The postmaster general believes Americans will be spared a mail strike this summer and probably won't be hit with another first-class stamp rise (the most recent one was yesterday) for several years.
That no-strike, no-increase assessment of things to come is from William F. Bolger. He is the career civil servant in charge of the troubled USPS (U.S. Postal Service). It is taking a licking in Congress and from the public, and just raised the price of a first-class letter over the Memorial Day weekend from 13 cents to 15 cents.
The USPS, largest "corporation" in the world, now faces the prospect of giving its giant work force a raise that could easily cost another $1 billion a year, or risking a mid-July walkout that could slow or paralyze delivery of everything from Social Security checks to birthday cards and catalogs.
Bolger, appearing relaxed but alert, met with reporters yesterday even as thousands of people were lining up outside post offices to pay 15 cents for the new no-denomination stamp, or try to buy 1-cent or 2-cent stamps to add to existing stocks of now-useless 13 cents stamps on hand.
Across town, postal union leaders - themselves under tremendous political pressure from restless members - were meeting to discuss ways to get the best pay and fringe benefits for members whose three-year agreement with the USPS expires July 20.
Bolger, a sharp career man, says he believes a "reasonable" contract can be reached withe unions that represent virtually alle the 550,000 rank-and-file employees. He feels service will continue without a strike, and there will be no need for a new rate increase for several years. (President Carter has ordered nonpostal U.S. pay increase frozen at or below 5.5 percent this year. A raise of that magnitude for the USPS would cost the corporation nearly $1 billion more each year).
Bolger said he was unhappy with the process of cencentration on the possibility of a postal strike this summer.
(On May 17 this column revealed contents of a secret USPS "strike contingency plan," which includes use of federal troops to guard and move the mail, the embargo of most types of mail and envisions customer pickup of letters and packages if a major "work stoppage" occurs).
Bolger said the USPS has "a contingency plan for just about everything" and that it would be wrong to create a climate of fear and suspicion within the USPS, unions, big mailers or the public based on such a contingency plan.
"I personally don't see any strike in the offing," Bolger said, and he believes that a "good contract that is far to the public and employes" can be worked out by AFL-CIO and independent unions now meeting with management. Bolger refused to say what a "good contract" would be.
The PMG did say that if the contract is reasonable and if inflation can be kept below 7 percent a year, he expects the USPS can hold the line on rate increases for several years.
In his meeting with reporters, Bolger also said he:
Doesn't see any need for legislation changing the law to permit federal and postal workers to take an active role - as candidates, managers or fund-raisers - in partisan political campaings. Bolger said the question of Hatch Act modification "is best left up to the Congress" but if asked to testify for or against liberalization, he would oppose the changes favored by the White House.
Agrees with President Carter's civil services reform proposals, and says the idea of putting career federal supergraders into a produce-or-perish pay and reward system is very much like the system the USPS uses for its own executive corps.
Favors "any increase," or cutback, in service that the American public wants and is willing to pay for. Bolger says he would work out a plan for seven-day delivery if the public wanted it and agreed to pay the price. He also says he would authorize elimination of Saturday service if it was apparent mail-users favored it as an alternative to a new rate increase.
Feels the USPS "could not live" with legislation pending in he House to return control of the postal service to Congress, and increase taxpayer subsidies for services now financed on a pay-as-you-go basis by mail users.
Calvin Brooks, an administrative law judge with Commerce's Appeals Board has taken over as director of the Department's new civil rights office. Earlier, Brooks served with General Services Administration's equal employment opportunity office.
Donald H. Dalton, an attorney who specializes in federal employe grievance cases, is running as a Republican cndidate for the Maryland State Senate.