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casing mail and 6 hours on the street. The problem with “6 and 2" is not that carriers do not want to spend 6 hours on the street. The problem is that routes are being adjusted now to provide for 6 hours of street time, but carriers must still spend up to 4 hours sorting and casing mail. Automation has not yet allowed for only 2 hours of office time, yet the routes are being adjusted to give the carrier a 6-hour route. As a result, mail is delivered late in the day or delayed until the following day and customers are unhappy.
As a union, the NALC continues to do its best to work with management to realize the gains from automation as soon as possible, without sacrificing the quality of the service we provide or placing unreasonable requirements on carriers. How ever, I must express my disappointment with the course of instituting automation to date. Supervisors are being ordered to institute longer routes immediately, whether or not automation is in place and without proper consultation with the carrier who walks the route every day. The pressure to achieve certain budget goals becomes the overriding concern of the supervisors and postmasters. The much maligned bonuses to top management were based upon these budget goals. But what about the deliv. ery of the mail? where are the goals and rewards for happy, satisfied customers?
That is not to say that we expect change to come easily to an institution as huge as the U.S. Postal Service. Neither do I envy the incoming Postmaster General who is to guide the USPS through what are probably the most critical years in its history. But we understand change as well. We will not block it. We want to make change and accepting change easier for everyone-management and workers alike.
We are aware USPS faces new challenges. Alternative delivery services are springing up across the Nation. The USPS is hamstrung by an ineffective pricing mechanism which prevents providing, for example, discounts for high volume user of Express Mail. The result? The U.S. Government contracts not with its own Postal Service, but with Federal Express for delivery of overnight mail.
Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the members of the NALČ, I pledge today that we will work with everyone who wishes to improve the quality of service we can provide, to continue the historical increase in productivity of its workforce, to keep the U.S. Postal Service the envy of the world. Thank you, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Mr. Hayes. Thank you. In the interest of time, I am going to only raise one question in order to give my colleagues a chance to raise whatever questions they have on their mind. We may submit to you some additional questions. I hope you would respond.
Mr. CONNERS. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I certainly will.
Mr. HAYES. The time won't allow it. I have one question I wanted to raise. Have the rumors of layoffs affected the morale of the letter carriers?
Mr. CONNERS. They certainly have.
Mr. CONNERS. Yes. The statement came out of the blue. We had no knowledge of any reference to a number like 150,000, and when people in the field heard that, they got very upset. They didn't know whether they were part of the 150,000 or just what the comment meant.
Now, some of the reactions were why don't they get rid of some of the supervisors that they have? They have too many supervisors. Why are they hiring transitional employees at the same time they are talking about laying us off? It became very confusing and very upsetting and certainly a detriment to morale.
Mr. HAYES. The letter carriers, too, have what they call transitional employees, don't they?
Mr. CONNERS. Yes, sir. Mr. Hayes. I ran into a young lady on the street the other day in Chicago who carried mail, and she knew who I was. She said to me, “Congressman, I only work part time. I am on needles and pins. I don't know how long I am going to be here. What can you do to—I need a job. I need to work, you know. They changed my route that
I used to have and left it out." You referred to that. Is there any. thing specifically that I, as a Congressman, may tell her? I am going to run into her again because she delivers mail to my office.
Mr. CONNERS. Congressman, it is a very difficult situation. What we are trying to do is to convince the Postal Service that you can't get the savings before the savings are there, and we have been trying this for 3 years. In the very beginning, back in 1989, they told us they were going to put this “6 and 2” in. We told them they were crazy, it would never work, and it hasn't worked. They said, well, that is the cost of doing business, and we have been trying for 3 years to bring them around.
There have been discussions recently where we are trying to come to an agreement on how to put this “6 and 2” together so that it makes some sense, and the only problem with it is I have been saying for about 3 weeks there that we are very close and we still haven't been able to sign off yet.
Mr. HAYES. Mrs. Morella.
Mrs. MORELLA. Thank you. Again, I want to welcome the National Association of Letter Carriers. You do a great job. You are the ones that our constituents are close to, and we appreciate that kind of service. I am also intrigued by the lack of mathematical ability when you talk about the 6 plus 2 rather than 6 plus 4, which is the case, and that is where we hear the complaints is when the mail is delivered very late, as you have mentioned, and so I do hope that you are arriving at an accord. If you are not, I hope that you will let this committee know, and we will try to do what we can to expedite it.
Mr. CONNERS. We certainly will.
Mrs. MORELLA. It just appears to me that the various unions seem to be working together reasonably well, but the problem seems to be between the unions, the various unions and the Board of Governors and the PRC and management. Does that seem to be correct? I mean, do we need to all get together and uniformly look at our goals and make sure we communicate and appreciate what you have learned, what the other unions have learned to make it a more efficient, competitive operation?
Mr. CONNERS. That would be ideal.
Mrs. MORELLA. You feel that it is not done. For instance, do you think that they do need to have some kind of an expert come in and analyze what could be done best?
Mr. CONNERS. I am not sure about the experts. I think we know what the problem is, and it is a matter of management taking the job in hand and doing it. Someone mentioned earlier about somewhere they have some bad managers and they keep moving them around. That is exactly what they do, and the situation in California may present that same kind of a situation.
It seems to me that when they have a manager who can't handle people, they should certainly either put him in another position where he doesn't have to deal with people or get rid of him. I think it is ridiculous to keep moving a problem from one part of the country to the other so that we have—you get rid of the problem here and you put the problem over here. It doesn't make any sense.
Mrs. MORELLA. The reason they say is because they need somebody in another section? Any reasons given? Or you just find that they move?
Mr. CONNERS. They just don't take the bull by the horns.
Mrs. MORELLA. Well, I want to thank you for your testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want you to know, Mr. Conners, that George Gould is also a pleasure to work with. He seems to be everywhere and know everything. Isn't that what you told me to say, George?
Mr. GOULD. You did very well. Thank you.
Mr. McCLOSKEY. Thank you very much. I also want to welcome again this very distinguished panel.
Can you comment on the advent and future of alternative delivery services? It is interesting. Mr. Biller is not_here now, but I guess because of other disappointments with the Postal Service, he said don't expect the postal workers to fight alternative delivery. I think, again, the GAO ratemaking reform study, there are some real threats out here in the present system, Frank. Can you comment on that?
Mr. CONNERS. Yes, there are. The members are becoming very upset about the fact that we are losing a lot of the delivery of magazines and some third-class mail through the alternative delivery firms. In some cases there are boycotts. In some cases they are attempting to get legislation through their State legislatures to prevent mail from just being thrown on people's property. There is a great deal of concern.
We are also working with the Postal Service to see if we can't do something about it. I think the answer is we have to provide better service. It gets right down to the service angle. If we can't provide it, then someone else will, and that is what is happening.
Mr. McCLOSKEY. Well, I don't want to go on and on because time is so short right now, but that was the focus of my other question. I think service is down in Indiana and system-wide. We are holding a hearing soon on that in Indiana. Somehow with what is going on in the field with some of the automation changes and new routing systems, the mail is not being delivered. I share your concern. think that was a first-rate presentation, Frank. I thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. NORTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just one question for Mr. Conners, who knows I have great respect for him and his union and the work that it does for the members and for many others, for that matter. I am concerned about this difference between what is required in the Postal Service and what is required on the street, the 6-2 problem. I would think that there would be consultation back and forth before such an important change is put in place and that if they develop problems of that kind, if that consultation would help to iron them out, the private sector begins to probably understand this, and they can't get productivity out of people to just slam some rigid requirements on to them and say go do it, if anything, you get less productivity and you get low morale.
What kind of preconsultation takes place before such a step is installed and is there continuing consultation to straighten it out?
Mr. CONNERS. Well, that is a very interesting question. We met with the Postal Service a number of times beginning back in 1989 about the issue of automation, and we agreed to cooperate in that area. At one point early on in the discussions, the Postal Service advised us that they had a new procedure they were going to put in place, “6 and 2," and it was already in print. I mean, it wasn't like they were going to talk with us about how to set it up. They had already devised it, and we took a look at it, and "6 and 2," as the Congresswoman pointed out, really was not “6 and 2.” It wound up being—it wasn't 8. It was 10 or 12.
We pointed that out on the very first day to them, and they said, no, we are going ahead, we don't care what you have to say, we are going ahead. They went ahead. We pointed out a number of times there would be chaos, increased overtime, late delivery of mail, and they experienced that, but they continued ahead, and it has been very frustrating, and it is only recently that we have gotten close together with them again to try and work out some of the problems with that “6 and 2.”
What they are trying to do is to capture a savings that is not yet there, and in some cases in the field it has been referred to as manual automation, trying to force automation, and it is not working.
Ms. NORTON. Well, it is a recipe for failure when simple consultation could, in fact, get the productivity they want to achieve. I thank you, Mr. Conners.
Mr. CONNERS. Thank you.
Mr. HAYES. I want to thank the panel for their participation in the hearings here, particularly you, Mr. Conners, for your testimony.
We do have to go vote, so we will release and dismiss you. I would ask the indulgence of the Rural Letter Carriers president, Mr. Brown, if you could just bear with us while I run and vote, I would appreciate it.
Mr. CONNERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. [Recess.)
Mr. HAYES. We will resume our hearing. I say, again, thanks for your patience, and we will start with you, Mr. Brown, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers Association. As I have said before, if you care to deal with the highlights of your prepared testimony, we would appreciate it. If not, if you feel more comfortable dealing with it in the entirety, you have every right to do so. So you can travel whatever route you choose.
Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM R. BROWN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL
RURAL LETTER CARRIERS ASSOCIATION; ACCOMPANIED BY
Mr. BROWN. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the committee here in the oversight hearing and share our views on the condition of the Postal Service. It is our viewpoint that the Postal Service has experienced a decline in its competitive position, and like anyone experiencing ill health, it now needs the support of all those related, especially the U.S. Congress, for it to improve.
Postmaster General Tony Frank made the observation that the Postal Service, U.S. Postal Service, would see more changes in 5 years than it had in its entire existence. As a union president, I naturally assumed that Tony meant in the workplace. My union has cooperated with the Postal Service in implementing automation changes throughout the country. It is not easy. Tony's vision saw more.
We see, too, that big changes may be necessary in the law which governs the Postal Service and definitely in the regulations under which the Board of Governors and the Postal Rate Commission operates. The Postal Reorganization Act was supposed to provide more flexibility and saw cooperation between the Governors and the Postal Rate Commission.
The relationship between the Board of Governors and the partners has become very rigid and bitter. This must change. We hope the partners and Governors will please take a page out of the management and employees book and begin to work out their problems together.
On the workroom floor, communication is critical to accepting automation without rebellion. Solutions between the partners and the Board must occur to restore the health of the Postal Service.
Change is difficult for all of us. Automation will affect rural letter carriers because we are paid on an evaluated system based upon the miles we drive, the stops we make, and the volume of mail. Automation is changing the time measurement and our pay. Nevertheless, we are cooperating with the Postal Service.
The relationship between the Postal Rate Commission and the Board looks a lot like a bad 20-year-old marriage, and which the Congresswoman commented on a moment ago, poor communication, inflexibility, hostility, and an urgent need for improvement.
Four independent groups have taken a look at the process and problems of the U.S. Postal Service. In November 1990, Postmaster General Frank directed senior Postal officials to convene a legislative working group composed primarily of mailers, but also union and employee organizations. They were looking at the possibility of rewriting the practice to give more flexibility in ratemaking, competitive services and new services.
In May 1991, the Institute of Public Administration undertook a study of the ratemaking process at the request of the Board of Gov