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“…And keep in mind that when I left Washington, uh, almost two weeks ago Congress had sent thirteen bills to the President’s desk. The smallest number in the history of the republic. And most of those were naming post offices. [laughter, applause] That’s hardly postal reform. [laughter]…”

Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D) addressing the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association

convention in St. Louis, Missouri on August 13, 2013.

Yesterday we attended the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA) 109th Annual Convention in St. Louis. Speakers for the general session included Jacqueline Krage Strako, Vice President, Area Operations, Great Lakes Area for the United States Postal Service (USPS) and Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D). Ms. Krage Strako gave an enlightening presentation on the present and future of the USPS.

The NRLCA is understandably interested in the future of the USPS. They are understandably concerned with the future of six day delivery [pdf]:

….Saturday mail delivery is an important communication and marketing tool used by millions of citizens and mailers across the country, especially in rural areas. The NRLCA believes the USPS did not adequately consider the effect of eliminating Saturday mail delivery in rural and remote areas. The elimination of Saturday mail delivery would place financial hardships on the tens of millions of rural Americans who own small businesses. In addition, a large number of elderly and disadvantaged constituents live in rural America. Their livelihoods and quality of life depend on receiving mail six days a week.

…and the challenges of the congressional requirement to pre-fund retiree health benefits [pdf]:

….The PAEA forces the USPS to pre-fund their future retiree health benefits, a 75 year obligation, in only ten years. This unique requirement has resulted in roughly 80 percent of the USPS financial losses over the last six years. Currently, the USPS is the only government agency or private company mandated by law to pre-fund their future retirees’ health benefits….

Representative Emanuel Cleaver’s (D) address, Part 1:

Part 2:

“…Why should we weaken the best system in the world? [applause, cheers] And so, in addition to the glaring sun of Summer, the wicked winds of winter, and the constant threat from Fido’s fangs [laughter] postal workers must now contend with a confused and combative Congress….”

“…We can change things. And what, one of the things we need to do is make sure that the public understands what’s going on. We need to talk to people. Convince people. What people do is they get up in the morning, they turn on the radio or the television and listen to, uh, whatever ideology they already believe in. And then this, when you hear people saying these Federal workers, uh, their, their insurance is putting you in trouble, their pensions are driving the country, uh, uh, into a hole. And there are a lot of people who get up, uh, every morning and they believe that stuff.

I sat in a room with a member of Congress who stood up in front of a, a group of rural, uh, of residents from Missouri and said, you know, uh, I’m against, uh, the food stamp program because they’re giving food stamps to, uh, prisoners, people who are in prison. Look, I’m a dumb Methodist preacher [laughter] and even I [laughter] can come to conclude that if you give food stamps to somebody in prison do you, do you  then drive them to Safeway? [laughter, applause] Hmmm. [laughter] Uh, and yet, and when you go home, just talk to somebody, some of the people. They’ll, yeah, their, their giving them to prisoners. I mean, it makes no sense, but they spread that kind of thing. I mean, it, it makes no sense. And the same thing holds true with, with what’s going on with rural, uh, letter carriers. Most of the things that people believe they, they don’t even add up. And the only way we’re going to get the message out is, is, the corrective message out, is us…”

It would be an understatement to say that representative Cleaver’s address was a hit with the membership of the NRLCA.

After Representative Cleaver spoke and as he stepped off the platform he was greeted and thanked by NRLCA members at every step as he made his way out of the hall.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D).

It was the same in the hallway.