About 200 members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) demonstrated outside Congressman Chris Gibson's Saratoga Springs district office on Friday, July 8. They were picketing to urge the freshman lawmaker to support a bill that would release money from their pension plan so they can invest it in the health benefit plan they're required to fund.
For four months now we've been asking members of Congress to release our contributions that we've made to our pension funds. It's our money, not taxpayer money, and the pension fund is overfunded, said Bill Cook, president of Branch 358 of NALC, which represents portions of Northeastern New York, and the statewide legislative director for NALC. "We're simply asking Congress to release our money so we can invest it as we, the postal service and its unions deem necessary to fund both the pension and health benefit plan it will provide dollar-for-dollar relief for the postal service to solve its financial deficit."
Cook said the postal service is required to pay $5 billion annually to the federal government to fund a health benefit plan and that $5 billion is the "dollar-for-dollar" budget shortfall the postal service faces each year. Gaining access to the pension money would help alleviate the deficit, said Cook.
Stephanie Valle, Gibson's communication coordinator, said she was disappointed in the early morning demonstration.
"It's disappointing that even with our ongoing communication with them, they chose this form of expression," said Valle.
Valle said Gibson has not said "no" to supporting the legislation and that he met with letter carriers in Washington, D.C. and in the local 20th District and requested additional information before making a decision.
"From our perspective, we're still reviewing the details. It's a complicated proposal and certainly we recognize the postal office needs significant structural reform to stay solvent but we had questions for them and the committee of jurisdiction here in the House on some of the budget scoring," said Valle. "We're waiting to hear back for more information from the Congressional budget office and the letter carriers."