Union chiefs shred postal reform bill

Four postal union presidents on Monday urged senators to oppose a bipartisan proposal to overhaul the struggling U.S. Postal Service that they say is littered with problems.

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The labor leaders said that the postal bill — crafted by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) — takes aim at the service’s workforce, and would damage the agency long-term.

In a letter to senators, the union presidents added that the newly revised measure now includes “totally unfair and unnecessary” provisions that don't do enough to ease an annual healthcare payment that they see as the prime driver of the USPS’s financial woes.

Their letter comes just two days before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, where Carper is chairman and Coburn the top Republican, is scheduled to consider the postal bill.

“We believe the committee should focus on addressing the principal causes of the Postal Service's fiscal problems, not reducing service and targeting postal employees' benefits," the presidents of the four postal unions wrote.

Those presidents are Mark Dimondstein of the American Postal Workers Union, Fredric Rolando of the National Association of Letter Carriers, John Hegarty of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and Jeanette Dwyer of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association.

Their letter illustrates the balance that Carper and Coburn have tried to strike in writing a bill to revamp the Postal Service, which lost $5 billion in fiscal 2013 and more than $25 billion over the last three years.

The Homeland Security panel has scheduled several markups of the postal bill in the last couple of months, only to back off in an attempt to strengthen support for the measure. Carper and Coburn first introduced their measure in August, and circulated new revisions just last week.

The two senators have already faced pushback from industries like banking and publishing for proposals that would lock in and expand upon a temporary price hike for stamps that went into effect this week.

Senators from states with heavily rural populations have also expressed concerns about eating into the agency’s delivery standards, underscoring the complicated politics surrounding postal reform.

In their letter, the four postal presidents applaud Carper and Coburn for incorporating some of their suggestions into the postal bill, including some cost-cutting reforms for health benefits.

But the labor groups say the bill would still require the Postal Service to prefund billions of dollars for future retirees’ benefits. The USPS has defaulted on several required prepayments of roughly $5.5 billion for future retirees in recent years, accounting for a significant chunk of the agency’s red ink.

With the USPS’s bottom line having improved last year, the unions say the Senate proposal will also unnecessarily open the door for rolling back Saturday delivery and door-to-door delivery.

“Not only would this legislation threaten more than 100,000 good postal jobs and weaken the Postal Service’s most important assets — its retail, processing and delivery networks — it would also harm the interests of small business, rural residents and the elderly,” the four presidents wrote.