The finances of the U.S. Postal Service are deeply in the red. The agency faces a permanently reduced demand for its services and its labor accounts for almost 80 percent of its costs. Thus it is not a good time for postal employees to get an increase in wages and benefits, right?
According to one postal union, the USPS’s deteriorating condition isn’t relevant. The American Postal Workers Union, which represents more than 200,000 employees, has recently entered collective bargaining negotiations for a new contract. In an interview with Government Executive, APWU President William Burrus calls a pay increase for his members an “entitlement”:
“More — more control over activities at work, more money, better benefits — we want more,” said Burrus. “We will try to fashion our proposals to reflect the entitlement to more.”
An arbitrator will most likely determine whether APWU workers get their raises. Oddly, according to federal law an arbitrator can’t take the USPS’s financial condition into account when weighing a decision. This is like instructing the captain of a ship that’s struck an iceberg to ignore the gaping hole in the boat when deciding whether or not to abandon it.
USPS management has asked Congress to change the law, which Burrus preposterously calls “antidemocratic”:
Burrus said he resents the idea that an arbitrator should be required to take into account the Postal Service’s financial situation. He called the idea antidemocratic and said it interferes with free collective bargaining.
Having watched the unionized workforces at GM and Chrysler receive preferential treatment from the federal government, there’s little incentive for Burrus and the postal unions to not ask for more. The postal unions are likely betting that in a worst case financial scenario for the USPS, policymakers will tap taxpayers for a bailout. Unfortunately, if recent history is a guide, they’re probably correct.