Trump and Congress Take Aim at Federal and Postal Employees
The last few days have seen a litany of proposals, both from the White House controlled by Donald Trump and from a Congress controlled by a Republican majority, that are aimed at the benefits of federal and postal employees. It is time for mail handlers across the country to pay attention and take action, lest these proposals ever get adopted or implemented.
On May 23, 2017, the Trump Administration released its budget for Fiscal Year 2018. Called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget supports what can only be called catastrophic reductions in spending on the pension benefits currently enjoyed by all federal and postal employees, including all mail handlers.
For active postal employees who participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), the Trump budget calls for gradually equalizing contributions made by employees (including mail handlers) and the Postal Service, which effectively would be up to a six percent (6%) cut in pay over the next six years, depending on precisely when an employee was first hired.
For active postal employees participating in FERS or in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), the Trump budget calls for reducing pension benefits for future retirees by basing annuities on an employee’s average pay over five years (high-5) instead of over three years (high-3). The proposal also would terminate the “Social Security supplement” that covers the gap for workers who retire under FERS before they qualify for Social Security benefits at age 62.
For current and future retirees, the Trump budget calls for the elimination of cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for annuitants under FERS (which covers any employee hired after 1984). For those under the Civil Service Retirement System, COLAs would be reduced by one-half of 1 percent (that is, 0.5 percent) each and every year. These changes, if adopted, would destroy the financial well-being of retirees who rely on annual COLAs to keep up with the cost of living.
The full scope of these proposals – called both terrible and cruel by various political leaders – are probably dead on arrival in the Congress. But it will take a lot of hard work to ensure that no portion of these proposals, however small, finds its way into any legislation that passes the Congress.
With regard to the Postal Service itself, the Trump budget is no wiser or kinder. It calls for $46 billion in cuts over the next decade, and proposes reductions in the frequency of mail delivery and in door-to-door delivery, and the cuts in mail processing that would accompany such changes.
“The Trump budget is an embarrassment, and should be opposed by all thoughtful Members on Capitol Hill. There is no basis for cutting retirement benefits; nor is there any reason to reduce any services provided the Postal Service. Fortunately, the existing coalition of postal stakeholders (unions, management, and mailers) already has identified legislation that would fix many of the Postal Service’s financial issues, and the entire Trump budget can simply be ignored as not worthy of serious consideration.”
Notably, the Trump budget does not attack only federal and postal employees, but also takes aim at Medicaid, children’s health, food stamps, student loans, and Social Security disability programs, among others. Even the NLRB faces massive cuts in its budget, reducing the protections that the Board provides for workers and their unions and the entire collective bargaining process.
As if not wanting to be outdone by the Trump budget, certain Members of Congress also have introduced and supported other unacceptable proposals. For just one example, on May 24, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1293, on an unrecorded voice vote, to require the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to submit annual reports on the use of official time by federal employee representatives. This is a thinly-veiled attempt to attack unions representing federal employees, and demonstrates the anti-union and anti-worker atmosphere that permeates large portions of Congress.
All mail handlers are encouraged to contact their Congressional representatives and to stay actively aware of the evolving legislative process.