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Postal workers rally to send a message

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Catherine W. Idzerda
September 28, 2011
— Government policy has caused the problem, and government policy can fix it—without costing taxpayers any money.

That’s the argument being made by Postal Service unions.


On Tuesday, representatives from area Postal Service unions rallied in front of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s office in downtown Janesville. About 40 people attended the rally.


The event was part of series of rallies held in all of the nation’s Congressional districts.


“This isn’t a protest, this is a rally,” said Todd Taylor, a Janesville letter carrier and a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers.


Taylor said that local postal workers just wanted a chance to present their side of the “post office is in trouble” story that’s been in the news lately.


Recently, United States Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that the Postal Service is facing an $8.3 billion budget deficit. Donahue said that increased use of email has led to a drop off in traditional mail.


Donahoe’s ideas for reducing the debt include laying off a significant number of workers, closing offices and eliminating Saturday delivery.


Taylor said the reduction in first class mail has lead to a reduction in the post office work force. Most of that has come from attrition.


The current problem didn’t arise from a lack of business but from an unusual debt obligation, he said.


“In 2006, Congress mandated that we had to prepay our pension fund for 75 years and we had to do it within 10 years time,” Taylor said. “Right now, we’re paying for employees who haven’t even been born yet.”


The pre-pay requirement means that the Postal Service has to set aside $5.5 billion a year, he said.


“No other company, no other government agency has been required to do something of this magnitude,” Taylor said.


When the economy was good, it was easier to fund that $5.5 billion a year, he said. But when the economy went south, it became a serious challenge. This fall, another payment comes due.


Postal Service employees are putting their hopes in H.R. 1351, a bill that would recalculate those pension repayments, putting the Postal Service back in the black.


In addition, no services would be cut.


“There’s no taxpayer money involved in this; this is not a bailout,” Taylor said.


Without the bill and unless no other workable solution is proposed, almost 120,000 workers will be laid off, Saturday service will end, mail-processing plants will close and other services will be cut—and that’s according to both union and management sources.



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