Postmasters Urged to Continue to Work Together to Sustain a Viable Postal Service
President Bob Rapoza welcomed NAPUS members back to Oklahoma City; the last time the city hosted NAPUS’ national convention was in 1981. That year, more than 3,000 people were registered at the convention and the association enjoyed 90 percent membership. “Times have changed,” he exclaimed.
He promised everyone a great week in Oklahoma City and thanked Convention Chair Louie Hatler and his fellow Oklahoma Postmasters for all their work the past three years to make the convention a success. He urged everyone to take advantage of the great training Education & Development Chair John Galera has organized for the convention.
Rapoza stressed that he, League President Mark Strong and NAPS President Louis Atkins continue to maintain a strong working relationship that has benefited Postmasters and supervisors. And he commended NAPUS’ Executive Board members for their hard work on Friday and Saturday, taking care of business and making tough decisions necessary for the welfare of NAPUS and its members.
He also thanked NAPUS PM Retired President Jack Wilkins, referring to the support and contributions retirees have provided as the organization finds itself in unfamiliar territory. And to the 2,600 NAPUS members recently retired, he thanked them for their service and dedication.
Rapoza pointed out the USPS’s financial situation has gotten worse since the last national convention; NAPUS has been involved in a lot of stuff over a very short time. He said the inaction of Congress to enact meaningful postal reform legislation has forced the USPS’s hand into making life-changing decisions.
In March, the NAPUS Executive Board unanimously agreed to move forward and work via the consultative process with the Postal Service on POStPlan. As it was first presented, some options were not in the best interests of Postmasters. He reminded everyone NAPUS has consultative rights—not negotiating power. They selected the best of the worst and worked to make the best of the worst better. “That’s what Mark Strong and I did,” he said, “and we continue to do. Considering the odds against us, we managed to make the best of the worst a little bit better.”
He pointed out they could not get all they asked for, but they didn’t give up. “I am as concerned today as I was eight months ago about POStPlan; it’s evolving, with several phases,” he said. “We can’t focus on what has passed, but, as we focus on the phases to come, we can’t lose sight of a key ingredient to our success: meaningful postal reform.”
Rapoza decried the inaction of Congress. “We need to throw those rascals out!” he declared. It’s time for NAPUS members to take a proactive role in the upcoming elections: Educate voters and ask them to elect officials who care about the Postal Service and what it means to its customers. “We are not a company,” he vowed. “We are a service organization, given to us by our forefathers.”
He said his top priority throughout POStPlan is to ensure all impacted Postmasters have landing spots by September 2014. He likened the success of POStPlan to a three-legged stool: There needs to be proper resources, adequate training and Postmasters’ dedication to get the job done.
Rapoza declared the stool will never collapse because of Postmasters’ dedication to get the job done—Postmasters who have chosen to stay and be part of this great organization: the USPS. “Our dedication to get the job done has always been the strength of the Postal Service,” he said. “Challenges can become great opportunities. Our dedication to get the job done will enable us to take advantage of these opportunities. Look at the glass as being half-full.”
“We have an opportunity to save an institution the American public cannot afford to lose. The Postal Service will survive because of Postmasters like you who care deeply about this great service organization.”
Rapoza introduced Julie Gosdin, USPS Oklahoma City District manager. He thanked her for taking time out of her Labor Day holiday to come speak to NAPUS members. She welcomed everyone to Oklahoma. “We have some of the best Postmasters and customers in the entire country; we are a proud bunch,” she declared.
She referred to some of the challenges from moving forward with POStPlan. “We will rise to these challenges,” she vowed. The way people do business has changed and continues to evolve; it’s definitely not business as usual.
The Postal Service is trying to change with changing society and, in the field, trying to make operations as efficient as possible. “Our products need to meet or exceed customer needs and we need to look for new opportunities,” she stressed.
Gosdin said Postmasters in rural communities are the USPS in the communities they serve and a primary source of information. “Each of you should be proud of your many contributions,” she declared. “I know the dedicated Postmasters in Oklahoma have worked hard to make this convention a memorable one,” she said. “Enjoy our hospitality here in Oklahoma!”
NAPUS Secretary-Treasurer Ruthie Cauble told everyone, “I love Oklahoma!” She said the Oklahoma Chapter has been working hard for everyone and she considers everyone at the convention a member of her family.
“It has been an honor to serve you again,” she told Postmasters. “I was sure my second term would be easier than my first. To say this past term has been challenging is an understatement! I am a fiscal conservative,” she averred. “You elected and re-elected me to do that.”
She stressed again NAPUS members are a family. “We may not have it all together, but, together, we have it all. We all have forged friendship that we value. I am blessed to have friends from so many states I hold dear to my heart,” she said.
Cauble offered congratulations to newly retired Postmasters and hope to those who have stayed and thanked retirees for all they do. “And for all who gave me the honor to serve you,” she said, “I gave it my all.”
Executive Director Charlie Moser said the hospitality throughout Oklahoma is unmatched. He, too, thanked Oklahoma Postmasters for their great job.
He mentioned his childhood hero, Mickey Mantle, saying he was a great ball player with a lot of courage. And Postmasters need to face POStPlan with courage. “Hopefully, some evolution of POStPlan will be favorable to us,” he said.
He pledged the National Office will not cut its service to NAPUS members. “Any time you call,” he promised, “we will be there for you.”
Moser said they are working on a lot of issues. He urged Postmasters not to use their private vehicles for work. “It’s wrong; don’t do it!” he declared. “If you’re told to do it, tell your chapter president.”
He also urged Postmasters who are going down to two- and four-hour offices as a result of POStPlan to start now looking for other opportunities. “I don’t want to see someone lose their job in two years because they sat around and didn’t do anything about it. You have to be proactive; don’t get caught in a non-career position,” he counseled.
Moser referred to the NAPUS website, assuring members the information posted is accurate and pertinent to Postmasters. As of October, the new knowledge-based link will be password-protected for NAPUS members; they will need their NAPUS membership number, printed on their Postmasters Gazette labels.
He also urged Postmasters to take advantage of the training at the convention; it’s some of the best offered: eCareer, financial planning, SOV/CSV, changes to the APWU contract and more. “Spend some time in these classes,” he said, “because they’re worth it,.”
Moser commended retirees for all they have done for NAPUS over the years, wishing them a happy and healthy retirement. “Despite the many changes that made your job difficult,” he said, “you have to admit, the Postal Service was pretty good to you and you were good to the Postal Service. Accent the positive and don’t waste your time and energy on being bitter.”
He asked that retirees help out and support those staying behind. “You have a new role,” he urged, “to help those who are here and preserve the retirement and health care benefits we currently have.”
Convention Chair Louie Hatler welcomed everyone to the 108th National Convention in the wonderful state of Oklahoma. He encouraged everyone to go out in the early morning and visit the Oklahoma City Memorial; experience it in the morning air.
“Catch the dream,” he urged members. “Listen to our speakers and leaders; sharpen your skills. Rekindle friendships. Chase your dream. May your own dream catcher allow good thoughts to come your way on this path we call life.”
NAPUS past national presidents at the convention were honored on stage: Dale Goff, Wally Olihovik, Charlie Moser, Ted Carrico, Jim Miller and Joe Gondola. Gondola was elected national president at the 1981 convention in Oklahoma City.
Games thanked Rapoza for recognizing the past presidents. “They all could relate stories of their terms as president—meeting so many Postmasters and the love and dedication shown by Postmasters for their jobs,” he said. “They all were upstanding leaders; they loved Postmasters and were proud to serve.”
He acknowledged they still care greatly for NAPUS and the Postal Service and admitted it’s hard to stand by and watch the changes taking place today. He commended NAPUS’ current leaders for their decisions and challenged them to continue to fight for small-town post offices.
“In no way should our Postmasters be held accountable for the failures of the top leadership at the Postal Service and Congress,” he stressed. “Postmasters are not to blame! If given half the chance, Postmasters can be part of the solution. While our roles have changed, we still have a valuable service to provide to the American people.”
NAPUS Postmasters Retired President Jack Wilkins gave a brief history of the retirees, explaining in the early years of the organization, there were no provisions to continue membership after retirement. Finally, in 1951, the Retired Postmasters Association of the United States was organized under NAPUS, with one of its goals being to get together and talk over old times.
“Now,” he pointed out, “we certainly do more than talk over old times.” Retired Postmasters are involved in community, legislative and political affairs, as well as provide support and assistance to active Postmasters. “We have the knowledge and a willingness to help those in need.”
Using geese flying in formation as a metaphor for leadership, Wilkins suggested Postmasters stay in formation—accepting help and giving it to others. And to take turns with demanding jobs in leadership. “We are interdependent on each other’s skills, gifts and resources,” he explained.
“We need to make sure our honking is encouraging,” he said. “And, if we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong. We make no distinction between active and retired; we are in it together.”
League of Postmasters President Mark Strong referred to the NAPUS national convention in Grand Rapids, MI, two years ago, when he, Atkins and Rapoza were in their first years as presidents. “We were feeling good,” he reminisced, “with no serious issues in front of us.” The toughest question asked of then-Deputy PMG Pat Donahoe was whether Postmasters would get convention leave back.
Two years ago, the three presidents promised to work together and they have held true to that promise. “We’ve had our differences,” he admitted, “but when it comes down to decisions for Postmasters and managers, they come first. I commit to you this will not change.”
Strong pledged they all will continue to work as one for their members, putting them first. Little did he know that, last year in Puerto Rico, when he spoke of the possibility of closing 3,700 post offices, it would be small potatoes to what they are dealing with now.
He referred to a meeting last year in Ingomar, MT, with Sen. Max Baucus and the Postmaster General. Donahoe told residents not to worry about their post office closing; there was a plan to take care of it. Little did anyone know it was POStPlan.
“It took us by surprise,” Strong said, “and we are dealing with it as best we can because there is no other choice. Bob and I are committed to focusing on impacted Postmasters who want to stay.” He told convention attendees part of it is in their courts.
Strong stressed to Postmasters they need to understand the data flow and get credit for all they’re doing. “Let us fight the big battles,” he offered, “but make sure you’re getting all the credit and you understand the results of that credit from the workload.”
On the bright side, service is at an all-time high and there is growth in the digital arena and the shipping and packaging business. He told Postmasters they should be proud.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “Legislation is critical and could make a world of difference. We have our challenges, but, together, we will get through them.” Despite, POStPlan, DUO and impacted Postmasters, attention needs to be put on Postmasters who are taking on more work with less support.
The work environment needs to improve; there needs to be an environment with personal growth, job satisfaction and recognition. “Bring back the pride we have in our title and jobs,” he urged.
“Recognize the workload Postmasters have and the fact they will be taking on more and will gladly do so,” he said. “But threats and telecons will not take us into the future. We want what is best for the Postal Service. Take care of this manager and the Postal Service will be a viable business into the future. It’s time we recognize respect, trust and empower Postmasters!”
NAPS President Louis Atkins delivered greetings from NAPS leadership and members. He said postal managers are working hard to meet the needs of their customers and the demands being placed on everyone as the current financial condition of the USPS suffers.
Atkins stressed the leaders of all three management associations share the common purpose of ensuring their rights and benefits are respected and organizational changes are implemented within compliance. “Protecting our members is a full-time job in Washington, DC, these days,” he declared.
He pointed out he has been working in Washington, DC, for 12 years with NAPUS presidents. He commended Rapoza for his knowledge and negotiating skills, saying he is a fighter for Postmasters’ rights. “We have collaborated on many issues affecting our members,” he said. “I hate to think what the landscape would look like if we didn’t collaborate.”
Atkins said there are differences between Postmasters, supervisors and mangers. “We all are leaders and make a difference and we truly love the Postal Service, even when it doesn’t treat us how we want to be treated,” he stressed.
He criticized the USPS’ methodology of chasing numbers and said we need to do a better job of communicating the nature and function of our jobs. “As first-line mangers,” he said, “we know our jobs better than anyone and should be allowed ownership.”
Atkins also said it’s time for everyone to speak up. “I’m going to vote postal!” he declared. “Getting involved is important; take an affirmative step to be part of the solution.”
He told Postmasters now is the time to make things happen. Postal employees need to visit their lawmakers and let their views be known; they must hammer home the message. “Our collective voices are louder, more unified. Our message is more vigorous and committed—committed to sustaining the Postal Service now and into the future.”
“You exhibit the good in NAPUS, public service and family values,” he said. “I pledge continued support to our joint efforts to ensure the rights and benefits of managers and Postmasters in their postal careers.”