruction of Iraq. On that point, Berry and most Democrats wanted to amend the bill to guarantee simple fiscal oversight of spending : where no-bid contracts would be closely monitored and would require corporations to report to Congress. Oversight is what Congress is mostly about, right? Well, the president's party would have no part in it. Several congressmen also wanted to make the $21 billion a LOAN to Iraq to be paid back with oil revenue. No deal. The administration wanted all or nothing, and so they succeeded in getting their congressional lackeys to go along : same old my way or the highway mentality. One of the only items weeded out of the supplemental was an appropriation for postal zip codes. Go figure. Marion Berry went on to report that China is educating 250,000,000 while America is going backwards as a result of our budget restraints. China is pouring millions of tons of concrete into dams and construction while America is standing still. Rep. Berry reported that the $87 billion for Iraq is just a down-payment and will certainly affect the US economy : no getting around it. The total cost to reconstructing Iraq could reach $300 billion, he reported. BOB KESSLER'S SPEECH Our National Business Agent, Bob Kessler, gave a very moving speech at the banquet Friday night, Oct 10. He also was passionate when predicting what we face. (Bob is not normally prone to emotion.) What Bob's message said to us is: This is no false alarm or hype from union leaders. Bob brought out that he used to press the issue that friends, family and acquaintances only buy union-made merchandise. But that chapter is closed due to NAFTA. Now he emphasizes : buy only made-in-USA items. So, the other day, Bob went down to his local hardware store in Kansas City to purchase a new shovel and found NONE made in the USA. Next, he went around the store to try and find ANYTHING made in America. No luck. So, he went to another store. Same thing. Bob reported that we're in bad shape in this country when shoppers can find hardly a thing made in this country. As the manufacturing base is exported across the boarder and overseas, the national economy slides. Bob related how, based on the same premise, big business interests would like to get rid of all union jobs. Whatever one wants to call it : concentrating the wealth into the hands of the few or outsourcing or privatizing : they all stem from the same and will have the same result: economic decline. But this latest news from APWU Headquarters is most alarming. We cannot waste a minute spreading the news and contacting members of Congress : both Senate and House. PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON POSTAL SERVICE The following are statements or excerpts from the commission's report which you should study carefully. Also included are side-notes from Roy Braunstein and Bill Burrus (not in quotes). -Board makeup: Commission Recommendation The new Postal Regulatory Board should be comprised of three members who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and no more than two should be members of the same political party. -Narrowing the Monopoly ...it recommends authorizing the independent Postal Regulatory Board to periodically review the scope of the monopoly with an eye toward narrowing it over time, so long as a greater reliance on a thriving private postal marketplace can occur without sacrificing universal, affordable access to essential postal services. -Postal Service's Mission The Commission recommends that the mission of the Postal Service be `to provide high-quality, essential postal services to all persons and communities by the most cost-effective and efficient means possible at affordable, and WHERE APPROPRIATE, UNIFORM RATES.' -Board Authority: Commission's Recommendation The new Postal Regulatory Board should have authority to: Clarify and refine the scope of the postal monopoly; regulate rates for non-competitive products and services; Establish limits on the accumulated earnings by the Postal Service; Ensure financial transparency; obtain information from the Postal Service, if need be, through the use of subpoena power; And review and act on complaints filed by those who believe the Postal Service has exceeded its authority." -BROAD Authority of Regulatory Board The Commission would let a three-member Board appointed by the President change the meaning of universal service, change the scope of the postal monopoly, and set service standards of the USPS. -Plant Closings: Committee Recommendation ...Once the President approves the plan, it should be sent to Congress with the stipulation that the plan is final unless Congress passes a joint resolution disapproving the plan in its entirety within 45 days. -Plant Closings: Committee Recommendation ...Asking communities to play a more prominent role in the DISPOSITION of post offices that are UNNECESSARY for the fulfillment of universal service.... -Plant Closings: Committee Recommendation ...the Commission envisions a comprehensive postal network realignment that is facilitated by and independent process, much like that governing military base closures in the mid-1990s, for consolidating and closing processing and other back-end postal facilities. -Plant Closings Closing plants using a procedure similar to a military base-closing commission that limits congressional involvement, or closing post offices without citizen involvement. -Plant Closings Public service : and universal service : should be standard, not profits. Approach would deprive communities voice in decision to close facilities. USPS has right to close now, but has to justify its actions to those whose service is affected. -Worksharing Discounts ...Specifically requiring that no NEW worksharing discount for a non-competitive product should exceed costs saved.... -Worksharing Discounts Commission against any NEW discount that exceeds costs avoided. Commission tacitly endorsed existing discounts. Existing subsidies amount to billions of dollars. Individuals and small businesses are subsidizing large mailers. Avoiding new subsidies through excessive discounts will not solve this problem. All discounts that exceed costs avoided should be eliminated. -Pay-for-Performance Initiatives The Subcommittee believes strongly that performance-based compensation programs are effective tools that, when designed correctly, can be used to align the goals of management and labor and result in improved efficiency and service quality. The Subcommittee, therefore, recommends that the Postal Service undertake a careful study of performance-based compensation programs for both management and represented employees.... -LBFO If there is no agreement, then the Commission proposes to escalate the stakes, asking each side to produce ONE LAST BEST FINAL OFFER (LBFO). To further nudge the parties together, the Commission proposes that the arbitration panel be required to select one of the two packages and be permitted to fashion its own award only if BOTH packages fail to honor the comparability standard.... -Collective bargaining process Process would be shortened and require mediation-arbitration. Time period for resolving disputes would not be long enough. Compensation would be set by board, not by bargaining. -FEHBP Postal workers would be taken out of FEHBP. No justification for refusing to provide postal workers the same benefits as federal agency workers. FEHBP and Retirement programs are efficient and effective; they should be maintained. -Comparability: USPS Costs In sum, these benefits accounted for just under $20 billion of the $51.5 billion the Postal Service spent on its employees in Fiscal Year 2000 : almost $1 out of every $3 the Postal Service spent in that fiscal year. A lack of negotiating authority with respect to these costs would be intolerable to most private-sector companies. They should be brought within the collective bargaining process at the business-oriented Postal Service, as well. -Compensation: FECA The Commission believes that the Postal Service, given its unique businesslike character, should be provided relief from those provisions of FECA that are creating costly unintended consequences. Specifically, the Commission recommends that the Postal Service be permitted to: Impose a three-day waiting period before benefits begin; Limit benefits to two-thirds of an employee's pay; and Transition workers' compensation recipients to the appropriate retirement program when the become eligible for retirement. -Workers Compensation Workers compensation would be cut below paid federal workers. USPS is a relatively dangerous work environment. The way to control costs is to make USPS a safer place to work. -No-Layoff Protection They [commissioners] also note that layoff protection is rare in the private sector today, as companies demand the flexibility to rightsize their workforces as market conditions warrant. -No-Layoff Protection The Commission also believes it is critical for Postal Service management to ensure that future collective bargaining agreements provide the necessary flexibility to manage the size and deployment of the Postal Service workforce. -Comparability: Stability of Employment The Commission's proposed definition of comparability includes the phrase continuity and stability of employment as a benefit to be considered in the computation of comparable total compensation. -Comparability: Retirement benefits Retirement benefits are even more generous, rising with inflation (a rare provision among private plans). And, while fewer private companies today offer retiree health care benefits (and many more are shifting a greater percentage of the costs to recipients), these benefits remain a mainstay at the Postal Service. -Comparability: Health premiums In the area of benefits, the contrast is even more pronounced. They [employees] also contribute only slightly more than half (16.5% of the total premium) of what private-sector workers contribute (about 31.5% of the total premium) and of what other Federal workers pay (about 28% of the total premium) for health care coverage. -Comparability While the clear intent of the comparability standard is to ensure wages do not lag behind the private sector, expert witnesses made the case to the Commission that a premium may exist today. Appearing to support these claims is the lower turnover rate and the fact that new hires, on average, receive a 28.4% increase when they join the Postal Service. -Comparability If the Postal Regulatory Board determines that a premium exists, then it should be authorized to take IMMEDIATE BINDING AND CORRECTIVE ACTION FOR PROSPECTIVE NEW HIRES, one the comparability analysis is complete. The Postal Regulatory Board also SHOULD ESTABLISH A REASONABLE TIMELINE FOR CORRECTIVE ACTION FOR EXISTING EMPLOYEES, which management and the postal unions would be required to achieve over time in their collective bargaining and arbitration proceedings. -Compensation Postal clerks and city letter carriers, for example, have an average annual wage of more than $42,500. Postal workers also enjoy the job security and ample benefits packages that make Federal employment attractive. According to the Postal Service, average annual total compensation, including both wages and benefits, for postal clerks and for city letter carriers is nearly $60,000. -Comparability: Definition The term TOTAL RATES AND TYPES OF COMPENSATION shall include wages, holidays, leave, insurance, pensions, medical and hospital benefits, the continuity and stability of employment and all other benefits received. -Comparability: Commission's Recommendation While the Commission strongly supports total compensation comparability, it recommends that this commitment be appropriately and clearly measured by an independent entity : THE POSTAL REGULATORY BOARD : and USED AS A CEILING in collective bargaining. -Collective Bargaining Compensation would be set by a three person board [Postal Regulatory Board] appointed by the President rather than collective bargaining. The board would place a ceiling on compensation and could demand reductions in postal compensation. -4 Most Important Issues 1. Changes to Collective Bargaining 2. Worksharing Discounts 3. Closing facilities without CITIZEN INPUT 4. Broad Authority of Regulatory Board -Involving the Private Sector The Commission recommends that the Postal Service have maximum flexibility in delivering universal service by the most cost-effective, quality means available to it, including outsourcing a particular function to the private sector. -Maximizing the Use of Private Sector The Subcommittee recommends that those Postal Service functions that can be performed better and at lower cost by the private sector be outsourced to the private sector. -Universal Service? Does the universal service obligation require that the Postal Service ITSELF carry out the core postal services expected by every American and business? Or does it merely ENSURE that essential postal services are available to everyone, perhaps IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR? -HOW TO CONTACT CONGRESS: Links: "http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.html" "http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm" CASUALS IN LIEU OF.... Many questions still float about the payment of the settlement. While it was first reported that October 24 would be the date, the Postal Service now contends it will be November 7. Who knows? As you've be advised, don't go out and spend it until you've got it. Nothing is guaranteed.