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Through Rain, Sleet, Snow and Recession?

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

When I was a young kid, a good friend of mine had a father who was a worker in the U.S. Postal Service. I distinctly remember his pride in his job and his belief that once you attained a job in the Postal Service, you had a job for life. He was convinced that once you put on the proud uniform of the U.S. Postal Service, nothing, not rain, sleet or snow could ever endanger your job or more importantly, your benefits.

My friend’s dad had no idea that while he was giving me job advice in the 1980’s, a few geniuses in Silicon Valley were creating the seeds of the digital revolution.

Fast forward to 2012 and the U.S. Postal Service reported that it will be posting a $5.2 billion dollar loss in the third quarter, on its way to an expected $15 billion dollar annual loss for the entire fiscal year.

What should be troubling to other hard working government workers is what the U.S. Postal Service wants to do to help trim costs. Among other ideas, Postal Service officials said they want to create a new health plan so that current employees can be pulled out of federal health plans and stop making payments for future retiree benefits.

The health plan idea seems strange to me that somehow the U.S. Postal Service believes it can run a health plan for less money than the federal government. There’s a government run health care argument in there somewhere, I just know it. I personally do not know the details of health care accounting well enough to argue with the idea, but the concept still sounds strange.

But more importantly for other government workers is the desire from Postal Service officials to not stop making payments for future retiree benefits. Certainly the U.S. Postal Service is going through issues that very few government agencies will go through. The digital revolution has done little to eliminate the need for other agencies.

However, the idea that other agencies would at some point begin to hemorrhage money is not that far fetched. And would it be that unlikely for officials in those agencies to recommend that those agencies follow the Postal Service lead by stop making payments for future retiree benefits in order to save money? I think not.

I believe this situation in the Postal Service will set up a difficult fight for organized labor. If the Postal Service doesn’t take drastic action, it could see the entire organization reformatted and thousands of employees laid off. However, if the service does employ these changes, it could set off other major changes for agencies that find themselves in financial trouble in the future.

Beyond benefits and government agency accounting, the one thing that is clear is that the U.S. Postal Service that I grew up with will not be what my nephews grow up with, if they grow up with one at all.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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