The House Government Reform Committee Thursday approved by unanimous consent a bill (H.R. 2249) granting postmasters-and their organizations-the same negotiating rights as other supervisors. A similar bill (S. 678) was approved by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee earlier in the week.
Under the legislation, the nation's 26,000 postmasters could use a fact-finding process when negotiating pay and benefits. Such a process already exists for supervisors. Craft employees use fact-finding during collective bargaining and arbitration.
Currently, postmasters are beholden to a so-called consultative process. Essentially, they try to iron out differences with Postal Service executives on their own. With fact-finding, either side can request that an independent third party look at the issues.
The bills also formally recognize the position of postmaster. The title doesn't appear in the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act.
"It's important to get the definition in place before the [President's Commission on the United States Postal Service] issues its report," said Martha Lostrom, spokesperson for the National League of Postmasters.
In other postal news, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., introduced postal reform legislation June 18. Among other things, the bill would modify the rate-setting process, giving the Postal Service more flexibility to increase prices. The bill is essentially a placeholder until the presidential commission releases its set of recommendations, due out July 31. President Bush appointed the nine-person panel in December and charged it with developing a blueprint for reforming the agency.