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Harnessing the Power of NAPS Delegates to Effect Change for All EAS Employees
By Karen Young, editor
Photos by Dave Scavone
More than 500 delegates made the annual trek to Washington, DC, in early March for the NAPS Legislative Training Seminar. Executive Vice President Ivan D. Butts told delegates Monday morning, March 9, they were there at an important time in NAPS history. “We hear the calls and voices across the country talking about legislation that addresses our needs and focuses on the things we’re lacking and seem to be out of reach when we sit down with USPS leadership,” he offered.
“We took that to heart and as a challenge. And we have met that challenge with the issues we’re taking to the Hill and addressing going forward. It’s not just about LTS; it’s setting an agenda for the year—the same agenda you will push when you see lawmakers in your home districts. We will keep driving our issues—the things we have said we need as managers to deliver America’s mail day in and day out!”
Butts credited NAPS members with helping get over 290 cosponsors for H.R. 2382, legislation to repeal the Postal Service’s pre-funding mandate, so the bill could be expedited and bypass the committee of jurisdiction and be placed on the Consensus Calendar. “In November, we put out a call to everyone; we were 16 votes short of 290,” he said. “Your initiative and action to help get well over 300 cosponsors were effective and a result of our engagement with our legislative leaders at home and here in DC. It’s impactful and motivating to have lawmakers’ ears tuned to our needs.
“And we’re going to continue to harness that power to benefit all EAS employees—not just supervisors. That’s who we are. We’re the ones who drive this agency to its successes because we ensure our employees deliver America’s mail every day.”
Butts said LTS is where NAPS does its grassroots advocacy and informs its legislative activists about the issues and talking points regarding legislation NAPS supports. He urged members to support the Supervisors’ Political Action Committee (SPAC), explaining it’s how NAPS provides funds to attend events in DC and identify legislators who support NAPS’ issues and support the Postal Service.
In the 2018 midterm elections, NAPS had an over 92% efficiency rating in getting candidates elected. “That’s a tremendous job of using our SPAC funds for the good of our members and the organization,” he explained. “We have consistently built our SPAC portfolio; LTS is one of our key events. Our Auxiliary is in the lobby right now working for SPAC.”
He introduced National Auxiliary President Patricia Jackson-Kelley, who brought greetings from the Auxiliary. “We’re very proud of our success over the years,” she said.
Jackson-Kelley asked NAPS members to support their auxiliary members and help pay for them to attend events such as LTS. “Do what you can to support us,” she implored. “We start early in the morning and we’re here late in the evening doing what you cannot do when you’re in session. We firmly believe in SPAC. The actions of our congressional constituents affect all of us. We live in trying times.”
Butts again expressed his thanks to the Auxiliary. “They do a tremendous job on the national level supporting our national events,” he said. “I encourage you to have a strong auxiliary to support your strong branch.”
Director of Legislative & Political Affairs Bob Levi proceeded to prepare NAPS delegates for their meetings on Capitol Hill. He referred to the Postal Service’s wildcat strike 50 years ago when USPS employees put their livelihoods on the line and demanded fair wages.
“Nobody is asking you to do what your predecessors did then,” he said. “We are asking you to fight for benefits, equitable pay and an equitable process on Capitol Hill—to exercise your constitutional right to petition Congress for redress of grievances.”
Levi told attendees he wanted to focus on the nuts and bolts of legislation NAPS members would carry to the Hill the next two days. “Be the expert on postal issues for members of Congress and their staffs,” he declared. “We want them to come to you if they have questions about the Postal Service.”
He encouraged everyone to educate their branches and share the information with members at home. “LTS does not end Wednesday morning; this is a yearlong process,” he explained. “We hope you will take information we share here back home to your branches, your states and all EAS-level employees so you can educate them.”
He highlighted the elements in President Trump’s FY21 budget that target postal and federal retirements: increasing FERS contributions six-fold for pre-2013 hires, eliminating COLAs for current and future FERS retirees, reducing COLAs for current and future CSRS retirees, eliminating the FERS supplemental annuity for those who retire but are not yet eligible for Social Security, cutting future annuities by changing the formula from high-five years to high-three and slashing the Thrift Savings Plan’s G Fund—the most stable of the TSP funds—to less than 1%.
“In total, the 10-year savings from these proposals would come out of your paychecks and retirements to the tune of $179.5 billion,” he pronounced. “This is unfair! We’ve already suffered significant cuts in the past. We no longer can be seen as the low-hanging fruit in budget-cut strategies.”
On March 4, Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Mike Bost (R-IL) introduced H.R. 6085, the “Postal Supervisors and Managers Fairness Act of 2020.” The goal of the legislation is to create a fairer process by which NAPS can negotiate and deliberate over pay and benefits in the future.
Levi pointed out the legislation does not affect NAPS’ pending lawsuit against the USPS. The bill is prospective; it looks to the future. “We don’t want to go through the same exercise in futility,” he said.
The bill requires two things: a timely start to the consultation process between NAPS and the Postal Service—60 days before the lapse of the existing pay decision. Also, finality to the decisions and recommendations of a fact-finding panel appointed by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in the event of an impasse between NAPS and the Postal Service. If the fact-finding panel does its due diligence, its recommendations would be binding on the parties.
“This is your bill!” he exclaimed. “This is for you. Own it; sell it. And get cosponsors for it. It is a bipartisan bill; we want cosponsors. I don’t want to understate it: getting cosponsors for H.R. 6085 is our prime objective.”
H.R. 597, also sponsored by Connolly, would extend Merit Systems Protection Board appeal rights to all EAS employees. “It’s all about fairness,” Levi stressed.
At the end of 2019, legislation was passed that provides paid parental leave for the birth, adoption and fostering of a child. The USPS was excluded from this benefit of paid parental leave.
“We need legal protections,” Levi added. “Why are you being unfair to postal employees? Repeal the GPO and the WEP. All we are asking for is fairness in the federal budget and for our consultative rights, appeal rights, parental rights and retirement.”
Besides these issues of fairness, there also are postal issues. “We have members of Congress concerned about the USPS,” Levi said. “You need to educate members about the USPS financial crisis. A lot of members of Congress may not be as familiar as you are with the Postal Service and its impact on their constituents.”
Levi discussed H.R. 2382, the “USPS Fairness Act.” The bill, which passed the House on Feb. 5, repeals the requirement that the USPS prefund future retiree health benefits. It makes the agency more financially solvent on the books, but it doesn’t affect cash flow. “H.R. 2382 is directly attributable to your work,” he affirmed. “The bill was 16 votes shy of reaching the Consent Calendar. You delivered those 16 extra cosponsors, enabling the bill to be expeditiously considered on the House floor.”
He urged delegates to tell Congress the Postal Service needs help. The agency is unable to modernize its fleet and cannot adequately invest in breakthrough technology. Postal innovation is hampered. Also, the rate-setting process is inadequate; retail hours have been cut. Mail volume is shrinking, but delivery points are expanding.
“This is not a formula for long-term viability,” Levi said. “We need Congress to help us address these issues.”
NAPS President Brian Wagner introduced Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman, who commended NAPS’ leadership team. “They fight hard for you,” he told NAPS delegates. “We appreciate the leadership of NAPS and the work everybody in NAPS does. I know you are the backbone of this organization and I want to extend my deep appreciation for everything you do.”
Stroman talked about the unprecedented change facing the Postal Service. The Postal Service Board of Governors has three new members; there now is a quorum. “They’re talking and trying to reach consensus on a path forward for the USPS,” he said. “We’ve been having monthly meetings to lay out what is happening and what should happen. It’s an ongoing process.”
The search is underway for a new postmaster general. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is the new chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, while ranking member Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the leading Republican supporter of postal reform, is leaving to become the White House chief of staff.
“What a difference a year makes!” Stroman exclaimed. “It’s setting up to be a major challenge for us. There is a renewed sense of urgency to get postal reform because we are close to running out of cash. By 2023, 2024, we will have exhausted our cash flow. That alone keeps me up at night and keeps me pressing.”
There is increasing competition in the package business. In the face of declining cash, declining First-Class Mail and increased competition, the challenge is what to do in the absence of reform.
“What steps do you take to consolidate and save money to continue the operations?” he posed. “Do you consolidate mail processing facilities, reduce hours at post offices? Do you hire more non-career employees? Do you default on pension payments? These are some of the things we’re looking at and trying to figure out as we push for reform and how to keep the ship afloat.”
Stroman said he feels heartened that the Postal Service is building on a foundation of trust; it’s among the most trusted entities in the U.S.—public or private. “We certainly are the most trusted government entity,” he stressed. “Everywhere I go, people talk about the value of the Postal Service and how essential it remains to their lives and into the future.”
Despite this, the agency has to change and make adjustments; the business model is broken. The universal service obligation requires the Postal Service to go to every town, every city and every state six days a week; delivery points are expanding. “There is an urgent need for us to fix the business model,” he said.
Stroman said that despite passage of H.R. 2382 in the House, the bill will have no impact on the Postal Service’s cash position. The balance sheet will look better, but it won’t put more money in the agency’s pocket.
“What do you do?” he asked. “We have to get up off the stool. I look around this room and say you can’t stop now. We have to move forward. It’s too important to this country and it’s too important to you personally. Your best interest is in getting postal reform done. I know you and your leaders care.
“I won’t tell you in the middle of an election year, with no major reform bill introduced, that we will get a bill this year. What can happen and why your presence here is important is that it is essential we lay the groundwork, even if we don’t get a bill out of this Congress. We have to lay the groundwork right here, right now. In order to move something next Congress, you have to lay the groundwork today and plow those fields today in order to be ready to move next year.”
Stroman said postal reform is the right thing for our country. And it’s important for NAPS members to reiterate how important it is. It’s important for Congress to understand. “People are making decisions today about the future of the Postal Service,” he declared. “If reform is not there, other decisions have to be made. We have to honest about where we are.
“I’m asking you to realize this is critical for our future; your presence is critical for our future. I will continue to come and talk to you as long as I’m able. Your voice is too critical.”
Stroman told NAPS delegates the focus should be in the House. “You can make your voices known to people in the House and say it’s important they get something introduced that resolves the fundamental financial challenges facing the Postal Service in a pretty short period of time,” he told delegates.
“Despite my urgency, I am optimistic that we will get it done because the USPS is so critical to members of Congress in cities, rural America—all
across this country. I’m optimistic the administration sees it; we have to help them. I’m optimistic about the future. You have to start today and dedicate yourself every day and work on this issue. Together, we have a bright future.”
President Brian Wagner addressed NAPS delegates. “You know the Oscars—‘the best of’ awards,” he said. “Today, we have a twist. We’re going to be announcing nominees for the best membership video. Let’s see our first nominee—our only nominee: our new NAPS membership video!”
After viewing the video, Wagner said he knew the NAPS membership video would be a blockbuster and a winner. “Thanks to those who help make NAPS a great success—including those involved in our NAPS video,” he declared. “And thanks to all of you—our delegates. Thanks for your time and commitment to represent your branches on Capitol Hill.”
Wagner talked about legislation. “Maybe this year we will be lucky enough to get our NAPS legislative agenda passed,” he mused. “Will it be luck?”
He explained that luck is defined as a force that brings good fortune: to prosper or succeed. “My favorite definition of luck is not in the dictionary,” he said. “According to Roman philosopher Seneca, ‘Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.’ I prefer this definition from contemporary inspirational speaker Croix Sather: ‘Luck is when opportunity meets preparation plus action.’”
Wagner told delegates they made the choice to be at LTS and be involved in NAPS’ legislative process. “You’re not here by luck or chance,” he said. “You made a conscious decision to take action that may change our lives and, more importantly, change the destiny of NAPS is a positive way.
“This year, you may be the person who makes the right contact with the right lawmaker at the right time to drive success. Drive leaders to cosponsor our new bill, H.R. 6085, and encourage fellow legislators to do the same. When it comes time for a vote, they will vote yes and pass our legislative agenda.”
Wagner affirmed that NAPS has been preparing for years to pass legislation that will benefit the organization and its members. He referred to this year’s Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs, who never gave up, saw opportunities to build their team, prepared and took action to execute the right plays at the right time to win.
“LTS is our legislative super bowl,” he said. “You will prepare today. You will hear from our legislative team, talk with your fellow delegates and
take action tomorrow during your visits to the Hill to take action on our legislative agenda. It will not be by luck that the agenda will be heard and, hopefully, passed.
“You took the opportunity to come to LTS to prepare and educate yourself and other delegates. Plus, you have taken the action to come this week to make our NAPS message heard on the Hill. When opportunity meets preparation plus action, it’s not luck—it’s destiny.
“Our NAPS destiny awaits you on the Hill. This year, I’m going to reach 60. I have announced my retirement as your national president. This will be my last LTS as your national president. I wish your destiny in life is filled with joy, happiness, success and plenty of ice cream!”
For more about the 2020 Legislative Training Seminar (LTS), click on the links below: