May 31, 2013

New Senate Bill to Fire Tax Delinquent Federal, Postal Employees

On May 23rd, a bill was introduced in the Senate that calls for the firing of any federal and postal employees who are not current on their federal income taxes.  The bill would also ban the federal government or Postal Service from hiring individuals with “serious delinquent debt” to the IRS.  

This bill is similar to a measure sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) that was rejected by the House of Representatives in April.  When the House considered the measure, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) wisely questioned if these efforts would help with tax compliance or whether it is “just another in a long series of unfair attacks on federal employees and the unions that represent them.”  Such a question is merited considering the IRS reports that 97 percent of federal employees pay their tax on time, as compared to 92 percent of the general public.

This new Senate bill (S. 1045) has been referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  This anti-worker legislation will have a tough time getting through the Democratically-controlled Senate if it is approved in committee.

To read more on the bill, please click here.

U.S. Treasury to Borrow from Federal, Postal Retirement Accounts 

As was reported in last week’s e-Team Update, the U.S. Treasury Department is preparing to temporarily tap into federal and postal retirement accounts in order to fund governmental operations until the debt ceiling is raised.  One of the accounts the Treasury Department will borrow from and then repay is the controversial Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund (PRHBF).  The PRHBF is “the one that’s bankrupting the USPS,” reminds APWU President Guffey.  While the Postal Service teeters on the verge of financial collapse, this move is a stark reminder that the tens of billions of dollars sitting in the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund could be put to much better use.

To read more about the retirement accounts, please click here.

Pre-Funding Mandate Continues to Wreck Postal Finances, Rhetoric Masks Real Cause of USPS Financial Woes

In another financial report released by the U.S. Postal Service, the agency shows a staggering year-to-date net operating income loss of $3.9 billion dollars.  However, $3.2 billion of those losses are due to payments required under the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) for the postal retiree health benefits fund – that part is often left out of the public discourse on postal finances.  The mandate requires USPS to pre-fund 75 years worth of healthcare benefits for future retirees over a 10-year period, an obligation no other government agency or private entity is forced to bear.  The requirement accounts for approximately 70% of USPS losses and is the #1 reason for the agency’s financial crisis. 

For more on how postal finances are obscured by “fun with numbers,” please click here.

Suspicious Letters Tested Positive for Ricin

Law enforcement authorities are investigating two suspicious letters this week that have tested positive for ricin.  The letters that were mailed to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his gun control campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, are similar in style to another suspicious letter mailed this week to President Obama, which is also being tested for ricin.  As of 2004, the Biohazard Detection System installed in Postal Service mail processing plants have not had the capability to detect ricin in the mail stream in the same way they can detect anthrax. 

The APWU continues to monitor the situation closely.  “We will do everything we can to protect the safety of our members,” said APWU President Guffey. “That’s our #1 concern.”  Any worker who believes they have symptoms from exposure to ricin should notify their supervisor, see their doctor, and begin the workers’ compensation process.

To find out more about the latest ricin incidents, please click here and here.

To see the Centers for Disease Control’s fact sheet on ricin, including symptoms, please click here.

Lawmakers Seek Additional Reporting of Federal Employee ‘Official Time’ use for Union Activity

Last week H.R. 568, was passed (with amendment) through the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The bill, introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), would require the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to provide an annual report to Congress detailing the use of “official time” by federal employees, despite OPM having produced a similar report for over a decade.  

Official time is the authorized, on-the-clock time federal employees use to perform union tasks such as bargaining and representing employees in grievances.  Such time is a critical component to ensuring federal workers rights under collective bargaining agreements and promoting effective labor-management relations.  The bill does not apply to the U.S. Postal Service but points the increasing scrutiny Federal unions face from Congressional lawmakers.

For more on H.R. 568 and the accounting of Federal employee “official time,” please click here