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Post Call for the Postal Service
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
It was 50 years ago this spring that a once-in-a-generation athlete captivated the American public with speed, resilience and crowd appeal. Those who witnessed or viewed tapes of this extraordinary competitor’s gallop to excellence remain enthralled. I speak of none other than the celebrated, Triple-Crown-winning racehorse Secretariat.
He won the third jewel of the Triple Crown in June 1973. In fact, in 1999, the Postal Service issued a 33-cent stamp commemorating Secretariat’s distinction as part of its “Celebrate the Century” 1970s stamp sheet.
Speed, resilience and public affirmation are attributes that must characterize the Postal Service. The “Delivering for America” plan, the Postal Service’s strategic initiative to right the postal ship, has completed its second year toward implementation.
For the most part, Congress did its part in year two by enacting legislation to relieve the agency of approximately $48 billion in liabilities and provide $3 billion to modernize the Postal Service’s delivery fleet. Postal management now is in the driver’s seat, but not without a necessary and consequential backseat driver.
As the agency’s strategic plan moves forward, Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) will serve as valuable and essential monitors to ensure that America’s most-trusted agency does not falter, but, instead, meets the expectations of the American public and the agency’s many stakeholders. As this issue went to press, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce, chaired by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), alerted NAPS that a hearing was planned for mid-May, at which time Postmaster General Louis DeJoy would share an update of Postal Service operations and finances.
Clearly, this report to Congress will include the status of the “Delivering for America” plan. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) also has communicated with the Postal Service, in addition to postal stakeholders, about the rollout of the strategic plan.
Most notably, the PRC recently commenced a formal public inquiry (Docket PI2023-4) to gather data and comments relating to those aspects of the “Delivering for America” plan that may have a substantial impact on the postal community, including those served by the agency. It appears the PRC is most interested in USPS plans to create sorting and delivery centers by consolidating existing delivery units.
At a September 2022 House of Representatives hearing, NAPS President Ivan D. Butts raised a cautionary concern regarding the lack of transparency and community engagement in developing the Sorting & Delivering Center (S&DC) initiative. It appears the PRC was listening.
In its Notice and Order that announced the public inquiry, the PRC wrote: “… [T]he commission notes that stakeholders have expressed concerns regarding the lack of a forum to explore the impacts of these proposed changes.” The PRC “finds it beneficial to the interest of transparency to provide a forum to learn more about these strategic plan initiatives that may have a significant impact on the postal community.” In its Notice and Order, the PRC did not provide a timeline for its inquiry.
Interestingly, in early May, the Postal Service vehemently protested the audacity of the PRC seeking to lift the veil of secrecy obscuring the postal plan from public view. In the USPS filing, the agency’s attorneys allege the PRC lacks the authority to open such a public inquiry and urged the commission to withdraw it. If the PRC rebuffs the USPS’ entreaty or fails to modify it to accommodate the agency, the USPS could go to court to keep the analysis underlying the plan under wraps.
An additional PRC matter recently came to light. In late April, as part of the agency’s “2022 Annual Compliance Review of the USPS,” PRC Chairman Michael Kubayanda posed on-the-record questions about the method used to evaluate the results of the 2022 Postal Pulse survey. The survey, in part, is intended to assess USPS employee engagement.
The disclosed data clearly indicates the USPS is seriously deficient in employee engagement. This compounds the agency’s operational challenges in light of the most recent Gallup and Pew Research Center polls that demonstrate significant declines in the USPS’ public approval. The public approval data was shared in my May 2022 column.
The bills NAPS promoted at the 2023 Legislative Training Seminar (LTS) are gathering bipartisan congressional support. We are in the midst of a campaign to secure co-sponsors. So, please respond and follow the directions to follow through on the NAPS “Call to Action” sent last month for H.R. 594, the Postal Supervisors and Managers Fairness Act of 2023. Co-sponsors can be viewed on the NAPS website under the “NAPS-Supported Legislation” tab.
Other calls to action will be emailed periodically. It is our goal, through these communications, to generate strong support for other NAPS legislative priorities, including H.R. 595, the Postal Employees Appeal Rights Amendment Act, and H.R. 82 and S. 597, legislation to repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision.
One particular NAPS legislative priority is reflected in a bill introduced after LTS. On April 28, Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) introduced the Postal Police Reform Act. He was joined by Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ken Calvert (R-CA) and William Pascrell (D-NJ). This legislation would restore the legitimate law enforcement authority formerly embraced by the uniformed members of the Postal Inspection Service, an authority the Postal Service unwisely revoked in fall 2020.
NAPS has collaborated with the Postal Police Officers Association in returning the officers’ ability to protect postal employees, postal assets and the mail beyond the perimeter of a postal facility. Crime data makes it clear the Postal Service’s misguided action in 2020 has jeopardized postal employee safety and undermined the sanctity of the U.S. mail.
Before I close my column, I want to pay tribute to a veteran member of the postal press who died in early May. I met Bill McAllister in the early 1980s when I was on the staff of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. Bill covered the postal beat for the Washington Post.
After leaving the Post in 1999, he served as the longtime Washington correspondent for Linn’s Stamp News. I was privileged to host Bill twice on NAPS Chat, where he provided wise insight on postal operations and postal politics. I will miss his astute observations and timely humor. May Bill rest in peace.