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NAPS’ Legislative Efforts Never Stop
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
One of the signature lines regarding completing an official task uttered by fictional White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on “The West Wing” was, “What’s next?” Fictional President Josiah Bartlett explained that the phrase means it’s time to move on to other things rather than bask in the glory of success or grumble in the shadow of disappointment.
Nevertheless, I will state for the record that the triumph of the 2022 NAPS Legislative Training Seminar (LTS) was a momentous tribute to the efforts of its nearly 400 participants who engaged with their representatives and senators. This dovetailed nicely with the subsequent signing into law of the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022, now Public Law 117-108.
There are two equal and critical takeaways from LTS. Attendees must inspire all NAPS-represented postal employees to political action and they must empower EAS personnel to battle in support of meaningful and constructive legislation. Almost 45,000 postal employees—postal supervisors, managers and postmasters—are a strong, formidable force in securing a stable and productive future for the Postal Service, its employees and retirees.
NAPS branches and state associations are fertile grounds to cultivate and nurture breakthrough EAS activism. Therefore, now, with the COVID-19 pandemic receding, we need to encourage EAS postal employees to reacquaint themselves with NAPS’ prowess in navigating the legislative, political, regulatory, representational and legal means to fight for its members. Moving forward, of paramount importance to postal supervisors, managers and postmasters is how the Postal Service treats the mailing public and its employees.
A highly touted, recently dusted off 2020 Pew Research Center poll reported that 91% of Americans had a favorable view of the Postal Service. For the most part, postal favorability has been predicated on service. Effective, reliable and prompt mail and package delivery to rural and postal-reliant America has sustained the country’s love affair with the agency and its employees.
As NAPS members know full well, over the recent past, postal higher-ups have attempted to recalibrate America’s expectations about the Postal Service in order to insulate the agency from criticism about new postal tardiness. In fact, a recent Gallup poll reported this past fall found that postal favorability tumbled 17% since its previous poll in 2020.
Gallup suggested the reason for the steep decline was the increase in the number of days for mailed matter to reach intended recipients. Compounding the problem was an apparent misrepresentation the Postal Service made to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) regarding enhanced “reliability” resulting from the transition to a slower mode of mail movement; that is, transporting First-Class Mail by ground instead of air.
When the Postal Service requested a PRC advisory opinion, it stipulated that 95% of mail matter would reach its destination under the proposed slowed-down standard. At the time, the PRC cautioned that the agency was assuming factors not demonstrated and prospective cost savings, if any, would be minimal. Most prophetic, however, the PRC opined that the Postal Service could not demonstrate it was capable of uniting the proposed ground transportation modality with its new performance standards and the ambiguity of when the Postal Service would be able to meet its revised standards.
So, it was no surprise that the Postal Service, in a recent PRC filing, “clarified” its previous representation by indicating the new performance standards likely would be met “over several years.” This type of declaration does not instill confidence or respect in the mailing public.
Permit me to write from personal experience. I sent tracked mail that previously would have traveled from northern Virginia directly to Cleveland, possibly using a Pittsburgh postal facility as a site to switch mail trucks. Instead of making this two-day, 370-mile trip, my mail was trucked through Indianapolis, resulting in a four-day, 900-mile excursion. The White House, Congress and the PRC must take a hard look at postal performance, with the goal of restoring America’s confidence in our postal system, thereby curtailing diversion of mail to speedier and potentially more reliable postal competitors.
The stunning NAPS victory at the federal courthouse validated our claims that the Postal Service violated the law in consultations with NAPS over EAS pay, benefits and representation. The right of NAPS to represent virtually all EAS-level postal employees now is settled law. The Court of Appeals has directed the federal district court to decide the magnitude of the pay differential, pay comparability amount and back-pay to which EAS level employees are entitled.
Much of this caustic litigation would have been unnecessary had legislation been enacted to ensure EAS employees had access to a fair and equitable consultative process. The primary reason for NAPS’ lawsuit was the Postal Service’s recurring failure to fairly and constructively consult with NAPS.
Pending legislation—H.R. 1623 and 3077—includes provisions, if they had been in place, that would have rendered NAPS’ successful legal action against the USPS unnecessary. Therefore, NAPS will redouble its efforts to push passage of legislation to make the recommendations and findings of a properly constituted, expert fact-finding panel binding on the Postal Service. In this way, the agency will be encouraged to treat its EAS employees with the dignity and respect to which they are entitled in the context of the consultative process.
How do we accomplish these goals? We must leverage the power of the approximately 45,000 EAS postal employees to promote NAPS’ legislative and political priorities. We must strengthen our branch and state networking to equip EAS employees with the essential tools for advocacy. And we must manage the information we share with each other and policymakers to ensure they have the data necessary to make responsible decisions on our behalf.