White House 2018 Budget Proposal Targets Postal Workers and Postal Services

(This article first appeared on the Web News Article #:  53-2017)

This week the White House released their budget proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, as they do every fiscal year. There are a number of disturbing provisions which will directly affect postal workers and postal services for the American people.

The White House’s budget proposes $46 billion in “savings” to the Postal Service by a reduction in the methods of delivery. This could include cutting the number of delivery days and a further reduction in service standards.

The budget further calls for an increase of 6% employee pension contributions into the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) – 1% a year for each of the next six years. This would result in a pay-cut of thousands of dollars a year for each FERS postal employee.

The budget also proposes eliminating Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) on FERS retirement benefits, reducing COLA on current civil service retirees and a change in calculating future retirement benefits from the current “high three” average to a “high five” year formula. In addition, the proposal advocates doing away with the social security supplement currently covering the gap in FERS benefits for those who retire before they are eligible for social security benefits.

Each of these proposals would be to the severe detriment of hard working postal employees, both active and retired.

Will Devastate Working Families

Contrary to President Trump’s campaign promises to elevate workers and protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, the proposed budget contains a number of extreme cuts which will deeply affect tens of millions of working families. These include massive cuts to social security disability benefits, Medicaid coverage, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the student loan program. The budget proposal shrinks all these essential programs while lowering the taxes for corporate America and the wealthy elite.

“This budget proposal is Robin Hood in reverse,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “It robs from the workers to give more and more to the wealthy. Taken in their entirety, these are draconian attacks on hard working postal workers and our families.”

Ultimately, Congress sets the federal government’s budget. However, the White House’s budget proposal is a reflection of the spending priorities of the Trump administration. The APWU, working with our sister unions and many allies, will vigorously oppose actions by Congress to allow these cuts to vital government programs as well as any attempts to undermine postal services and the well-being of postal workers and postal retirees.

“No postal worker cast a vote in the last presidential election to cut postal services and worker benefits,” Dimondstein continued. “I am confident, that our members of all political persuasions will stand up and fight back against these new assaults on postal workers and all working folks.”

Dealing with the OIG

As a steward, at some point, we all will be in the unique situation of dealing with the Postal Inspectors or Office of Inspector General (OIG). As intimidating as it sounds, the contract gives (us the stewards), the right to represent the members once they (the member) enacts their Weingarten Rights. At this point, the grievance procedure starts. As the member has to comply and participate with any investigation of the OIG, the OIG has to follow and comply with the contract once the member requests a shop steward. Below, are some points brought to us by Mike Wright to better inform us on things to be aware about if approached by the OIG or if you’re the representing steward for a member. The first two (2) on the list point out the types of inspectors and for what reasons they would show up at a location.

  • Postal Inspectors (PIS), specifically mail theft
  • Office of Inspector General (OIG), on-duty narcotics, falsification by employees, OWCP fraud
  • OIG must comply with Article 17.3, polygraphs are voluntary
  • OIG has no right to influence grievance procedure, management must do an independent review
  • Miranda Rights, involves custodial interrogation, advise counsel, try to advise grievant not to speak to you (the steward) on details of the investigation. Steward can be obligated to testify against grievant.
  • Garrity Rights, involves non-custodial interrogation, employee cannot be threatened for not choosing between self incrimination or job forfeiture
  • Kalkine Rights, non-custodial, employee will not be prosecuted but will have to cooperate even if it means job forfeiture, grants immunity from prosecuted, must be in writing
  • Weingarten, non-custodial, employee has a reasonable belief that discipline will be the outcome of the interview, has right to representation, employee must make request for said representation
  • OIG, PIS can give false or misleading facts to help get needed information out of an employee
  • Employee must make the request for Union representation, management cannot bring a steward to an interrogation. Weingarten, global settlement, whatever information gathered during the said investigation cannot be used.

If you have any further questions about dealing with the PIS/OIG, feel free to request/contact your local steward or call your local business agent.

Organizing to Save Your Local Post Office

(This article first appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine) By Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy

Picture this scenario… your manager posts a formal notification stating the USPS’ intention to move your post office to an industrial park, or a carrier annex, or some other inconvenient and out-of-way location.

Maybe the posting says days and hours of operation will be cut, or the office will close indefinitely (suspended), or it will be closed and consolidated with an office in another neighborhood or town, or your office will be shuttered permanently. Perhaps the Postal Service proposes to substitute the closing office with a village post office or rural letter carriers or a retailer selling stamps.

Such possible outcomes will adversely affect a neighborhood or community. Access to postal services for the community becomes limited and inconvenient while stable jobs with decent wages and benefits disappear.

Mobilize Your Community

The Postal Reorganization Act states that the Postal Service “shall provide prompt, reliable and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.”

So how does the Postal Service get away with taking these services from everyday citizens who depend on their post office? They do it when the community is unaware of their right to fight back.   

The Postal Service is required to notify the public and all patrons when there is a proposal to close, suspend, cut hours or relocate a facility. The notice should contain a date, time and location for a public meeting. Notice must be posted two weeks before the scheduled meeting date.

If the location, date and time are not best for the community, you have the right to request the meeting be rescheduled to a location and time that allows individuals and businesses to be present, raise concerns and ask questions of the Postal Service.

Make your voices heard. Get your city council involved to help find an adequate space and time for the meeting.

For your convenience, a sample letter asking to reschedule the meeting can be found in the booklet Organizing to Save the Post Office. It can be found on the Vice President’s web page, under “Resources,” at www.apwu.org/departments-divisions/vice-president.

The booklet also contains pointers about organizing your community to fight closures and other reductions of postal services. It has advice and tactics about reaching out to the public, building arguments to continue the local post office services and it details the appeal process to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).

Getting Out the Message

Community residents and businesses should know these public meetings are important and require their participation.

Be prepared to contact politicians, community groups, businesses and individuals. Educate them about the proposal and the process. Time limits are short. Anyone making written comments to the Postal Service must do so within 60 days from the day it posted notice of its proposed action. Once the Postal Service posts its final decision, any appeal to the PRC must be done within 30 days.

Doing the Heavy Lifting

The booklet Organizing to Save the Post Office is full of ideas and tools for analyzing proposals, suggesting alternatives and actions to publicly oppose closures. They include:

  • Building alliances with politicians, businesses and community groups;
  • Doing your own survey of residents;
  • Circulating petitions;
  • Writing letters to the editor to local papers;
  • Making requests for information from the Postal Service;
  • Setting up your own community meetings;
  • Asking the Postal Service to meet – in addition to the public meeting – with various business, community groups and politicians.

Available Resources

The Vice President’s web page on apwu.org has many other resources to help your fight against a closure in your community.

  • If your post office is a historical site, there are additional considerations. Download Preserving Historic Post Offices for more information.
  • The Postal Service may also be obligated to do an environmental impact study. Look at Handbook RE-6 Revision: Facilities Environmental Guide and Handbook PO-101.
  • Use Planning Town Hall Meetings to set up a meeting in your community.

There are success stories. Not all post offices get closed or consolidated. Don’t give up your right to a neighborhood post office in your city or town!