December 2012

Sources on the Retiree Health Care Fund

GAO Report: "Transformation Challenges Present Significant Risks" (April 4, 2001)

GAO Report: "Moving Forward on Financial and Transformation Challenges" (May 13, 2002)

GAO Report: "Review of the Office of Personnel Management’s Analysis of the United States Postal Service’s Funding of Civil Service Retirement System Costs" (Jan. 30, 2003)

"Comments of the EMA Foundation Institute for Postal Studies" (Feb. 12, 2003)

CRS Report: "Funding Postal Service Obligations to the Civil Service Retirement System" (Feb. 25, 2003)

CRS Report: "Pension Issues Cloud Postal Reform Debate" (January 14, 2005)

USPS OIG Report: "Estimates of Postal Service Liability for Retiree Health Care Benefits" (July 22, 2009)

PRC Report: "Review of Retiree Health Benefit Fund Liability as Calculated by Office of Personnel Management and U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General" (July 30, 2009)

USPS OIG Report: "Summary of Substantial Overfunding in Postal Service Pension and Retiree Health Care Funds" (Sept. 30, 2010)

USPS OIG Report: "Substantial Savings Available by Prefunding Pensions and Retirees’ Health Care at Benchmarked Levels" (Nov. 23, 2010)

OPM OIG Report: "A Study of the Risks and Consequences of the USPS OIG's Proposals to Change USPS's Funding of Retiree Benefits" (Feb. 28, 2011)

Bruce Seamon, "A Brief History of Postal Service “Reforms 1970-2010" (Sept. 20, 2011)

David Morris, "How Phantom Accounting Is Destroying The Post Office" (May 25, 2012)

USPS OIG Report: "Pension and Retiree Health Care Funding Levels" (June 18, 2012)

Kevin Brown, "Congress ties Postal Service into knots" (Nov. 1, 2012)

GAO Report: "Status, Financial Outlookx, and Alternative Approaches to Fund Retiree Health Benefits" (Dec. 2012)

One arrested as postal hunger strikers occupy Issa’s congressional office

December 21, 2012

[Press release from Communities and Postal Workers United]

Five postal hunger strikers occupied the office of Representative Darrell Issa Thursday afternoon.  “Issa needs to back off his campaign to wreck the postal service.  We demand that he immediately declare his commitment to preserve six day mail delivery,” said Dave Welsh, hunger striker and retired letter carrier from San Francisco.  Four of the strikers were ejected by Capitol Police while one, John Dennie, a retired mail handler from New York, was arrested.

The strikers have organized a parade and rally for today.  It starts at 3 p.m. at the National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE.  The parade will end at the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Now going into the fifth day of their hunger strike, the postal workers and their allies established an “emergency” encampment on the National Mall, demanding that Congress and the President halt closures and cuts to the U.S. Postal Service.

“The lame duck is about to cripple the postal eagle and Darrell Issa is the front man,” declared Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier returning to Washington, DC from Portland, Oregon for his second postal hunger strike.  Six day mail delivery is on the chopping block, according to Representative  Issa,  Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Tom Carper who are currently engaged in secret postal reform negotiations. 


Our post offices are not for sale: Radio interview with New Deal scholar Gray Brechin

December 9, 2012

Gray Brechin, a UC-Berkeley professor and founder and project scholar of the Living New Deal, was on the WNUR radio show "This Is Hell" yesterday to talk about the selling off of historic post offices and the push to privatize the Postal Service.  Gray is one of the organizers of the effort to stop the sale of the 1914 Berkeley post office, and he spoke at the "save the post office" rally on December 4 (video here).

The original podcast (for the whole show, with other interviews) is here; to listen to Gray's part of the show, just click on the arrow below.

For more about the Berkeley post office, check out Gray's article, "Who Owns OUR (Downtown Berkeley) Post Office?" and the Daily Kos piece "Selling off the Post Office: Berkeley calls out Richard Blum."   For more on the sale of California post offices, see "Eureka! The Postal Service finds gold in California." 

(Photo credit: Dec. 4 rally in Berkeley, in the Berkeleyside)

A Complaint gives the PRC another crack at POStPlan

December 3, 2012

The post office in Great Cacapon, West Virginia, is on the POStPlan list, and in January its hours will be reduced to six a day.  A nonprofit organization named AdvoCare has filed a formal Complaint with the Postal Regulatory Commission challenging the Postal Service’s decision to cut the hours. 

The Complaint finds several faults with how POStPlan is being implemented, but its main point is that the Postal Service is presenting communities with a false choice.  The survey says customers must choose between having the window hours reduced or having the post office undergo a discontinuance study, but it is clear that the study can lead to only one outcome — a Final Determination to close the office.  By making the outcome a fait accompli, the Postal Service turns a discontinuance study into an empty gesture and abrogates its responsibilities under Title 39.  Communities are left with no real choice at all.

Given that the Commission's advisory opinion has already given the green light to POStPlan, it’s not likely that the Complaint will have much of an impact on the Postal Service's plans to cut hours at 13,000 post offices.  But the Complaint raises some serious issues with POStPlan that weren’t addressed during the PRC’s advisory opinion process, so it will be interesting to see what happens now that the plan is back before the Commission.

The AdvoCare Complaint is here; the Postal Service’s Motion to Dismiss the complaint is here, and AdvoCare’s Response to the Motion to Dismiss, here.


Standing room only

Because there’s a postmaster vacancy at the Great Cacapon post office, it was among the first offices being reviewed under POStPlan.  Hundreds of people responded to the survey, and over 150 attended the public meeting in October.  It was standing room only, and no one was very happy about seeing the hours reduced and their fill-in postmaster leaving.

The post office has been operated by Rick Dunn, a supervisor from neighboring Berkeley Springs, for quite some time — long enough for the folks in Great Cacapon to come to appreciate his services.  As reported in the local news, many small businesses use the post office just because Dunn is so knowledgeable.  "He knows the answer to everything I've ever asked,” said one customer.  “If he has to leave, I won't send packages through the post office anymore."

Dunn has helped out seniors, shut-ins, and the entire community.  One resident said Dunn had called in a wellness check on a senior he hadn't seen in a few days. It turned out the man needed medical attention, and Dunn may have saved his life.  The people in Great Cacapon know that it's not likely they'll get the same sort of attention from the part-time worker who replaces Mr. Dunn when the hours are reduced in January.  

One of the people at the meeting was Keith DeBlasio, the director of a nonprofit called AdvoCare, which works on reducing crime through criminal justice reform.  Mr. DeBlasio was so disturbed by what he heard at the meeting — and by the lack of responsiveness of postal officials he contacted after the meeting — that he decided to submit a formal Complaint to the PRC. 

Mr. DeBlasio may not be an expert on postal matters, and he probably wasn’t a close follower of the evolution of POStPlan over the past year, but his Complaint seems to have struck a nerve.   The Postal Service has filed a very thorough Motion to Dismiss, packed with precedents and quotations, that runs to twenty-three pages.  (The Postal Service's Request for an Advisory Opinion was only ten pages, and the testimony of the Postal Service's only witness, Mr. Jeffrey Day, was twenty-four.)

The Motion to Dismiss is also surprisingly aggressive in its tone, especially when you consider that POStPlan has already been approved by the PRC.  Perhaps the Postal Service is concerned that the Complaint will give the Commission a second chance to examine some important questions about the legitimacy of POStPlan

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