Anibal Guadalupe
First Vice President, Treasurer
Outlook July / August 2019

Our Legislative Work is Never Over

On May 15 through May 17 of this year, the New York State Association of Letter Carriers sent a legislative delegation to Washington, DC to lobby their respective representatives in Congress for their support on postal issues. The good news is that the Congressional Representatives in New York State passed five House Resolutions that are key in keeping the Postal Service a viable entity.

HR 2382 would eliminate the prefunding mandate of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. At a cost of approximately $5.4 billion annually since 2007, it accounts for 92% of the Postal Service’s reported losses for the last 12 years and 100% over the last six years. If not for this mandate the USPS would have had a surplus of nearly $4 billion since 2013. It should be noted that Congressman Chris Collins of Congressional District 27, who has never signed a bill supported by the NALC, is a cosponsor of this bill, and because he cosponsored it, it passed unanimously amongst the New York Congressional Districts. Personally, I credit the NALC and the Congressional District Liaisons in District 27 for that seemingly impossible achievement.

HR 23 that addresses door-to-door delivery and HR 33 which opposes the privatization of the USPS also passed with 26 out of 27 cosponsors. They would have passed unanimously in New York but, you guessed it, Chris Collins did not cosponsor them.

HR 54 would maintain the six-day delivery and passed 25 out of 27 with Ocasio-Cortez and Collins not on board as of yet. HR 60 that would restore service standards was also passed in New York with 24 out of 27 cosponsors. Elise Stefanik from Congressional District 21, Yvette Clark from District 9 and again Chris Collins have not cosponsored the bill.

Congressional District 21 covers the northern part of the state and District 27 is just east of Buffalo so it would not be reasonable to expect letter carriers from Branch 36 to call those offices and ask them to cosponsor bills that are supported by the NALC. However, District 9 is entirely in Brooklyn and I’m certain that there are more than a handful of Branch 36 members who are represented by Congresswoman Yvette Clark. I urge everyone who lives in her District to call her office (718.287.1142) and ask for her support on HR 60.

I will never ask a member to do something that I was not willing to do so as soon as I finish writing this article I will be giving my Representative, Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AKA AOC, a phone call and ask for her support on HR 54; and while I have her or someone from her office on the line, there’s a lamppost on my block that needs fixing, lol. By going to Washington to lobby I’ve learned that our Representatives love contact with their constituents, be it in person or by phone.

I have stated in previous articles how important it is for letter carriers to be politically active because there is a constant attack on our livelihoods in D.C. You can start by logging on to the website and learning about how decisions made on Capitol Hill affect the postal service and what you can do to make a difference. You can also find the telephone number of your Representative and information on how to contribute to the Letter Carrier Political Fund (LCPF). I don’t think that $1 a pay period is too much to ask for, considering that all the money collected is used to keep our friends in Washington in office, and to get new friends elected.

So until next time, enjoy the rest of the summer and keep yourselves informed on political issues that can affect the USPS

Outlook May / June 2019

Complacency: What’s at Stake

In my previous article I gave an overview of how the Postal Service and politics are intertwined and how the NALC has been engaged in what has been a never ending struggle to fend off those who would do us harm; the harm being an attack on our wages and benefits as well as our current right to bargain in good faith for the very same. It should be no surprise to anyone that the current administration likes to “stack the deck” and is not grounded in reality for the most part. Therefore, it makes sense that when he signed Executive Order 13829, creating the Task Force on the United States Postal Service, Trump would appoint Steven T. Mnuchin who is currently the Secretary of the Treasury and also one of his yes-men, as its chairman. The Task Force is supposed to look at the state of the Postal Service and give its recommendations to the president. Given the track record of Trump’s cabinet I expect the report to endorse his agenda to privatize the most popular government agency in the country, the USPS.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Mnuchin. Mnuchin knows how to make money alright. What’s concerning is how he does it. It appears to me that he’s been amassing wealth at the expense of those who can least afford to lose what little they have. Before the financial crisis of 2008, Mnuchin spent two decades at Goldman Sachs where he headed the mortgage department.

While there he implemented the same kind of products that led to the crash in the housing market. In 2009 he put together a group of wealthy investors and bought a failing mortgage lender, IndyMac. Mnuchin then sold the bank, which became OneWest, for more than twice the purchase price. A large part of that profit was attributed to the foreclosures of over 36,000 homes.

On October 15, 2018, Sears, founded in 1893 and previously the nation’s leading retail store, filed for bankruptcy. On April 17, 2019, Sears Holding Corp. filed a lawsuit against its former chairman, Eddie Lambert, as well as former board members including Steven Mnuchin. The lawsuit in part accuses Lambert in concert with other defendants of transferring billions of dollars of the Company’s (Sears) assets to himself and shareholders. It also accuses Lambert of siphoning the largest share of the value of those assets to himself and ESL a hedge fund he controls. Mnuchin is an investor in ESL and its former vice chairman.

After Sears declared bankruptcy the responsibility of administering the pensions of over 90,000 workers to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The PBGC is a government agency that oversees the pensions of workers whose employer has gone out-of-business. It was created by an Act of Congress the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in 1974. In a letter sent to Mnuchin on May 23, 2019, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) both expressed their concern about the fact that as Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin is one of three on the Board of Governors of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

By now you might be getting an idea of the person Trump put in charge of the Task Force on USPS and what his recommendations for the future of the Postal Service may look like.

I must admit I have no idea how Mnuchin can make money through the privatization of the Postal Service, however, as I mentioned earlier there is no doubt in my mind that he will dance to Trump’s tune in his report. The good news is that we have many friends in Congress and the Senate to stave off any attempt to dismantle the most trusted government agency in the United States, the USPS. You have the ability to ensure that we keep those friends in office and help new friends get elected.

You can start by calling your Congressional Representative and ask if she or he is a cosponsor of House Resolutions:
• HR23 Door to door delivery;
• HR33 Anti-privatization;
• HR54 Six-day Delivery;
• HR60 Service Standards;
• HR2382 Repeal Mandate to prefund health benefit plan for future retirees.

You can also keep up to date with political issues that can affect you by downloading the NALC app. The website covers contractual issues.

And I urge each and every one of you to donate as little as $1 to the Letter Carrier Political Fund through an automatic deduction from your paychecks. You can find out how to do this in the website as well.

As a reminder here are some of the things that are currently in the White House FY 2019 Budget Proposal:
• Raise the amount you have to contribute to FERS;
• Go from the current High-3 to High-5 thus reducing pension benefits;
• Eliminate COLAs for current and retired employees;
• Eliminate the Social Security supplement for FERS employees that retire before the age of 62 (potentially $13,200 per year until you reach 62).

Until next time, have a great summer!

Outlook March / April 2019
How We Got Here
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this article, I think it’s important to give you a brief history on what is now known as the United States Postal Service. The Postal Service has been controlled by the government since its inception in 1775. That’s not a typo. This country had a postal system before there was an official country.

In the early years all the positions in the post office, from the postmasters down to the letter carriers, were appointed by politicians. Those who were fortunate enough to get hired were expected to campaign on their behalf. Job security was directly connected to your political affiliation. It was legal to replace employees that were not in the same party as the current elected officials. There would be little change in the system until 1883 when Congress passed the Pendleton Act. This was the first civil service law.

Among other things, the law provided that letter carriers had to take a competitive test. From then on, the letter carrier position did not depend on what party you belonged to, nor could you be legally fired for political reasons. Although this was a step in the right direction there was still much more that needed to change.

Now that politicians could not rely on carriers to campaign for them Congress began to care less and less for their welfare. This in turn had an unanticipated outcome. Carriers realized that since they could not count on help from Congress, they had to look out for each other and began to get organized around the country. A New York letter carrier association was founded in 1863; another was founded in Chicago in 1870. These associations realized how important it was to have friends in Congress that could address issues that could not otherwise be resolved.

The eight-hour work day, vacation time and regular pay for carriers did not exist. In fact, how much vacation time a carrier would get and how much he or she made depended on the size of the city they worked in. Although Congress passed an eight-hour law in 1868 for federal workers, the Post Office Department refused to comply. It wasn’t until 1888 that along with lobbying and the help of Samuel “Sunset” Cox, a Congressman from New York, a bill was passed creating the eight-hour work day for letter carriers. Seeing what could be accomplished by working together for better working conditions, letter carriers decided to organize a union. On August 29, 1889 in a meeting hall above Schaefer’s Saloon in Milwaukee, the NALC was born. The next day the NALC’s first president was elected and an Executive Board was appointed to coordinate legislative efforts.

In the following years a series of executive actions prohibiting postal employees from visiting Washington DC to influence legislation were issued. Apparently, the government saw the potential of carriers to succeed in their efforts to lobby for better working conditions and tried to suppress them. In the 1900’s, several gag orders were ordered forbidding carriers from lobbying Congress for wage increases, permitting the dismissal of employees without notice and banning carriers from discussing their working conditions in public. Through all this the NALC continued with their political efforts wherever and whenever possible.

The Post Office Department and Congress treated postal employees different than other federal workers. This changed in 1912 when the Lloyd-Lafollette Act was enacted rescinding the gag orders. The Act also gave postal workers the right to organize and join labor organizations but not to strike. The same year Congress passed two other bills that were equally important. The Reilly Eight-In-Ten-Hour Act specified that postal employees could not be required to spread their eight-hour shift over a period of more than 10 consecutive hours. The Mann Sunday Closing mandated the closing of post offices on Sunday.

There were many roadblocks and successes along the way, but I will fast forward to 1962. By Executive Order 10988, President John F. Kennedy established a formal labor relations program in the federal government. The struggles of the letter carriers were paying off. Later that year, the NALC gained the right to represent all letter carriers in grievance discussions and negotiate a contract, but those negotiations would exclude wages, hours and fringe benefits. Worst yet was the fact that although the Post Office Department had to negotiate with the NALC, there was no way to enforce the agreement. Management could disregard parts of the agreement simply by claiming an emergency.

Although there had been several modest wage increases through the years, by the mid-1960s the wages of letter carriers still lagged well behind workers in the private sector. In fact in some states, carrier wages were so low that they were eligible to receive food stamps and Medicaid. On June 20, 1969, with their patience wearing thin, over 2000 frustrated carriers protested in front of GPO in Manhattan with another 400 postal workers protesting in front of Grand Central Station. On July 1, 1969 almost all the carriers and clerks of Kingsbridge Station called in sick. They were all suspended. The next day 16 out of 36 carriers in Throggs Neck Station called in sick. They too were suspended. The stage was set for what was to follow.

In August of that year, the NALC National President James Rademacher promised the letter carriers in New York that if Congress did not approve a decent raise, he would call for a strike. He hoped that the threat alone would be sufficient to get Congress to act. At the same time, Rademacher was concerned that if a general strike were called only a few would go out. So in December, he met secretly with President Nixon at the White House who agreed to support a 5.4 percent increase effective January 1, 1970. Rademacher also agreed with the creation of a “postal authority” which would bargain with the postal unions over wages, hours, working conditions and binding arbitration. When this became public, the leaders of other postal unions and Congress were outraged for being left out of the negotiations

In the January 1970 Membership Meeting, everyone was furious and rejected the compromise made by Nixon and Rademacher. At the Branch 36 Membership Meeting on March 12, 1970, carriers vehemently raised their voices in favor of a strike instead of accepting the offer. The meeting got out of hand and the leadership agreed to arrange a vote and meet again the following week. At the time Branch 36 was the largest branch in the nation with 7200 members in the Bronx and Manhattan. On March 17, 1970 the vote to strike passed by a margin of 3 to 2 of the members who attended the meeting.

The following day almost every carrier in the Bronx and Manhattan picketed outside post offices along with over 25,000 postal clerks and drivers. Later that morning, carriers and postal workers in Brooklyn, Long Island, northern New Jersey and Connecticut joined the strike. In the following days branches in Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Denver and Chicago also walked out. By March 23rd, there were over 200,000 strikers across the country.

The strike ended on March 25th, but the message sent was loud and clear. Letter carriers were not going to stand by idly accepting empty promises. When the dust had settled, the old post office was now the U.S. Postal Service, there was a wage increase of 14 percent, collective bargaining now included wages, hours and working conditions and arbitration decisions were final and binding. Those brave men and women faced getting fired and imprisonment, but it was worth taking the risk if it meant real changes and a better living for them and their families.
What hasn’t changed is the fact that although there is a Board of Governors and a Postmaster General, the Postal Service is controlled by Congress. Unless we are vigilant and keep politically active, we can lose everything that has been gained since 1970 by the stroke of a pen. And now that you know the struggle it took to get to where we are today, I am asking each and every one of you to contribute a minimum of $1 per pay period through automatic deduction to the NALC Political Fund (LCPF). For less than the price of a cup of coffee every two weeks, your contribution will go a long way to ensure that Congressmen and Congresswomen want to keep the Postal Service viable and help it grow in today’s marketplace, stay in office or get elected.

Here are some of the things that are currently in the White House FY 2019 Budget Proposal:
• Raise the amount you have to contribute to FERS;
• Go from the current High-3 to High-5 thus reducing pension benefits;
• Eliminate COLAs for current and retired employees;
• Eliminate the Social Security supplement for FERS employees that retire before the age of 62 (potentially $13,200 per year until you reach 62.

These are some of the things that are at risk. To me $1 doesn’t seem too much to ask for. If you’re not on automatic deduction, please sign up. If you’re retired, you can make contributions through OPM straight from your annuity. If your allotment maxed-out, you can have the deductions come from your checking account. This is too important to stand by and do nothing.

I want to thank the members of Vincent R. Sombrotto Branch 36 for having elected me as your 1st Vice President. I pledge to do my very best to be worthy of your confidence and trust. I especially thank our President, Charles P. Heege, for having chosen me to be on his slate. My goal is to work harder today than I did yesterday, but not as hard as tomorrow, to better the lives of the carriers of the Vincent. R. Sombrotto Branch 36.
P.S. The next time you see a carrier who took part in the strike of 1970, shake her/his hand and thank them for their sacrifices.

P.S.S. Never before or since 1970 has there been a successful strike against the federal government.

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