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submitted to the Congress by President Harry S. Truman on April 10, 1952.
We feel very sincerely that if Reorganization Plan No. 2 is permitted to become law it would do much to weaken the merit system, because it will take away from the 96 Senators the right to study the qualifications of those recommended to serve as postmasters in all first-, second-, and third-class post offices, and places in the hands of one person, the Postmaster General, the power to appoint the more than 21,000 executive positions, as postmasters in all first-, second-, and third-class post offices.
We believe that centralizing the authority to appoint postmasters in the hands of any one person would lead to the establishment of a system of personal and political patronage which would be extremely harmful to the postal service.
The Government Employees' Council, of the American Federation of Labor, is made up of 25 member unions, with a total membership of Federal and postal employees of approximately 600,000. In representing this membership we have at all times supported and advocated a stronger merit system, but we feel that taking away from 96 Senators the duty and responsibility of examining the qualifications of more than 21,000 postal executives; placing this responsibility in the hands of one person is most assuredly returning to the spoils system in it worst form.
On behalf of our merit system and on behalf of the American people, we most earnestly plead with you to use your influence, and actively support a resolution to defeat Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1952. Most sincerely,
THOMAS G. WALTERS,
Operations Director, GEC, A. F. of L. Special committee, GEC, AFL: W. M. Thomas, Chairman, President, NPTA; E. C. Hallbeck, Legislative Representative, NFPOC; William C. Doherty, President, NALC; James A. Campbell, President, AFGE; Thomas G. Walters, Operations Director, GEC, AFL.
The CHAIRMAN. General Donaldson, the committee is very happy to have you present this morning and will be glad to hear you regarding Reorganization Plan No. 2, which affects your Department.
Do you have a prepared statement?
STATEMENT OF JESSE M. DONALDSON, THE POSTMASTER GEN
ERAL; ACCOMPANIED BY ROY C. FRANK, SOLICITOR, POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
REORGANIZATION PLAN No. 2
Postmaster General DONALDSON. No, I do not, Mr. Chairman. I made no prepared statement, because the President's message of April 10, 1952, and the plan are perfectly clear and speak for themselves. And I thought, since this subject has been discussed over a period of years, and now that postmasters are under civil service and subject to the provisions of the Hatch Act, the abolishment of the confirmation by the Senate would put them clearly in the same category as all other employees.
I would like to just spend a few moments, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, in trying to give a little information on the appointment of postmasters.
First I would like to call attention to the fact that the report submitted by the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government among other things recommended that the confirmation of postmasters by the Senate should be abolished.
They stated in that connection that, the primary responsibility for personnel selection and management other than the Postmaster General and the Director of Posts should rest in the service. The Post Office Department is alone able to determine and find the skills required. The selection of postmasters should be as far as possible from the local community and in consultation with community leaders. We have stated above that all selections of personnel should be subject to merit standards set by the Post Office and approved by the Civil Service Commission and subject to enforcement of that body.
Now, following the recommendation of the so-called Hoover Commission, the task force, in their report to the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, had this to say, and I quote:
Eliminate political appointments of all postal executives below the office of the Postmaster General, including the postmasters of all classes. And then they make a statement upon which they base their recommendation.
Following that, the President indicated to me that this recommendation should be followed, and he submitted a report and asked the Postmaster General to submit a draft of legislation to accomplish what had been recommended by the so-called Hoover Commission.
Under date of June 24, 1949, I submitted a brief letter to the Vice President and the Speaker of the House and transmitted with that a draft of suggested legislation to accomplish the recommendation of the Commission. Bills were introduced both in the House and in the Senate, but hearings were had only on S. 2213, which was introduced by Senator Frear and was in exact wording of the suggested legislation proposed by the Department.
In connection with the hearings on this suggested legislation, a subcommittee had been appointed, headed by Senator Frear, and on March the 14th, 1950, a subcommittee, attended by Senators Frear, Thye, and Dworshak, took testimony and eventually reported out the bill favorably by the subcommittee to the whole committee; and no further action was taken.
I might, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, briefly give you the history of the appointment of postmasters now from the very beginning.
In the beginning, the postmasters were appointed by the Postmaster General, and several legislative acts provided for that. It provided also not only for the establishment of post offices but for the appointment of postmasters by the Postmaster General. It was not until 1836 that the Congress enacted a law providing for the confirmation of postmasters, and briefly that law reads as follows: And be it further enacted, That there shall be appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, a Deputy Postmaster for each post office, at which the commission allowed to the Postinaster amounted to $1,000 or upwards in the year ending the 30th day of June, one thousand eight hundred thirty-five, or which may, in any subsequent year, terminating on the thirtieth day of June, amount to or exceed that sum, who shall hold his office for the period of four years, unless sooner removed by the L’resident.
Up to that time, Mr. Chairman, the postmasters had been appointed by the Postmaster General, and the terms "Deputy Postmaster" and “Postmaster” were one and the same.
Then, following that, in 1848, section 3 of the act of August 14, 1848 provided :
The Postmaster General is hereby authorized to establish post offices and appoint Deputy Postmasters at San Diego, Monterey, and San Francisco, and such other places on the coast of the Pacific in California as the public interest njay require.
It seems as though they got back to the appointment of Postmasters directly by the Postmaster General.
Then, on March 3, 1863, section 1 of the act of that date provided : The Postmaster General shall have power to appoint nd commission all postmasters whose salary or compensation for the preceding fiscal year shall at the time of such appointment have been ascertained to have been less than $1,000 per year, and in all other cases the President shall appoint.
Then, from then on out, Mr. Chairman, the law changed from time to time, but in each instance it provided for the appointment of what we commonly refer to as Presidential postmasters, that is, postmasters at offices of the first, second, and third classes, to be appointed by the President by and with the consent of the Congress.
That has been the practice over the years, even though there has been some discussion from time to time that the postmasters should be brought under civil service and should be appointed directly under regulations promulgated by the Civil Service Commission.
For a number of years, up to 1917, nominations were made, submitted to the Senate, and appointments were made by the President after concurrence by the Senate, and no examinations were held by the Civil Service Commission, or no provision was made or determinaion as to how the person to be nominated would be selected.
And in 1917, President Wilson issued an Executive order providing about as follows: That when a vacancy occurred in the Presidential office, the Civil Service Commission should hold an examination and submit to the Post Office Department the name of the top eligible, and that the top eligible must be nominated.
A little later on, he amended this Executive order to provide for the promotion of some one within the service in filling the vacancy, or to hold an examination and nominate the top eligible.
That continued throughout the years from 1917 to 1921, and in 1921 President Harding issued an Executive order similar to the one issued by President Wilson, excepting that there was provision for the selection of one of the highest three eligibles. And a similar Executive order was issued by President Coolidge and by President Hoover and again by President Roosevelt early in the beginning of his first term.
All of these Executive orders provided for the promotion of an employee in the vacancy office or the holding of an examination by the Civil Service Commission and selecting for nomination one of the highest three eligibles.
That was maintained until about 1936, when President Roosevelt issued an Executive order providing for the appointment of the top eligible, very similar to the Executive order issued by President Wilson in 1917.
In 1938, Congress enacted the law providing for the appointment of postmasters of Presidential offices, which is the one under which we are operating now.
That law provided that an appointment could be made in one of three ways; either by the reappointment of the incumbent postmaster at the expiration of his term, through a noncompetitive examination, or the promotion of an employee in the vacancy office through a noncompetitive examination, or through an open competitive examination and the selection of one of the highest three eligibles.
Later on, postmasters were put under the provisions of the Retirement Act. The act of June 25, 1938, eliminated the term of the postmaster.
In other words, he is serving without term. The 4-year term was abolished.
So that at the present time we find the postmasters in these offices appointed without term. They are subject to the provisions of the Retirement Act and are also subject to the provisions of the Hatch Act.
The CHAIRMAN. May I ask one question at that point, so that we may follow you clearly?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Is the effect of this reorganization plan a complete repeal of the 1938 act of Congress? What part of the 1938 act would remain in force if this plan goes into effect?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Mr. Chairman, I have Mr. Frank, the Solicitor of the Post Office Department, here, who may want to answer that, but I will answer it as to my understanding.
It would only repeal that part of the act of 1938 that applies to confirmation by the Senate.
The CHAIRMAN. What I wanted to determine is what part of the law is going to be left, and what act of Congress, is going to be changed. The last expression of Congress, as to how postmasters should be selected, was in 1938.
Postmaster (eneral DONALDSON. That is right.
The CHAIRMAN. I want to get clearly for the record, either from you or the chief counsel for your Department, the exact impact that This reorganization plan has upon the 1938 act, what parts the plan repeals and what parts of it are retained.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I will give you my understanding of it, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee: That all this reorganization plan does with reference to the act of June 25, 1938, is to eliminate that provision in the act that requires confirmation of the postmasters by the Senate. It would provide that postmasters be appointed either through a promotion of someone in the vacancy office, provided he qualified in a noncompetitive test, or the holding of an examination and making the selection from one of the highest three eligibles. And the only thing eliminated from the existing law would be the requirement that they be confirmed by the Senate.
The CHAIRMAN. There is another difference, in that you make the appointment of postmasters, or the Postmaster General actually makes the appointment instead of the President making the appointment.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Yes, Mr. Chairman. The Postmaster General now appoints postmasters of all fourth-class offices.
The CHAIRMAN. He actually makes a decision with respect to the appointment of postmasters in most all the other offices, does he not?
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Yes; he does.
The CHAIRMAN. He actually makes the decision, and the President confirms it, and the name is sent down to the Senate for confirmation.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. You are right, Mr. Chairman. The nomination list that goes to the Senate is prepared in the Post Office
Department on the proper form, which is transmitted to the President, and by the President to the Senate.
But I can see nothing in this reorganization plan that changes anything in existing law except eliminating the necessity of confirmation by the Senate of Presidential postmasters.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, at that point, can you tell us how that elimination of Senate confirmation will make the Post Office Department more efficient or will produce any economies?
Those are the two principal objectives of the Reorganization Act.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. Mr. Chairman, I think I can answer that only in this way. Of course, you know, and the members of the committee know, that however postmasters may be appointed, the law fixes their salaries, so that there can be no reduction in the expenditures so far as their salaries are concerned. I think there can be this saving, in that there would be a greater tendency to promote people in the postal service to the position of postmaster, and perhaps thereby increase the morale in the postal service.
The CHAIRMAN. May I ask you at that point: Will you have any greater authority, power, or discretion to promote people in the service than you have under existing law!
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I think we would follow it more closely.
The interference that you might have now, Mr. Chairman, would be eliminated. We have appointed in the last 16 or 18 years a great many service postmasters, as you know, and that would be accelerated, I think.
As a matter of fact, I would like to read you a list of some of the larger offices where we have service postmasters for your record. That is, where the postmasters came up through the ranks and have been appointed to the position of postmaster: Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Boston, Mass.; Buffalo, N. Y.; Cleveland, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; Flushing, N. Y.; Fort Worth, Tex.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Houston, Tex.; Indianapolis, Ind. ; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; Pasadena, Calif.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland, Maine; Providence, R. I.; Tampa, Fla.; Toledo, Ohio; Trenton, N. J.; Washington, D. C.; and Worcester, Mass.
Now, I asked one of the officials in the Division of Postmasters to prepare me a list of service appointments from memory, without checking the files.
It would require an enormous amount of time to go through all of the files and determine service postmasters.
But from the memory of the employees in the various sections of that Division, they came up with a list of 383 service postmasters that they could remember.
The CHAIRMAN. General, if you care to, the committee would be glad to have you submit the number, after you have checked it accurately, for the record.
I do not think you need to list the post offices. We would not require that.
But when you have checked the number accurately, you could submit for the record the number of service postmasters that came up through the ranks and received their appointments.
Postmaster General DONALDSON. I would be glad to do that.