Strike to Action – A Ruralinfo.net Guest Blog

A guest blog by VOCAL RCA

While the postal service struggles to complete day to day operations, United Parcel Service (UPS), just formulated a new contract with its' Teamsters Union (Bloomberg report by Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta) to avoid a strike that was scheduled to occur in early August of this year.
The Teamsters union, representing UPS employees, had threatened to strike in early August due to the company's talk of cutting hours of its' full-time work-force to avoid paying for healthcare benefits. With the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) set to take effect in early January 2014, many companies like UPS are implementing the same tactics to avoid the healthcare payment. The Postal Service is currently waiting on Congress to implement postal reform to alleviate the current pre-funding payment for retired workers that haven't even been born yet. Unlike the Teamsters Union, postal unions like the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) nor the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) have never even hinted of a strike. As mentioned previously the Teamsters at UPS only threatened to strike and a deal was made, so the question has to be asked, why aren't the postal unions using the same tactic?
In March 1970, the United Postal Service staged a two-week strike to raise awareness of poor working conditions, low wages and to gain collect bargaining rights (Wikipedia) . The current conditions at USPS are reminiscent of that time in postal history. Due to a payment funding retirement, mandated by Congress in 2006, the United States Postal Service is forced to deposit 75 years into this account in a ten-year time frame. In order to make these payments, that no other government agency or company in America faces, USPS has consolidated hundreds of processing centers and eliminated many contract postal units like those in rural gas stations. These consolidations continue to put pressure on the current postal workforce of nearly 575,000 employees who are being forced to retire or quit due to the relocation of these centers moving hundreds of miles away from its' original location. While most current postal jobs pay a decent wage, the current workforce is also being faced with an increasing amount of under staffing and overburden that have occurred due to an increased workload that is about to get worse, because of an effort, on behalf of current Postmaster General, Patrick Donahue, to speed up and increase the amount of consolidations nationwide.

Strikers outside the main post office on Eighth Avenue, opposite Pennsylvania Station in 1970.
photo credit New York Times

According to a story by Direct Marketing News writer Al Urbanski, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del), chairman of the Senate subcommittee that overseas the Postal Service, a postal reform bill should be on President Obama's desk before the July 4th Congress recession. Even if this occurs there are no guarantees that a timely compromise will take place. The United States Postal Service will struggle to continue day to day operations until the company, supposedly, runs out of money as early as October of this year. One thing is certain, the South African Postal Service has been on strike for weeks, according to Mbali Sibanyoni, a writer for Eye Witness News, and it has caused delays in mail delivery around the country. What would happen if this occurred in the United States?

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