Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2011-09-28 "Postal workers rally to save their jobs" by HOWARD YUNE from "Napa Valley Register"
Napa-area postal workers hoping to help save their embattled profession — and possibly their jobs — took their cause to downtown Napa on Tuesday afternoon.
Holding “Save America’s Postal Service” placards, more than 20 current and retired letter carriers lined Main Street outside Rep. Mike Thompson’s office.
Amid the car honks of sympathizers, they collected signatures for a petition to support legislation they said would repair the U.S. Postal Service’s ravaged finances and lessen the blow of threatened layoffs.
Even with mail volume slipping, rally organizers warned that cutting employees or Saturday service to slash costs would produce more harm than savings.
“The variety of things we deliver, like medicines, we have a large increase in that,” said Patrick Bjerke, 57, a letter carrier in Napa for 27 years. “Things like fruits, vegetables, even live chickens, those are things we can’t let sit over the weekend.”
The Napa rally was part of a nationwide campaign organized by five postal unions. The unions are supporting a Congressional bill to ease the Postal Service’s financial strain by reducing the pre-funding required for worker pensions. The unions, which represent letter carriers and post office clerks, were scheduled to hold events in all 435 districts of the House of Representatives.
H.R. 1351 would redirect the payments the Postal Service has made toward worker pensions since 2006 when Congress required it to pre-fund the pensions for 75 years and do so within a decade. The service could then use the overpayments to meet current financial needs.
Postal workers held their rally outside Thompson’s downtown office in support of the St. Helena Democrat, one of about 200 House members to co-sponsor the bill.
Union members argue the billions of dollars in pension pre-payments — and not shriveling mail use — are the main cause of the department’s troubles, and oppose major layoffs or dropping Saturday delivery.
“If we didn’t have to pre-fund pensions, we’d be making money,” said Karen Schuler, a postal carrier in Novato and a Santa Rosa-based officer in the National Association of Letter Carriers. “What kind of business could keep its doors open while paying for its unborn retirees? It’s outrageous.”
Postal officials warned earlier this month the service would run a $10 billion deficit in the current fiscal year, which ends Friday. The agency does not receive taxpayer money and must rely on sales and service revenue.
Since 2006, the Postal Service has closed 186 mail processing centers and eliminated at least 110,000 jobs. In July, the service announced it would consider shuttering 3,700 post offices, including the branch at the Veterans Home of California at Yountville.
The agency says mail volume has dropped by 43 billion pieces in the last five years, with the amount of first-class mail falling by nearly half as email and social networking steadily erode the number of person-to-person letters. Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe has proposed ending Saturday delivery to save up to $3 billion a year.

TUESDAY - SEPTEMBER 27, 2011 - NAPA, CA - State Senator Noreen Evans spoke to about 30 people at a rally in support of postal workers on Tuesday afternoon. The rally was aimed at saving cuts to the United States Postal Service and to bring attention to HR 1351, also known as the United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011. J.L. Sousa/Register

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