July 2, 2010
Charles Mapa, President
We are quickly approaching the Fourth of July Holiday; somehow, summer never seems to drag by, it always goes by too quickly! As most of you know, I testified before a joint Senate/House committee on the future of the Postal Service. Our Legislative Counsel, Bob Brinkmann and I prepared written testimony to be included in the Congressional records, as well as the verbal testimony that I gave to the committee at the hearing. The written testimony is included on this website. There are many, many issues swirling around throughout the Postal Service right now, and so, Bob and I agreed that we would limit our comments to two very important issues. Though the Postal Service has stated that there are 5 areas that they wanted to push as parts of a solution to our financial woes, we believe that there is one big issue that needs to be addressed now before any other issues come up. The Postal Service OIG recently released a report that restates information that was first released in 2003. Basically, it is their assertion that the Postal Service has paid into the Civil Service Retirement fund seventy five billion dollars more than it should have. The Postal Service has also been burdened with prefunding future retirees’ health benefits. Both of those facts have become common knowledge. My testimony pointed out that a way had to be found to verify the monies overpaid and find a way to get that money into the hands of the Postal Service so that the Postal Service could free itself from the oppressive burden of the prepayment.
The rest of my testimony focused on post offices, their importance to America’s communities and the misconception that they are primarily retail “outlets”. My point was that post offices are primarily delivery points and delivery nodes for routes, both city and rural. Even if the Postal Service was ever able to move every bit of retail to the internet, and that is unlikely to ever happen, we would still need a network to deliver all of our mail, and that is done through our post offices. I also stated that the Postal Service needs to find a way to leverage its huge infrastructure of post office and to start to view them as assets rather than liabilities. Partnering up with other federal, state and local government agencies would add even more value to our post offices, and provide a steady revenue stream from these offices. We are already doing some of that. Six years ago, back where I am from in California, a person looking for a passport had to travel 25 miles to the Placer County offices to apply. Now, that can be done close to my town of Gold Run California. With a little imagination we could certainly come up with many more opportunities to partner with other government agencies. We can also pursue partnerships with private businesses. We are doing that with Hallmark cards, but, again, a little imagination could bring us into other mutually beneficial partnerships. Senator Carper from Maryland and chair of the senate committee was intrigued by this line of thinking.
There was some talk of a BRAC type commission to study post offices and recommend closures. BRAC stands for base realignment and closure and it applied to the closings of many military bases aroung the country. If the Postal Service was tasked with this, it would likely be termed, the post office realignment and closure or PORC. This is not a good idea, as we already have procedures in place to close post offices. Multimillion dollar military base closures affecting city economies are a far cry from closing post offices. Some in Congress believe that communities should not have public hearings and recourse to Congress when a post office is being closed. I respectfully disagree. A small community is not a powerful metropolis. Recourse to Congress in efforts to preserve a post office is perfectly legitimate, and even then, the Postal Service can still close and has closed post offices. Loss of a post office can be devastating to a community; that is why we have strict rules on post office closures. Even the Postal Regulatory Commission sees the value in the Postal Service following the strict post office closure procedures, and that it why they had hearings on the Postal Service’s circumventing the closure rules by the Postal Service’s free use of the Emergency Suspension process.
The good news is that many of the committee members agreed with us that the most important and immediate issue was to get relief, through the use of the Civil Service overpayments, to the Postal Service for the prepayment of future retiree health benefits. Representative Norton, of Washington DC cut to the chase and stated, as did the League and most of the association presidents other association representatives, that this is where we need to concentrate our efforts. The concept of reducing delivery to 5 days met with much opposition.
Interestingly, Senator Daniel Akaka from Hawai’I directed a question to me. He stated, as the League has asserted very strongly for the last few years, that with the downsizing of the work force to one with fewer clerks, carriers, and supervisors, that Postmasters were being required to take up the slack to perform many of the functions of the lost employees. His question to me was, “How much more can we expect Postmasters to do?” I answered that Postmasters are some of our most dedicated employees, and that they will do anything they can to ‘get the mail home’, but they are already working 50, 60 and 70 hour workweeks and that they are already well beyond what should be expected of them. I plan to follow up with him personally on this issue.
All in all, the session was quite productive. I believe that many Congressmen got a better idea as to what direction the Postal Service and Congress need to proceed.
If you have not yet registered for National Convention, please do so this weekend. There are many huge changes coming down the pike for the Postal Service and for Postmasters. Come to the Convention to become better informed, get some much needed training and to network and bond more closely with your fellow Postmasters. This opportunity comes only once a year, and our National Convention in San Diego is the premier event for Postmasters. You need to be there with us in San Diego.
4th of July
Eleven score and fourteen years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. I’ve taken a few liberties of my own in borrowing words spoken by President Abraham Lincoln at a dedication in 1863 at the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg Pennsylvania. I have not improved on them, only made them a little more current, although my math may even be a little off. Those words say so much about America. For many of our ancestors, these are the words, or words and promises so much like those, that brought them to the shores of America. This weekend, we will celebrate the birth of that nation, the United States of America. It was a grand experiment, and one which, I believe, fulfilled the dreams of our founders. We Americans are blessed to be a part of that dream. We live in the greatest nation on Earth, and are free to participate in the liberties afforded us here. I have great passions in my life. I am passionate about my God, I am passionate about my wife and family, and I am passionate about the National League of Postmasters. I am also passionate about America, that “one nation under God”. I will thankfully celebrate the birth of the American dream. Certainly I will joyfully wave our flag, but I’m not so much a flag waver as I am a shameless flag hugger. This Sunday, the Fourth of July, I will embrace my flag; I encourage you to join me.
National League of Postmasters