The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) are fighting to avoid additional severe cut backs at the United States Postal Service (USPS). Congress is trying to cut jobs, close post office locations, and reduce mail delivery from 6 days to 5 days per week. The senate recently voted on legislation that eliminates Saturday mail delivery and cuts 100,000 jobs over the next 3 years. Now, the bill has to go thru the house, where far worse USPS cutbacks have been recommended.
The Senate bill also includes a workers compensation provision that would give people injured on the job just 50% of their pre-disability pay at retirement, compared to the 75% that is currently under law. Statistically, nearly 50% of all federal injured workers work for the USPS. So, this greatly and negatively affects postal employees. I’m worried that more injured federal employees will avoid getting treatment if they are going to lose money upon retirement.
At WOLMED, we treat a lot of injured federal employees, especially injured USPS employees. So, we hear a lot about the supposed USPS budget deficits and how the post office is losing money. The shocking part about this whole thing is the real reason for the mess. I found a letter written by Ralph Nader, dated September 21, 2011 ( http://nader.org/uploads/USPS-ltr.pdf ), that gives a very good explanation of how this whole thing came about.
In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). This bill requires the USPS to PREFUND 75 YEARS worth of future health care benefits to retirees over the next 10 years. So, by 2016, the next 75 years worth of retirees should have prefunded health benefits. This covers current USPS employees that haven’t retired yet AND EMPLOYEES THAT HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN HIRED YET. And this prefunding doesn’t even cover current retirees. What? To make matters worse, the Office of Personnel Management estimates that this prefunding will be over-funded by more than $13 billion by 2016. Additionally, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) has been overpaid by the USPS by about $75 billion over a 37 year period, and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) was overpaid by nearly $7 billion. Nader says that if all of these over-payments were paid back into this pre-funded retirement package, that the USPS’ obligation to that fund would be complete and all of this crisis would be ended.
With this information, it’s easy to see why the APWU is calling this a “manufactured crisis”. An unprecedented 75 years of retired postal employees (including USPS employees who haven’t even been hired yet) will have their health benefits pre-funded within the next 4 years. This is likely to be over-funded and retirement has been over-paid. If all of this were corrected, the postal service would show a profit each year. However, since congress created the problem, now it wants to correct it by cutting jobs, closing post offices, and reducing service.
Why not just change the law, correct the parts of this plan that don’t make sense, pay back all over-payments, and watch this crisis disappear?