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Sounding the Voice of Warning is Our Duty

By Eric Ellis, CSALC District 4 Officer

June 25, 2018

Recently I posted on our branch Facebook website a story regarding leaked internal discussions about our futures as federal and postal employees. Specifically, officials within the Trump Administration plan to push policies to downgrade or eliminate federal pensions, following recommendations by the president’s labor adviser for federal employees James Sherk. Someone I don’t know accused me of misrepresenting the president’s position and “inciting the masses” by alerting our membership. I replied by inserting Sherk’s essay “Why It Is Time to Reform Compensation for Federal Employees”, which outlines in great detail the administration’s plans for reforming [read: eliminating or reducing] employee leave provisions and pensions. I also stated that if Sherk’s positions as outlined by the aforementioned Heritage Foundation piece contradicted his positions, he could simply fire Sherk. Not going to happen. Why do I say that? These positions reflect Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s opinions on the matter as outlined in his Path to Prosperity, as well as Senator Ron Johnson’s positions on not only our benefits, but his desire for the USPS to declare bankruptcy. Senator Johnson’s opinions matter, because he chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over us.

As is the case with a battlefield scout, it is my duty as a branch legislative officer, state district officer, and now state scribe to sound the voice of warning when our opposition proposes harm to our membership. I wrote previously on several occasions about Sherk’s essay, because it reflects the desires of many on the right to, among other things, eliminate defined pensions for new employees, make existing employees with less than 25 years of service pay a lot more toward their pensions under the Federal Employees Retirement System, and cut by a third your earned annual and sick leave benefit. And I did this hoping that you would, among other things, download the NALC App, think about writing or calling your elected federal representatives when such legislation, start participating in activities like calling or walking in support of friendly politicians, and contribute to the Letter Carrier Political Fund, even if it’s only one to two dollars per pay period. On the national level, activists show powerpoint presentations outlining all threats to our membership on a regular basis for the same reasons.

It is time we awaken ourselves to the fact that sitting on our hands and knees and doing nothing is unacceptable. And it is likewise unacceptable for myself and others not to warn our membership when our political adversaries propose harmful legislation that affects our well-being. Or for that matter when they are merely thinking about harming us. Does it matter to you that there are some out there who blame us for the 20 trillion dollar national debt hanging over us, when in fact our pensions are paid for, and then some? Does it matter to you that the Hay Group performed an audit recently as commissioned by the Office of Inspector General that shows an over payment-yes, an over payment-of $110 billion into the Civil Service Retirement System, but the spinners on the other side are saying to anyone who will listen that we are $100 billion underwater and therefore may need a taxpayer bail out? Leadership in the House, Senate and the White House are pushing the narrative that the recently passed tax cuts have nothing to do with our budget deficits, but entitlements like Social Security and federal pensions are bankrupting our country. Never mind that they regularly use money you and I paid into our pensions and Social Security for other purposes and now say that we cannot afford them, and as such paying our federal retirees their earned pensions is unsustainable. My word for it is theft.

For those who are familiar with the Battle of the Rosebud, you know that the readiness of the Indian scouts with General George Crook saved his army from disaster in the face of a surprise attack by a numerous Sioux army under Crazy Horse. In our day, from our national officers down to myself, notifying you to a mortal threat to your livelihoods and pointing you to how to respond serves the same purpose. Whether you take action or not is up to you.