The National Association of Letter Carriers say the U.S. Postal Service would be in good fiscal shape if it didn’t have to set aside billions of dollars each year to pre-fund health benefits for future retirees.
The Nebraska chapter of NALC gathered Friday to start their state convention this weekend at Lochland Country Club.
Jeremy Liebsack of Omaha, state president of the Nebraska chapter of the NALC, said the mandated funding amounts to about 75 years of future retiree health benefits.
“We’re funding retirement benefits for workers who haven’t even been born yet,” he said.
In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. One of its provisions required the Postal Service to set aside more than $5 billion each year to pre-fund health benefits for its future retirees.
Ken Nickerson of Kearney, the third district liaison for the Nebraska chapter, said $50 billion already has been put into the fund, but it’s hurting the post office’s bottom line.
During the past six years, the Postal Service would have operated at a profit without the pre-funding payments. Without the pre-funding payments, the post office would have recorded a $4 billion surplus since 2013.
This mandate to pre-fund retiree health benefits isn’t required by other public or private enterprise in America, according to a NALC fact sheet on its website.
“The mandate manufactured a financial crisis in an otherwise profitable agency,” Liebsack said.
Friday marked the start of the 117th Nebraska NALC convention. The once-annual convention is now held every two years in location rotating around the state.
Liebsack said the two-day event offered training on Friday and Saturday included the business side of the convention and political advocacy. One function of the group is to advocate for postal letter carriers, who provide door-to-door delivery of mail.
As part of that advocacy, Liebsack said the national association has presented four resolutions to the House of Representatives that would preserve aspects of the mail service. While the resolutions wouldn’t be law, Liebsack said they send a strong message that representatives support an idea.
H.Res 23 would preserve door delivery of the mail. Liebsack said mail carriers are often the first to notice trouble in a neighborhood. Carriers can also make requests to check on elderly customers through its carrier alert program if they see mail piling up.
“That’s important for the elderly, obviously,” he said.
H.Res 53 would prevent the privatization of the mail service.
Liebsack said if a private company took over the post office, it could impact rural areas because those areas aren’t as profitable and could be cut in favor of money-making areas.
“By going to privatization, they are basically giving it to the highest bidder,” he said.
H.Res 54 would preserve a six-day delivery week.
Liebsack said cutting back on the number of delivery days would cause a delay in mail service. He said the Postal Service ramps up its delivery days to seven days a week for packages during the Christmas holiday season.
“We make sure those parcels get there as fast as possible,” he said.
H.Res 60 would encourage the post office to return to previous service standards. In 2015, the USPS lowered its First-Class Mail service standards by eliminating the overnight promise, according to the NALC website. This allowed a change in the way it processes mail by closing and consolidating facilities to reduce costs.
“It would be going back to the service standards we’ve had before,” Liebsack said.
He said the Postal Service receives no tax money and its operations are covered by the sale of products and services.
“We’re not really doing as bad as we are being portrayed,” he said. “We urge people to reach out to their senator and ask them to support the Postal Service.”