Patrick Donahoe will beg for the life of the U.S. Postal Service Tuesday, a role he has known before. But when he addresses a congressional committee this time, his pleas will go beyond the familiar and reasonable, and into areas more drastic and radical.
Postmaster General Donahoe will ask Congress, during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee hearing, to approve measures that once would have been unthinkable.
It’s not going to be an easy sell.
Donahoe, a 36-year-veteran of the Postal Service, wants Congress to allow USPS to bust the anti-layoff provisions in its union contracts. He also wants permission to pull his 563,000 employees from the health and retirement plans that cover federal employees so USPS can provide less generous programs.
The Postal Service says it needs to trim 220,000 career positions from its workforce by 2015, with attrition expected to take 100,000 of those jobs. For the remaining 120,000 slots, “it is imperative that we have the ability to reduce our workforce rapidly...” says an USPS white paper. “It is not likely that the Postal Service will be able to eliminate these layoff protections through collective bargaining.”
USPS already can fire, following standard reduction in force procedures, the 61,500 career employees it says have no layoff protection. Plus, there are another 88,000 non-career workers, some of whom are not full time, who also can be let go at any time.
The new proposals are quite a step for Donahoe, a former postal union member, raised in an union town. Just how far the Pittsburgh native will get with an extreme approach to extreme financial problems is uncertain. Many Republicans who have shown no love for public employee unions may welcome the chance to establish a national precedent simply by following the request of the postmaster general. The postal unions, of course, are angry about Donahoe’s proposals and will expect Democrats to be on their side.
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