BURLINGTON, Vt., Aug. 7 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said today he agrees with Postal Service unions that oppose legislation likely to end Saturday mail service, significantly slow down delivery, close processing plants and eliminate door-to-door deliveries.
A bill by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was called “a serious threat” to the Postal Service in a joint letter signed by leaders of the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association.
The labor leaders said the Carper-Coburn legislation would dismantle mail processing and delivery networks, slash 80,000 jobs and retain elements of an onerous congressional mandate to pre-fund health benefits for future retirees. That mandate makes the Postal Service set aside $5.5 billion a year in a fund that already has more than enough to cover future benefits. Financing that mandate, which is unlike any in private business or other public-sector employers, accounts for about $4 out of every $5 in Postal Service debts.
Sanders applauded the unions, and said he will continue to work with them. And he questioned why the Carper-Coburn proposal retreats from a measure that passed the Senate one year ago with an overwhelming, bipartisan majority.
The Senate on April 25, 2012, voted 62-37 for a bill that had the support of 13 Republican senators. “It is hard for me to understand why the Senate should go backward and settle for a significantly weaker bill that, while not as strong as I would have liked, got an impressive 62 votes,” Sanders said. “That makes no sense.”
Unlike last year’s Senate-passed bill, the Carper-Coburn proposal would allow the Postal Service, over a short period of time, to shut mail processing plants, end Saturday delivery and open the door to additional weekday mail service cutbacks.
“While we all understand that the Postal Service is experiencing financial problems and that changes need to be made, I am convinced that substantially slowing down mail delivery and providing less service wouldn’t save the Postal Service, it would send it into a death spiral,” Sanders said. “That is why I am strongly opposed to this legislation that in the midst of a severe recession would lead to the elimination of tens of thousands of decent-paying jobs – many of them held by military veterans.”
Sanders on Feb. 13 introduced his own legislation, which now has 28 cosponsors, to modernize the Postal Service, save Saturday mail, and repeal the crippling law responsible for about 80 percent of the mail system’s funding woes. Similar legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) now has 166 cosponsors.
Their legislation also would let the Postal Service look for innovative new ways to attract more customers by taking advantage of email and Internet services, for example. A commission made up of successful business innovators, small business and labor leaders would make additional recommendations on ways the Postal Service could generate new revenue. The bill also would reinstate overnight delivery standards to speed mail delivery and prevent shutdowns of mail sorting centers. Safeguards also would be put in place to protect rural post offices.