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At the Postal Service, Talk of Layoffs

Burris suggested that the poor finances will generate talk in the White House and Congress about privatizing the postal service.

While saying he can't tell his members how to vote, he did say that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) previously voted to privatize certain federal jobs, while Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) voted against such Bush administration efforts.

"As postal employees cast their votes in the 2008 election, protecting our employment must be a decisive factor in the choices we make," Burris said. "This time the decision cannot be based on abortion, guns, terrorism, or experience. This time it is about your job."

The Death of MaxHR

Union leaders are hailing the demise of a Department of Homeland Security personnel management system that undermined collective-bargaining rights.

The department canceled the system because Congress, at the urging of employee unions, killed funding for it in appropriations legislation that was signed into law Tuesday.

The system, once known as MaxHR, has been under attack for years. Unions won a court case against it in 2005, successfully arguing that portions of the system illegally altered collective bargaining, due process and appeal rights.

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, called MaxHR "the first big effort to dismantle the civil service, unions and the GS [General Schedule] pay system."

Engaging Workers

It's probably a coincidence, but the day after good government groups said strong leadership is necessary to develop a more engaged federal workforce, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston held a town meeting with his employees. They weren't all in town, however. In addition to those who packed HUD's auditorium, which looked a lot like a television studio, workers in 80 HUD offices around the country were connected via video hookup and e-mail.

Preston, who took on the job in June, worked the stage like a veteran performer, joking about one staffer's loud socks, asking members of various offices to raise their hands, then leading applause for their good works.

His tone became a bit more serious when he told workers the department needs a "much more organized and thoughtful employee development process" so they can be promoted.

They agreed with hearty applause.

Contact Joe Davidson atfederaldiary@washpost.com.


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