Mass lawmakers key in postal fight

Rep. Lynch, Sen. Brown on bipartisan panel

Massachusetts lawmakers may play key roles in deciding the fate of the US Postal Service, which is struggling to adapt as the volume of American mail keeps declining.

US Rep. Stephen Lynch and Sen. Scott Brown are part of a small group of eight lawmakers in Washington trying to find a way to avoid a shutdown of the Postal Service and put it on firmer financial footing. After a meeting of the group last week, Brown said there was enough common ground to reach a solution.

At a rally of hundreds of postal workers on City Hall Plaza on Tuesday, Lynch called the postal service a defining issue for the American labor movement and the country’s middle class.

“There’s no one out there that represents the grit and determination of the middle class like you do. You’re America’s backbone,” he told the crowd. “I believe the American labor movement has to make a stand and it might as well be right now and right here.”

Lynch told the postal workers that Brown is working with him and on their side. “On this issue, he’s in the right place and you need to know that,” he said.

US Postal Service officials earlier this month said they will default later this week on a mandated $5.5 billion payment to cover future retiree healthcare costs. Lawmakers are scrambling to pass legislation that would extend the payment deadline until November and come up with a long-term plan to put the Postal Service on more solid financial footing.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, is pushing legislation that would set up a financial control board to overhaul postal service finances. Lynch said the Issa legislation could wipe out collective bargaining rights for postal workers, eliminate seniority, and shut down post offices and mail processing facilities across the country. Others in Congress have proposed eliminating Saturday mail delivery and allowing the Postal Service to offer additional services, like check cashing.

Lynch has proposed tapping a surplus in the Postal Service’s employee retirement system to forestall the immediate financial crisis and allow time to implement long-term reforms.  Lynch said those long-term reforms will include the shutdown of many postal facilities, but he said early retirement incentives could be used to reduce the workforce.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Union officials representing postal workers say the Postal Service hasn’t needed any taxpayer subsidies for 30 years. The Postal Service’s losses, the officials say, stem not from mail delivery losses but from a 2006 congressional mandate to prefund within the next decade future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years.

Lynch, who has many family members who work for the Postal Service, said he would fight to the end efforts to shortchange the more than 574,000 people who work for the Postal Service. “This is why I ran for Congress, so I can be involved in fights like this,” he said.