Tuesday, September 27, 2011

U.S. Postal Service workers plan local rally

September 27, 2011
U.S. Postal Service employees upset about being required to contribute to an retirees health benefits account they say is over-funded will rally today in Marietta.
The employees say that over-funding has led to financial problems for the postal service, that is leading to layoffs and post office closings.
The rally is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. in front of Congressman Bill Johnson's Marietta office.
Similar rallies will be held in all 435 congressional districts across the country today. Members of four of the U.S. Postal Service's unions will participate in the rallies, including the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union and National Rural Letter Carriers' Association.
"We're not looking for huge crowds - it's not a protest - we're just there to ask for the congressman's help," said John Dyce, president of the Ohio State Association of Letter Carriers.
John Harding, a letter carrier for the Marietta Post Office and president of branch 154 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said the account in question has been over-funded by almost $75 billion.
"Had we been refunded the money that's rightfully ours, we would've been profitable or broke even over the four years we've supposedly lost money," Harding said.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said Monday he will not be at his office during the rally today but he is well aware of the concerns.
"I've written a couple of letters to the postal service to not only express my concern about how some of their reorganization is going to affect rural post offices throughout eastern and southeastern Ohio, but asking that big question, 'How did we wind up with a pension program that is so over-funded and what do they plan to do to make that right with the postal service employees?,'" he said.
Dyce explained that the Postal Reorganization Act, passed by Congress in 2006, requires that the U.S. Postal Service pay into the future employees' retirement health benefits account.
"It's $5.5 billion due Sept. 30 of each year - that's a substantial amount of money," Dyce said. "When that was passed, the economy was in quite a different place and the postal service had no trouble making those payments (but) with the downturn (in the economy) the postal service has notified the government they will not be able to make that payment."
Dyce said the requirement "places a great burden on the (U.S.) Postal Service."
"They're pre-paying for employees that have not been born yet - 75 years out is what they're pre-funding," he said. "There's no other company in America that does such a thing and no other government agency that does such a thing."
Johnson called the act passed in 2006 a "burdensome provision."
"Requiring the postal service to continue to fully pre-fund the retirement account that is already fully funded at the expense of customer service does not make sense," he said. "That's one of the reasons I supported the Continuing Resolution last week that would delay the postal service from making another $5.5 billion payment into the fund by the end of the month."
House Bill 1351, the United States Postal Service's Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011, is meant to recover the money that has been overpaid and U.S. Postal Service employees are trying to get it pushed through Congress.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Massachusetts, on April 5.
"What we're going to be there on Tuesday for is to encourage Bill Johnson to co- sponsor and help pass H.R. 1351," Dyce said.
Johnson said he hasn't yet decided whether the bill is one that he wants to co-sponsor.
"We are taking a look at 1351 (and) I have not finished our analysis of that but we certainly want to do what's right by the people, so we're going to be taking a strong look at that," he said.
Other legislators have said they don't support stopping the payment in order to solve the postal service's financial woes.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California has proposed legislation that would eliminate Saturday delivery and close post offices instead.

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