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In the second interview with the NAPS resident officers, Executive Vice President Ivan D. Butts talks about his efforts to raise awareness and support for voting by mail, the importance of the Postal Service to America and his commitment to NAPS and its members.
Interview by Karen Young, NAPS editor.
You were elected executive vice president in 2014 at the national convention in San Diego. What compelled you to run for this office?
In 2014, I was serving as Eastern Region vice president. Being a member of the NAPS Executive Board since 2008, I envisioned how I could better serve the members of our association and what institutional changes I would like to see. Also, how my leadership could help the NAPS Executive Board better focus on what I believe is the mission of our association—that is, our members.
I felt that, as an executive board, we had made some tremendous steps toward being a more unified unit working on behalf of members since 2008. However, I felt there was more for us to do and that I could add value to the leadership of NAPS in this regard.
Did you ever think you would be involved in legislative efforts to the degree you have been? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of working in the legislative arena?
I must admit I had no idea what being involved with the legislative efforts would entail when I was blessed to be elected by our members to be their executive vice president. However, I knew I wanted to take the task head-on to the best of my ability.
I have been very fortunate to have excellent staff support over these years with Elliot Friedman, Katie Maddocks and, now, Bob Levi.
The staff, along with the support of the other two resident officers, has helped me continually grow and develop as the legislative voice of our association.
My favorite aspect of legislation would have to be meeting some of the legislative leaders who help craft the laws that govern our country. My least favorite are the early-morning fundraisers, specifically, having to fight DC traffic. Also, I’m not a big fan of breakfast food beyond bacon.
SPAC is an important part of NAPS’ legislative agenda. How would you respond to a member who says, “I keep contributing to SPAC, but we still don’t have postal reform legislation. Why should I bother?”
SPAC is the lifeblood of NAPS’ legislative efforts. We must have the ability to create opportunities for face time with legislative leaders here in Washington, DC, as well as in their home districts with the support of local NAPS. SPAC does just that.
The problem I see with postal reform is that—despite the USPS being consistently one of the most trusted government agencies year in and year out—and receiving very favorable ratings for support across political affiliations (92% Republican and 96% Democrat) and housing demographics (91% urban, 94% suburban and 94% rural)—support for the USPS still is very partisan, outside of renaming postal offices.
In the July issue of The Postal Supervisor, I asked: If most Americans support congressional action that will sustain the Postal Service, why aren’t those priorities on the agendas of more of our elected leaders? What does that require of us as postal stakeholders?
We must make sure that every voice of support in our own communities is heard by Congress. That can be done through our NAPS legislative grassroots efforts and our political action committee—SPAC.
In your June column for The Postal Supervisor, you talked about NAPS being involved in raising awareness for voting by mail. Can you tell us more about that effort?
Absolutely; thank you for the question. The COVID-19 pandemic—which still is making its way across our country, infecting nearly 3 million Americans, while causing over 130,000 deaths as of early July—has shown the importance of vote-by-mail (VBM). We need only look at what happened in the Wisconsin and Georgia primaries to see the dangers and inefficiencies in attempting to have in-person voting.
We have seen the positive results of VBM from the Iowa primaries. Iowans were encouraged to use VBM and the state reported record turnout for a June primary, with more than 500,000 ballots cast. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said the previous high for a primary was 449,490 in 1994.
So, what I have done in conjunction with passage of the third phase of the COVID-19 stimulus package, which included $400 million to assist states in offsetting the cost to implement VBM, was to draft a letter to each state official in charge of monitoring the electoral process at the state level to encourage them to take advantage of the funds being made available for VBM support. I also have sought the analytical data from the five states that have 100%VBM elections and have demonstrated consistency in increased voter participation, reduced voter fraud and reduced costs compared to running in-person elections.
Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, came from outside the agency. How do you begin to go about educating him regarding the important role EAS employees play in ensuring the mail is delivered?
The educational process for the 75th PMG should begin with understanding the history of the Postal Service from its enactment in the U.S. Constitution through our current postal reform and sustainability issues. There is a lot to grasp when looking at the needs of America’s Postal Service. And, most importantly, how the USPS arrived at its current financial crisis. I always have said you cannot know where you are going unless you know where you have been.
As for the role EAS employees play in the success of the USPS, this is best accomplished in our highlighting the hard work being done day in and day out by EAS employees all over our country. This, while against the greatest of odds as seen in the operational mandates from leadership that were termed by a USPS senior executive as “galactically stupid.”
You announced earlier this year your intention to run for NAPS president. What do you envision as the top three goals of a Butts administration?
The needs of our membership always should be our top priority. However, I want to specifically look to continue to move NAPS aggressively forward in our readiness for pay negotiations. The pay talks process that led to NAPS filing legal actions against the USPS was very helpful in preparing for future pay talks in an even more focused manner.
Second, as president, my timeliness in moving issues to the USPS executive leadership team (ELT) is critical for addressing NAPS issues. Removal of some layers of the ELT could be more beneficial to NAPS.
Third, I want to continue working to keep NAPS at the forefront of representing all EAS concerns. This means facing EAS challenges head-on to achieve the best resolution possible for the betterment of our association.
There have been rumblings regarding making changes to the Postal Service’s universal service obligation and even, possibly, privatizing the agency. Do you foresee these changes happening?What impact would it have on the Postal Service?
The employees of America’s Postal Service have faced threats of privatization at various levels since passage of the “Postal Reorganization Act of 1970.” The concern is that in no time since 1970 have those voices against America’s Postal Service been so closely affiliated with the USPS.
I think those of us who believe in the vital mission of America’s Postal Service took pause when we heard President Trump say to reporters and the country on April 26: “The Postal Service is a joke.” We all have had a courtside seat to the events over the past three years.
If we take that in respect to the recent appointment of the top fundraiser for the 2020 Republican National Convention, Louis DeJoy, as the 75th postmaster general, my level of concern for the future of the USPS has doubled. However, the worst indicator I have seen came 26 minutes after the President’s statement that “The Postal Service is a joke,” when he said, “I will never let the post office fail.”
I understand your question as to what would it mean to the Postal Service, however I would like to answer regarding what postal privatization would mean to America. We would see increased costs and decreased frequency in the delivery of mail.
We also would see critical pharmaceutical and essential supply deliveries impacted by non-delivery days. We will see rural America cut off from the mail chain as no private company will commit to deliver to every American household six days a week—now, seven days for packages. Crippling the $1.4 trillion mailing industry would be disastrous to the American economy and impact over 7 million mailing industry jobs.
What do you hope to accomplish in the coming year to continue making membership in NAPS a value to EAS employees?
This question poses the same difficulties for me as the earlier question regarding my top three goals for a Butts administration. I have always believed in letting my actions and deeds in support of our membership speak for my commitment to our great association and its value to EAS employees.
I pledge to always maintain the highest commitment to working to the greatest extent possible to support the growth of our association and support our membership.
Currently, that focus includes NAPS’ legislative efforts, our Disciplinary Defense Fund (DDF), Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Advisory Board and Postal Employees Relief Fund (PERF) board activities. Additionally, I always will react to every issue and concern brought to me by our members.