Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) Proposes Changes to Ratemaking System
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12/07/2017 - The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) just issued their long-awaited proposal to change how much the Postal Service can raise postage rates of market dominant products. (Market dominant products include first class letters and cards, periodicals, and Standard/Market Mail; but do not include most package products which are “competitive” products.)
The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) instituted two changes that manufactured a postal financial crisis. First, the PAEA forced the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years into the future, draining $5.5 billion a year from the postal treasury. This is an absurd burden required of no other agency or company. Second, the PAEA capped future postal rate increases at the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This was a boon to the giant mailing industry.
Combined, these requirements starved the Postal Service of much needed revenue. They became the justification for lowering service standards, slowing down mail delivery, closing processing plants and post offices, reducing retail operations, cutting jobs, and pressured the USPS to increase subcontracting and reduce six-day delivery.
Ten Year Review Complete
The PAEA authorized the PRC to do a ten-year review to assess whether the rate cap system met the objectives of the PAEA, which included assurance of “adequate revenue, including retained earnings, to maintain financial stability.” The APWU argued in our comments as part of the ten year review that the price cap should be eliminated because it deprived the Postal Service of the ability to meet its objectives.
The PRC in their ten year review found that the price cap system did not generateenough money for the USPS to meet its goals and objectives. To fix the problem and meet the objectives of the PAEA, the PRC proposes to revise the cap to generate more revenue. Specifically, the PRC advocates for a CPI plus 2% a year cap for five years with a new review after five years. They made several other recommendations.
These are positive steps forward. Unfortunately, they are only half measures. With these revisions, the Postal Service will continue to struggle financially and will lack sufficient capital to maintain and improve its networks and operations.
A 90-day comment period follows with an additional 30-days for reply comments. After comments, the PRC is expected to issue final regulations.
The APWU will actively participate in this process, as we continue to advocate that there should be no arbitrary price cap. “The APWU supports reasonable postal rates for the people of the country,” said President Dimondstein. “However, the CPI cap, along with huge pre-sort discounts, keep rates artificially low for the profits of the big corporate mailers.
“The price cap, even with the proposed changes, deprives the Postal Service of needed revenue to maintain and improve facilities, update the fleet, expand new products and innovate, and serves to depress wages and benefits for hard-working postal workers,” he continued. “The APWU will continue to work for fair and sensible rate-setting regulations so that the Post Office can continue to serve the public and fulfill its constitutionally mandated mission.”
12/01/2017 - The Postal Service’s Request for or Notification of Absence (Form 3971) has been amended to include a new section applicable to those going on leave without pay (LWOP) for official union business. This new section states:
LWOP - Union Official (Required Certification)
By signing this form, I certify this request is not for the purpose of engaging in partisan political activity as defined by the Hatch Act and its implementing regulations
This certification is an overreaction by the Postal Service to the July 14, 2017 report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The Report of Hatch Act Investigation: Facilitating Labor Union’s Political Activity Through Use of “Union Official” Leave Without Pay stated that “The postal unions and individual employees and members are permitted, and should be encouraged, to maintain PACs, endorse candidates, and enlist union members to support their electoral agendas on their own time.”
The Postal Service grossly overreached and is trying to suppress postal employees from exercising their First Amendment rights as protected by the Hatch Act. Furthermore, by changing PS Form 3971 and changing the ELM 514, the Postal Service is violating the APWU/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement.
APWU has filed a national dispute, a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, and is reviewing other possible legal action to overturn these changes.
APWU members are not second-class citizens! We refuse to be denied or intimidated into not fully using our political voices on issues and candidates who will protect a public and thriving Postal Service.
For information on the Hatch Act, please see below.
What You Can and Can’t Do at Election Time
Your active participation in the political process is essential! As public employees, postal workers need to be familiar with the Hatch Act, which limits how we can participate in party-related political activities.
MAY be candidates in non-partisan elections.
When NOT on postal property, in uniform or on the clock, postal employees:
MAY campaign for – or against – candidates and issues.
MAY get out the vote.
MAY distribute campaign literature and express opinions.
Partisan politics on the clock, in uniform, or on postal property could violate the Hatch Act, so please adhere to the following:
NO partisan political activity while on the clock.
NO partisan political activity in a postal or federal building.
NO partisan political activity while in a postal uniform.
NO partisan political activity while driving a postal vehicle.
NO partisan political activity using official postal equipment.
NO partisan political activity via social media (including email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) while on duty or in a postal facility.
What is Partisan Political Activity?
Partisan political activity includes any actions that are supporting or opposing a candidate in an election (federal, state or local) when he/she is running as a member of a certain political party (Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green, etc.). On a ballot, if there is a letter after their name, it is a partisan candidate. Most positions in federal and state elections are partisan, for example Governor or U.S. Senator, but there are some local seats which are not, for example a school board member.
Partisan political activity also includes asking for money or volunteers for a candidate and/or political party to utilize in an election. This also includes inviting any co-workers to a rally or event supporting any political party. Making political contributions yourself is also partisan political activity and can not be done while on the clock, in uniform or on postal property.
However, any activity surrounding a piece of legislation or political issue is NOT partisan. Encouraging co-workers to call their members of Congress to support or oppose a bill is allowed.
If you have any further questions concerning permissible activity please contact the Legislative & Political Department at 202-842-4211 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Senate is set to vote on a disastrous tax bill this week, after their House counterparts passed a tax reform bill earlier this month. Much like the House plan, this bill would punish working families and reward the wealthy elites with tax breaks.
To pay for tax giveaways to the richest individuals and major corporations, here’s what the bill will do to working people:
Permanently raise taxes on everyone making under $75,000 a year by 2027.
Entirely eliminate deductions that many working people rely on, like State/Local Property and Income Tax deductions.
Immediately cut Medicare funding and repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, causing 13 million people to lose their health insurance while increasing premiums.
Your senators need to hear from you! Call now and urge them to reject this anti-worker tax plan.
Here’s a suggested call script:
My name is _______. I’m a constituent of the Senator’s and I live in CITY, STATE.
I want Senator [NAME] to OPPOSE the Senate tax plan that would raise taxes on countless working families, cut working people’s healthcare, and give tax breaks to the rich and corporations.
(This article first appeared in the November-December 2017 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
At the All-Craft Conference, the American Postal Worker sat down and spoke with a few young APWU leaders about why they decided to get involved in their local. Many shared the same sentiment – they saw things on the workroom floor they did not like and decided to take action.
“As a PSE, I worked 12-hour days, all the time,” recalled Lisa Dunbar, 29, acting president of the North Platte Local and state representative for the Nebraska Postal Workers Union. “I also saw what the workplace was like…We have safety issues.”
Ashley Cargill, 34, who serves as Oklahoma Postal Workers Union President and clerk trustee and steward for the Oklahoma City Area Local, agreed. “Things were not getting resolved and I didn’t like it,” she said. “When you start, you don’t even know what the violations are.”
Chris Johnson, 32, Maintenance Craft Director of the Indianapolis Area Local, noted that in his office, “Everyone else serving as stewards and directors were on their way to retirement, so I stepped up to learn the ropes…I did it because I had to protect the workers.”
Importance of Union
Johnson’s great-grandfather was a letter carrier and his father a mail handler. He used to be a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers before joining the APWU five years ago. He noted a lot of them other young members he speaks with “do not fully grasp or understand what the union does and how it works. Even though I explain it to them, they just think it’s always going to be there.”
Denisha Dean, 28, is president of the Long Beach Area Local (CA). She said she saw the importance of being in a union at a young age when her mother was injured working at the post office. “Management lied to her,
but the union helped her get back,” Dean recalled.
“Without the members, there is no union,” Cargill said. She noted that sometimes workers do not report an issue because they do not want to “cause a wave in their office.” However, if the worker does not report it, and the union does not enforce workplace standards and the contract, the protections will disappear. “It is important for us to be involved.”
Johnson stressed the importance of educating yourself, “If you don’t like what’s going on, you have to fix it,” he said. “You can’t sit on the sidelines and hope someone else does it for you.”
Dean noted that belonging to a union comes with opportunities for growth. “Health care, solidarity, education – I wouldn’t have any of that without the union,” she said, adding that she is an active member of Post Office Women for Equal Rights (POWER) and Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). “The union has all these sub-branches to help you not only become a good worker and know your rights, but to become a better person, too.”
“If not for the union, we don’t have a future,” Dunbar said. “It’s our job to continue the legacy that’s left before us.”
Congress Plans Huge Tax Breaks for Corporations at the Expense of Working People
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11/07/2017 - Last week, the House Republicans released their tax bill titled, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “Don’t be fooled by the name,” said Legislative and Political Director Judy Beard. “The foundation of the legislation is a massive corporate tax break and includes many provisions that will hurt working families. It is not designed to create jobs with a living wage and good benefits, but to enrich the corporate elite and the billionaire class.”
Wall Street and the corporate elite will be gifted with a tax rate reduction from 35% to 20% – this alone will give the six largest banks more than $6 billion dollars of increased profit annually. The tax bill would eliminate the estate tax – equaling $269 billion dollars in lost revenue over the next decade – solely for benefit of the wealthiest 0.2% of households.
If passed, this corporate tax break will drain needed resources for education, medical research and environmental protection. It will also lead to cuts in vital social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Remember, the finalized 2018 Fiscal Year budget has $5 trillion in budget cuts, including $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, which will be used to pay for a tax break to benefit large corporations and the richest 1% of Americans.
Other provisions in The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that would directly hurt unions and working families include:
Capping the State and Local (property) Tax deduction, and eliminating the State and Local (income) Tax deduction;
Repealing the medical expense deduction, including nursing home care;
Eliminating U.S. taxes on offshore profits – encouraging the continued outsourcing of U.S. jobs;
Tightening the rules for claiming the child tax credit, requiring a “work-eligible Social Security number” which is aimed at punishing immigrant parents;
The corporate tax proposal will also increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion which will then be used as an excuse to attack the benefits of postal and other workers. Postal workers have seen time and again that anti-union lawmakers use the deficit as justification to slash postal pay and benefits, targeting our retirement and health benefits in particular. We just defeated such an attack in the 2018 budget last month. This tax bill will make the next proposed cuts even deeper and the next fight that much harder to win.
The House leadership hopes to move this bill quickly through the House of Representatives, it is already being considered in the Ways & Means Committee and could make it to the full House as soon as next week. Dial 844-813-4060 to be connected to your member of Congress’s office and tell them to vote no on the tax bill. “Working families should not be used as piggy banks to enrich big business, big banks and billionaires.” said President Mark Dimondstein.