About a dozen people clad in blue and waving signs spread out along a couple blocks of Central Avenue in Fort Dodge Tuesday afternoon urging passing drivers to help them save America's postal service.
The group of postal workers and retirees acknowledged that the United States Postal Service has a serious financial problem. But they say the cause of that problem is different from what many people may believe.
Congress, they add, has the power to fix the problem.
The cause of the dollars and cents woes of the Postal Service is a law that forces it to pay - in advance - $5.6 billion a year into an employee retirement benefits account, according to Herb Copley, a letter carrier from Mason City. He organized Tuesday's demonstration in his capacity as the 4th Congressional District representative for the Iowa State Association of Letter Carriers.
''All we're asking for is the pre-funding to be addressed,'' Copley said. ''This is not a bail out. We don't want any special treatment.''
Tuesday's rally took place as the Postal Service continues transferring the mail processing operations from Fort Dodge to Des Moines and closing small town Iowa post offices. Postal officials have cited the need to save money in the face of declining mail volume as the reason for those moves.
Copley said the Postal Service actually makes money delivering the mail, despite the fact that e-mail has sharply reduced the number of first class letters. According to Copley, the Postal Service made a net profit of $611 million over the last four fiscal years. But the requirement to pay for the retiree benefits in advance wipes out those profits, he said.
A bill pending in the House of Representatives would enable the Postal Service to recover excess money it paid into the retiree benefit accounts so that those dollars can be used to pay for daily operations. U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Ames, co-sponsored that bill. However, the measure has stalled in the House Oversight Committee.
On Tuesday, the group gathered in Latham's Fort Dodge office at 1426 Central Ave. Copley said they wanted to thank the congressman for co-sponsoring the bill. He added that they were gathering signatures on petitions that Latham can present to his House colleagues in an effort to advance the bill. Latham was not present Tuesday.
The law that forces the Postal Service to pre-pay the retiree benefits was passed in 2006. No other federal agency has to comply with such a mandate, Copley said.
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org