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NAPS Offers a Revised Roadmap for Riding the Legislative Highway
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
One of the oldest roads in the United States is U.S. Route 1. The 2,369-mile north-south interstate highway stretches from Fort Kent, ME, to Key West, FL. A portion of the thoroughfare still is known as the Boston Post Road, a colonial mail-delivery route connecting New York City and Boston.
Along the lengthy road are limitless entrances and exits, countless construction zones and immeasurable distractions. To drive from point A to a distant point B requires stamina, focus and determination. Unless the driver wants to get pulled over by a state trooper, it’s a good idea to observe speed limits. In addition, the driver should know when to enter and exit the highway and when a detour is required due to traffic.
It would seem U.S. 1 is a reasonable metaphor for navigating the legislative landscape in pursuit of postal restoration legislation. However, at times, it seems as if we are on a NASCAR track—no speed limits, no police, limited entrances and exits and serious crashes.
Later this month, NAPS will be conducting our much-anticipated, virtual 2021 Legislative Training Seminar. The pandemic has yielded a tremendous degree of uncertainty. However, Executive Vice President Ivan D. Butts and the NAPS Legislative Team will provide the roadmap, fuel and vehicle to help you travel along this year’s COVID-shrouded legislative highway.
First, President Joe Biden nominated three persons to fill vacancies on the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. They all bring specific and diverse postal experiences. Ron Stroman served as the immediate past deputy postmaster general and has Capitol Hill experience. Anton Hajjar served as general counsel to the American Postal Workers Union. And Amber McReynolds is chief executive officer for the National Vote at Home Institute.
Stroman and Hajjar are registered Democrats; McReynolds is not affiliated with a political party. The three were nominated amidst serious and protracted criticism of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for the decline in postal performance since he was hired in June 2020 by the current Board of Governors.
Stroman’s nomination is noteworthy for two reasons. He chaired President Biden’s postal transition team. And, of more interest, in an August 2020 interview with National Public Radio, Stroman stated the Board of Governors’ decision to hire DeJoy reflected a direction inconsistent with his own postal approach and philosophy. Stroman went on to say in the late-summer interview, if the new Postmaster General’s actions had the effect “to slow the mail …these are initiatives that should be halted.”
The three nominees were announced simultaneously with DeJoy’s testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on postal legislation, the Postal Service’s yet-to-be-shared “strategic plan” and the agency’s festering performance issues. (See NAPS’ submitted testimony here.)
The pending nominations could impact the trajectory of postal legislation currently being floated by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), as well as the Postal Service’s strategic plan. Before the Feb. 24 hearing, Maloney circulated a “discussion draft” of postal legislation. The bill seeks to address just three issues.
First, the bill would compel the Postal Service to develop performance standards that would be reviewed and adjudicated by the Postal Regulatory Commission.
Second, the measure would integrate Medicare with the earned retiree health benefits of current postal employees, once these employees become eligible for Medicare benefits. Under the discussion draft, current retirees could, at their option, enroll in Medicare during a limited time period.
And third, the draft legislation would repeal the current requirement that the Postal Service prefund future retiree health benefits. NAPS has been advised by Maloney that the discussion is merely a starting point for drafting a broader bill.
Our virtual LTS on April 18, combined with NAPS’ “lobbying from the living room,” will serve as valuable tactics to promoting postal restoration legislation in conjunction with our specific legislation priorities. NAPS is collaborating with House Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and other NAPS legislative champions to advance fairness for Executive and Administrative Schedule (EAS)-level postal employees.
By the time you read this column, we anticipate Connolly will have introduced legislation to provide fairness to the consultative and disciplinary processes for EAS employees. Legislation from the previous Congress to accelerate the timing of pay talks and ensure that fact-finding determinations are binding has been reintroduced. In addition, legislation to provide Merit Systems Protection Board appeal rights to the approximately 7,500 EAS-level postal employees currently denied such rights also has been resubmitted.
Another EAS protection being advanced is extending statutory “whistleblower” protection to these employees. Postal managers and supervisors do not have legal protections against retaliation by upper-management should they share information relating to fraud, abuse or operational issues with members of Congress or other appropriate authorities.
One of the most worrisome challenges confronting many postal employees is accessing COVID-19 vaccinations. Despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated postal employees as front-line, essential personnel, warranting a Phase 1B designation, many states and counties within the states have neglected to prioritize postal personnel.
The December decision to decentralize vaccine administration has led to a national patchwork approach to immunization against the coronavirus. For this reason, in February, NAPS initiated a three-week campaign to urge state governors to prioritize postal employees. NAPS members should have received an email with information about the campaign. In addition, information is on the NAPS website.
The 2021 roadmap for NAPS’ legislative activities provides tremendous opportunities to engage with our elected leaders—just not in the conventional ways. Following the confirmation process for the nominees to the Postal Board of Governors, being educated about current congressional action and advocating on behalf of NAPS’ legislative priorities require a higher degree of flexibility and resourcefulness than usual. This year’s LTS will provide NAPS members the resources to maximize their engagement in this challenging time.