In his Jan. 6 Opinion piece, "Instead of raising stamp rates, the USPS should cut costs," Sam Ryan claims that postal workers earn "substantially more than their private sector counterparts," when, in fact, FedEx and UPS employees earn more than the workers we at the American Postal Workers Union represent. Though many postal clerks, truck drivers, mechanics, and computer and electronic technicians are highly skilled, on average they earn far less than the $65,000 Mr. Ryan implied.
"No organization can effectively control costs if it is barred from adjusting the size of its workforce," Ryan says in his criticism of no-layoff clauses in postal labor contracts. Actually, the Postal Service has reduced its workforce by more than 12 percent (more than 94,000 career jobs) during the past five years, while enjoying steady increases in worker productivity.
The Postal Service has fewer employees today than it did in 1985, yet in just the past 20 years its delivery network has grown by 32 million new addresses and its volume has doubled.
Meanwhile, no serious postal commentators are blaming the latest rate increase on costs associated with workers' pay or benefits - not the Postal Service, not the legislators grappling with postal reform, and not large business mailers.
President American Postal Workers Union
Jeffrey Shaffer's Jan. 13 Opinion column, "Turn on, tune in ... disconnect," articulated my own feelings and observations about the frenetic pace of our culture. My husband and I relish Friday evenings where we can say, "We have nothing going on this weekend." This means to us: quiet time for reading, gardening, exercising, and cooking at home.
In my medical practice recently, I had three conversations with patients about the relationship of their symptoms to this demanding, culturally mandated pace. There is a connection between depression, debt, obesity, and the lack of cultural acceptability for Americans to tune out, turn off, and take a nap.
Thank you for starting a conversation that has the potential to truly serve the needs of busy Americans.
Regarding the Jan. 11 article "Can boss insist on healthy habits?": A friend recently said in a cycling class, "I wish I could just send my body in and say, 'Give it an extra hard workout today.' " I guess we all wish that maintaining a healthy lifestyle were easy.
We're discovering that smoking and obesity are costing businesses, our federal government, and, ultimately, each of us a great deal.
If employees choose not to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and that choice causes extra costs to their employers, then I think employers should have the right to offer their employees incentives regarding quitting smoking or losing weight - or to impose disincentives for not taking steps to do so.
The choice is ultimately the individual's. But employees who aren't willing to take steps to reduce their health risks possibly should bear the burden of paying extra for it, in much the same way that those who have accidents pay higher premiums for their car insurance.
Nancy Reynolds Hensel
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