Updated 4:35 p.m. ET
A leading military veterans organization is jumping into the debate over the future of the U.S. Postal Service, lending its name and dollars to a campaign designed to quell a Republican-backed bill that critics fear could lead to thousands of unemployed postal workers.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are mocking a union-backed television ad with a version of their own, warning that some proposals to fix USPS would result in a multi-billion dollar bailout.
If you crack open certain Capitol Hill political publications today or tomorrow (against their better judgment the ad isn’t slated to appear in The Post), you’ll see the full-page color ad (above) paid for by several postal worker unions and Vote Vets, a generally progressive group representing military veterans nationwide.
“The Postal Service puts more veterans to work than any other civilian employer,” the ad says, noting that a bill set for consideration Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “would force the USPS to fire employees — including tens of thousands of veterans. That’s American vets fired in the worst economy in decades.”
The ad isn’t entirely accurate: The bill wouldn’t “force” USPS to fire employees — it would force them to use layoffs, as the bill calls for at least $3 billion in operational costs that would require a need to trim the workforce. That said, cutting the postal payroll would fulfill the wishes of Postal Service officials who are seeking permission from Congress to break union contracts and lay off up to 120,000 workers.
But the general message of the ad is correct: The Postal Service is one of the nation’s largest employers of military veterans, with roughly 135,800 vets on the postal payroll, according to the American Postal Workers Union.
APWU and its brother postal unions the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mailhandlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association are attempting to derail the bill, cosponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), by holding rallies across the country and buying TV airtime.
The Issa-Ross measure would establish a financial control board to overhaul USPS’s finances and possibly permit layoffs while also permitting the end of Saturday mail deliveries and some front-door mailbox deliveries. A majority of the GOP-controlled committee is expected to pass the bill Thursday, while the Senate is still considering several legislative proposals.
The committee’s Republican staff produced this Web video in defense of the bill, using graphics similar to those used in the postal union TV ad:
“Postal workers receive their benefits from the U.S. Treasury, and the Postal Service pays those benefits by selling postage. That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” the video says.
“When the Postal Service stops paying, retired postal workers still get benefits. The law says someone has to pay. The question is, who? The answer is, you. And that’s a bailout.”
Republican descriptions of Democratic and White House proposals to refund billions of dollars to the Postal Service as a taxpayer bailout are in dispute. Postal officials and Democratic lawmakers argue that money paid into federal retirement and health-care accounts is USPS money that could be refunded if the government improperly tabulated how much was owed. Republicans see it otherwise.
For the sake of comparison, here’s the postal union TV ad — notice the use of similar graphics?
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost