The NALC responds to a USPS
press release regarding its contract negotiations with two unions
A press release put out Sunday by the United States Postal
Service is full of spin and distortions aimed at influencing public
opinion. The National Association of Letter Carriers wants its members
to know that we are responding to press inquiries regarding the
USPS release as follows:
The release, which addresses the status of negotiations with two
unions, contains significant misinformation in a variety of areas.
We recognize that the USPS faces major challenges that need to be
addressed to secure its future, but this cannot be done responsibly
if one party engages in blatant and self-serving attempts to mislead
While we have no involvement in these particular negotiations,
on a broader level misinformation about important issues must be
addressed, lest people accept it as valid. Here are a few examples
of the misleading statements.
In what is presented as an objective depiction of the negotiating
process with the American Postal Workers Union and the National
Rural Letter Carriers' Association, the Postal Service writes that
in the event of an impasse, "An arbitrator determines the final
outcome and is not legally required to consider the Postal Service's
financial obligations when rendering a decision."
This is nonsense, because arbitrators are required to consider
all evidence presented by the parties. Since the USPS always presents
information on its financial situation, its finances always are
considered. The press release phrasing is a thinly disguised attempt
to prompt congressional meddling in the traditional labor-management
process by legislation that would insert one-sided language favoring
the Postal Service's positions—a terrible precedent. We don't think
it's the role of Congress to get involved on behalf of either side,
The Postal Services spins the issue of eliminating Saturday delivery
by claiming that the public favors 5-day delivery over using taxpayer
funds and other alternatives. In fact, as the USPS well knows, the
Postal Service has not used a dime of taxpayer money for 25 years,
and no one is proposing that it do so now.
What is being proposed, both by us and by the Postal Service, is
an internal transfer of surplus pension funds to cover the $5.5
billion in annual pre-funding of future retiree health benefits,
resulting from a 2006 congressional mandate. No other institution
in America, public or private, is obligated to pre-fund future benefits
at all, let alone at the aggressive schedule imposed on the USPS
by Congress. Nonetheless, if Congress allows the Postal Service
to make this transfer of its own money realized from the sale of
products and services the financial status of the USPS would improve
markedly. How much? Instead of losing money, the Postal Service
would have realized a net profit of $700 million the past four years,
even with the worst recession in 80 years.
How would the public respond if the question was whether people
would rather lose a day of mail service and see 80,000 people thrown
into unemployment, to realize a relatively meager savings of at
most $3.1 billion annually -- or instead see the Postal Service
simply transfer money from one account to another, thereby coming
up with $5.5 billion at no cost to taxpayers, and not slashing services
or engaging in mass layoffs?
The release says, "The drop in the economy coupled with the
shift to digital communications has created the greatest loss in
mail volume since the Great Depression. Mail volume peaked at 213
billion pieces in 2006 and plummeted to 170.6 billion in the fiscal
year (FY) ending Sept. 30."
Inexplicably left out is the fact that the Postal Service itself
projects that mail volume will begin to increase again next year.
Just 10 days ago, the USPS stated that it projects mail volume to
rise next year, by 1.1 percent, for the first time in four years.
Neglecting to include this in the press release is explicable only
if the aim is to spin the truth in an effort to achieve other aims.
The Postal Service release also says, "To remain strong into
the future, the Postal Service needs to control costs through a
flexible workforce to adapt to the nation's changing mailing trends."
We all know what this means - a decrease in quality through transforming
the workforce into a collection of temporary employees, rather than
maintaining the current high standards of a workforce that the very same
press release says has led the public to regard the Postal Service
as the most trusted government agency six consecutive years.
Our craft alone, the letter carriers, not only delivers mail in
an efficient and professional manner, we look after the elderly
on a daily basis, save the lives of customers in medical difficulty,
rescue people from fires or automobile accidents, stop crimes and
conduct the largest annual food drive in the country. Reducing the
quality of the federal government's most trusted workforce, coupled
with slashing mail delivery, would be huge mistakes that would damage
These various spins, half-truths or outright distortions are no
way to inform the public and to have a rational discussion about
the best way to secure the future of a great national institution
on which 150 million households and businesses rely for mail delivery
six days a week. We stand ready to engage in a serious discussion
that considers the best interests of the American people.