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A Major Postal Recovery Effort Is Critical for Success
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
We live and work in no ordinary time. Historically, the March issue of The Postal Supervisor would herald the month’s Legislative Training Seminar, during which hundreds of NAPS members would travel to Washington, DC, familiarize themselves with the year’s policy priorities and ascend Capitol Hill to promote our legislative agenda.
The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, has altered the contour of our legislative messaging—but not the message itself. NAPS members must continue to communicate with their elected federal policymakers to advocate for improved operational and compensatory conditions under which supervisors, managers and postmasters deliver high-quality postal services for our nation.
The fundamental guiding dual-principle for NAPS’ legislative advocacy is fairness for our members and quality for our customers. In this construct, in 2021, NAPS will be revising our efforts to enact legislation to improve, modernize and create a fair process by which the compensation of EAS-level postal employees is determined. This battle is particularly timely as NAPS begins the next consultative process.
In addition, NAPS will redouble its efforts to enact legislation to provide EAS employees who currently are denied access to the Merit Systems Protection Board with their rightful due-process rights. It is noteworthy that EAS postal employees are not afforded the same whistleblower protections as provided other federal employees.
This omission can impair the ability of postal managers and supervisors to provide accurate and timely operational information to members of Congress. With whistleblower protections, such employees could be safe from retaliation by USPS upper-management for sharing such information. NAPS is working with our postal allies from both political parties in pursuit of fairness and protection for EAS postal personnel.
NAPS also recognizes that Congress and the White House must embrace a major postal recovery effort. Legislation already has been introduced in the House and Senate to repeal the inequitable and injurious requirement that the Postal Service prefund future retiree health costs.
During the first week of February, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced S. 145 and Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) introduced H.R. 695. NAPS supports these bills. However, the enactment of either would be insufficient for postal recovery. The agency, its employees and customers need a more comprehensive approach to rebuild the Postal Service; our country will be calling on the Postal Service time and time again to deliver for America.
For example, nationwide distribution of CDC-approved face masks via the Postal Service is under consideration by the White House. (A similar plan was scuttled by the previous administration.) The combination of COVID-19’s impact on employee attendance, the foreseeable mail surge attributable to online shopping and the 2020 election and ill-considered USPS Headquarters-initiated operational directives have harmed postal performance.
Court-ordered USPS performance data has documented a nationwide reduction from 91% during the first week of June to 64% during the last week of December 2020 relating to ontime delivery of First-Class Mail. The contour of postal recovery legislation should provide the means for the agency to modernize and calibrate its infrastructure to improve performance—including procuring a reliable and appropriate vehicular fleet—and restoring its mail-processing capacity.
Legislation also should provide the Postal Service with the authority and incentive to market innovative products and equip the agency with greater flexibility to set rates consistent with market conditions. Moreover, postal recovery legislation needs to address the structural problem in calculating and financing the agency’s retirement liability.
In part, a portion of the liability could be addressed through enactment of S. 145 or H.R. 695, but the liability is not solely attributable to health care. There is liability associated with postal annuities. Authorizing the Postal Service to invest the retirement funds in safe securities that follow comparable investment strategies—as the long term L-Funds in the federal Thrift Savings Plan—would provide the Postal Service with improved earnings.
Greater earnings would grow the balance of the Postal Retiree Health Benefit Fund and the account with which the Postal Service covers annuity liabilities. In addition, the Office of Personnel Management should use a more equitable formula to calculate the Postal Service’s health and retiree liabilities.
NAPS’ legislative team presently is developing the appropriate advocacy strategies for advancing our legislative priorities, including a springtime virtual Legislative Training Seminar and advocacy event. In part, we would use the advocacy event to introduce ourselves to new members of Congress.