PROMO Miscellaneous - Open Mail Box Letters - iStock

North Dakota postal workers see brighter future with reform law

Mike Moen

(Prairie News Service) After years of attempts, a bill designed to reverse troubled finances at the U.S. Postal Service has cleared Congress.

It is viewed as a major victory for workers and customers in rural states like North Dakota.

A key provision no longer requires the agency to pre-fund worker health care costs for decades down the road. Instead, future retirees would be covered by Medicare. Critics argued the previous approach, and dwindling revenue, contributed to growing budget problems.

Scott Boehm, vice president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 957, said it appears lawmakers heard their concerns about keeping the service intact for communities that truly need it. 

"You can imagine, we have a lot of rural areas that really rely on e-commerce and the parcel business," Boehm pointed out.

Boehm said the new model should help the Postal Service to compete with delivery companies, even with traditional mail volumes on the decline. He added it could help secure safer delivery vehicles, noting the current fleet is largely outdated.

The relief plan excluded controversial ideas, such as reducing delivery days or privatizing services. 

Boehm noted a better financial outlook, along with improved conditions, could help recruit and retain postal workers. He said it's been a roller-coaster ride in dealing with staffing issues. 

"If the Postal Service is flourishing, they can afford to make sure that the rolls are full, and we have enough staffing to keep the mail timely."

Agency staffing levels have dwindled to just below 500,000 workers across the country, after peaking at around 800,000 two decades ago. In the Senate action to send the bill to the president's desk, both North Dakota U.S. Senators cast "yes" votes. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure.