BURLINGTON, Vt., Sept. 27 - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today told a rally of Postal Service workers that he is crafting legislation to maintain mail service to communities throughout Vermont and avert cuts that could cost thousands of workers their jobs.
As the financially-troubled Postal Service considers cutbacks across the country, 15 Vermont post offices and two mail processing centers face potential closure. "That is wrong. We must fight to retain them," Sanders told about 100 people gathered in City Hall Park.
"We all understand that in many small towns in Vermont, post offices are more than just post offices-in many cases, they are the heart and soul of the town," the senator added.
Sanders criticized Postal Service management for looking at massive job cuts nationwide instead of focusing on smarter ways to solve financial troubles. "Should we be making changes in the postal service? I believe we should. But at a time of 16 percent real unemployment, do we want to add more than 100,000 to the unemployment rolls? Absolutely not!" Sanders told the rally.
Sanders suggested specific ways that the Postal Service's s financial problems can be corrected, that mail service to communities throughout Vermont can be preserved and that thousands of threatened jobs can be saved.
As a first step, Sander said, legal barriers to Postal Service modernization should be lifted to let it compete with commercial rivals and set up new lines of business.
He also blamed Postal Service financial troubles on a law mandating that it set aside funds far in advance for future retiree health benefits. The same federal law also makes the Postal Service come up in one short decade with enough to fund retiree benefits for 75 years. No other government agency faces such an onerous requirement, Sanders said. In fact, only one-third of Fortune 1000 companies pre-fund their health benefits, let alone in such an aggressive and expensive way.
Sanders said he will host a meeting next week with Postal Service union leaders and other experts to help him draft legislation to keep the mail service running far into the future.
"There is no need to eliminate six-day delivery, there is no need to close down post offices in Vermont and across the country, and there is certainly no need to lay off more than 100,000 workers," Sanders said. "We can solve this problem in a better way. We can solve it by allowing the Post Office to recover the overpayments it has made in its pension and retiree health benefits fund and by allowing the Post Office to adapt to the modern world. If we do those things, the post office will survive, and it will continue to be an institution as strong as it has always been."