White House pressured to fix postal budget crisis

Postal workers say a congressional plan to fix the budget shortfalls at the United States Postal Service (USPS) is short sighted and have asked the White House to broker a better solution.

Workers from four USPS unions have written a letter to a senior Obama administration official saying that a House proposal will only serve as a short-term fix. Postal Service officials have said that the agency this year will lose $6 billion and will have a cash shortfall of $1.5 billion.

The House bill would allow the USPS to make up its cash deficit over the next three years by using some of the money set aside for retirement health benefits of current USPS workers.

"It is a good start, but it is increasingly clear that this legislation will not be enough to solve the crisis," the heads of the unions wrote in a July 14 letter sent to Jim Messina, White House deputy chief of staff. "We believe the Obama administration must intervene now to avoid both a political and economic train wreck."

The letter requests a meeting between the unions and the administration.

The unions who signed on to the letter were the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.

The House bill was approved by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week and is expected to win full House passage. More than 300 members have signed on as co-sponsors.

While the USPS has blamed its fiscal woes on the bad economy and a shift by Americans from regular mail service to technology such as e-mail, unions have cited a requirement that the agency pay more than $5 billion annually into the fund for future retirees' health benefits. The unions have called for the loosening of those requirements, instituted three years ago.

"A policy decision must be made at the highest levels on whether it makes sense to sacrifice the future viability of the Postal Service to comply with a misguided policy devised by the previous administration that is, in any case, no longer appropriate in the current economic environment," the unions wrote.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee with jurisdiction over the USPS , said he agrees with the unions that the bill won't fix everything. He said that lawmakers are looking at other fixes proposed by the USPS, including ending weekend delivery service and consolidating post offices. The unions, however, have been skeptical of those plans, he said.

Lynch warned against a government bailout for the Postal Service, calling it the "last, most extreme option."

"I don't know if that's what [the unions are] looking for from the president, but there's little appetite over here for another bailout," he said.