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STATEMENT OF JEROME J. KEATING, SECRETARY, NATIONAL ASSO
CIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS; ACCOMPANIED BY R. B. KREMERS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY; AND FRANK J. DELANY, GENERAL COUNSEL, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS
REORGANIZATION PLAN No. 2 OF 1952 AND SENATE RESOLUTION 317 Mr. KEATING. Yes, Senator. This is our general counsel, Mr. Frank J. Delany, president of the Federal Bar Association and former Solicitor for the Post Office Department, and Mr. R. B. Kremers, the assistant secretary of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you have a prepared statement?
The CHAIRMAN. Do you wish to have it inserted in the record, or do you prefer to read it? Mr. KEATING. I should like to read it, Senator.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. You may proceed to read your statement.
Will you first identify yourself for the record ? Mr. KEATING. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Jerome J. Keating. I am secretary of the National Association of Letter carriers, an organization representing 103,000 letter carriers located in every State of the Union, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
I have been connected with the Post Office Department for 30 years, and Mr. Kremers has been employed by the Post Office Department for the past 32 years. Mr. Delany is president of the Federal Bar Association and former Solicitor of the Post Office Department. Mr. W. C. Doherty, our national president, has 30 years of service in the Post Office Department and Mr. D. R. Sullivan, our national vice president, has had 47 years in the Post Office Department. Mr. Doherty and Mr. Sullivan are prevented from being here today because they are absent from the city on official business.
Our association was organized in Milwaukee, Wis., in 1889. One of the announced objectives of our association then was to strive for the constant improvement of the postal service. This association has consistently continued to work toward that objective.
We have carefully analyzed Reorganization Plan No. 2 and it is the considered opinion of all of us, basing our conclusions on our experience in the postal service, that to permit this plan to go into effect would be an extremely grave error. For this reason, we want to urge the committee to favorably report out Senate Resolution 317, introduced by Senators Johnston, McKellar, Neely, Langer, and Carlson last Wednesday, May 14. We sincerely believe that it would be an extremely serious mistake to eliminate senatorial confirmation of postmaster appointments. The arguments that have been advanced for the adoption of this plan are very attractive on the surface. The pronounced objective is to take politics out of the Post Office Department. This sounds very fine indeed; however, instead of taking politics out of the Post Office Department, to permit Reorganization Plan No. 2 to go into effect would really put politics into the Post Office Department.
The CHAIRMAN. That is a very interesting statement. I wish you would elaborate on it and tell us why you think this plan would create more politics within the service than it would eliminate. ,
Mr. KEATING. I will as I develop the statement, Senator, · The CHAIRMAN. I entertain about the same view, although some people do disagree with us.
Mr. KEATING. At the present time, candidates for apopintment to the position of postmaster are very carefully screened by leaders in the community and by the elected representatives of the community serving in the Congress, and all the Members of the Senate. If there is any serious objection raised to the confirmation of any of these men, the appointment is denied.
Reorganization Plan No. 2 would take away the right of selection from the elected representatives of the people and give it to the Postmaster General. The Post Office Department is the largest business in the world, spending over $2 billion a year. The Postmaster General, as head of that Department, has, through his authority in letting contracts and making purchases, a great deal of potential patronage. Reorganization Plan No. 2 would give him the right to appoint 21,438 individual representatives in all of the major cities in the United States. He already has the authority to appoint the 20,000 fourth-class postmasters. It is erroneous to assume that politics and political patronage exist only in the elective branch of the Government. There are more politics and more vicious politics in the administrative branch of the Government than there are in the elective branch of the Government. The American people have absolutely no direct control over administrators, and very little indirect control. The elected representatives of the Government are responsive to the desires of the public, and must defend their policies to the people.
Unfortunately, we Americans are prone to become influenced by shibboleths, slogans, and catch phrases. The enthusiasm for Reorganization Plan No. 2 springs entirely from this frailty. Actually, the adoption of this proposal would create bureacracy on a mammoth scale. No man in history has ever had direct control, without restraint, over as many high administrative officials as this proposal would vest in the Postmaster General.
The founding fathers of our Government acted very wisely when they set up a Government with checks and balances. The very foundation of democracy in the United States of America is the Congress, which is made up of the elected representatives of the people. Within the last few years we have had many examples of what can happen to people and their countries when the administrative or executive branch of the Government is permitted to take full control of the destiny of its citizens. The backbone of Mussolini's Fascist Government was strong administrative units of government over which the Parliament had no control. The same situation prevails in Russia today; bureaucratic administrators rule without restraint. We think it is of fundamental importance that, if we are to maintain a strong democracy, the elected representatives of the people must maintain control over the administrative branch of the Government. .
A very popular appeal to the businessmen of America is to suggest that Government be placed on a business basis. This is a very attractive and desirable objective. However, in striving to obtain that objective, we must constantly remember that the operation of a Government department is considerably different from the operation of a business institution. Government does not have the natural inhibitions that we find in business. The head of a Government department can violate all sound economic principles without doing violence to himself. He can hire people entirely through favoritism who are utterly incompetent and not suffer personally from this practice. He may be criticized, but this has little effect on men who do not have to face an election. However, in business organizations, uneconomic methods result in a loss of profit and destruction of the business. Loss of profit disciplines the incompetent administrator in business, but in Government unless Congress holds the reins, there is no discipline.
One beautiful dream that postal employees throughout the years have entertained was that a utopia would be quickly realized if it were possible to place a career man at the head of the Post Office Department. During the past few years we have had a career man at the head of the Post Office Department and the experience has not been a happy one. Sound principles of public policy and of personnel relationship have been ignored so that today we have the poorest mail service in the history of the Post Office Department and the morale of the postal employees has never been lower.
The CHAIRMAN. That is quite a challenging statement. I did not know that condition existed. We have generally thought, here, that we had a pretty good administrator now at the head of the Department.
Mr. KEATING. No, the experience has been exactly the opposite. We do not have a good administrator. There has never been in my experience in the Post Office Department as unfavorable a press. In a great many cities there have been a long series of articles containing complaints from the public. The Washington Evening Star had a number of articles criticizing the present postal service. A Utica newspaper had a similar series. The New York papers have been full of criticism. And to show how ridiculous things can become, a broker on Wall Street by the name of Weisenberger made the statement that 140 years ago they used pigeons to beat the mail service and because the mail service has been so poor in New York, he says he is going to start sending pigeons out to bond houses scattered around the country. And the statement has been made on Wall Street that there have been many programs, financial programs, involving billions of dollars, where, because of delays in the mail, the bond brokers have had to postpone or set aside those programs.
From the employees' standpoint, the curtailment orders of April 17, 1950, have placed an enormous burden on our people, particularly the letter carriers. There have been a number of retirements for disability, and there has been a 20-percent increase in compensation for injury cases in the Post Office Department.
The CHAIRMAN. May I ask you if other organizations of the postal service-—other associations such as yours-share the view that you are now expressing? Is this just the view of your group, or is it generally shared by all postal employees?
Mr. KEATING. I think it is generally shared, although probably not as forcibly expressed.
In my work in the organization, I go around the country a good deal, and in private conversations with postmasters and supervisors, many of them have been extremely frank in expressing their opinions as to the conditions. Officially, they don't dare express themselves.
The CHAIRMAN. I may want to go into this further, but go ahead with your prepared statement.
This is a sort of revelation to me.
Senator DWORSHAK. Yes, especially when Mr. Keating says the morale of the postal employees has never been lower. I would like to have a little more enlightenment on that.
Mr. KEATING. We will be glad to go into that further, Senator.
As I stated before, it is, of course, very nice to state that you can eliminate politics, but actually I think all of us realize that you can't eliminate politics where human beings are concerned. Where you have a relationship, if you have three people involved, you get politics. • We feel that the American public and the employees of the postal service are far better off if the selection of postmasters is left in the hands of the chosen representatives of the people. To give that authority to one single individual will create a potentially powerful patronage organization.
The postmasters under consideration in this plan are highly important Government officials. The practice of granting postmasters Presidential appointments has vested the position of postmasters with dignity and has given the position a high standing in the community. From a morale standpoint alone, to eliminate the selection by the President and the approval by the Senate would be a sorry mistake. Postmasters not only operate the post offices of all the cities throughout the United States, but they are extremely important public officials in their communities. They are influential men in their cities. To have a properly operated Post Office Department, these men should be closely identified with the local community. They should be responsive to the needs of their community. We are well aware of the fact that there is a residence requirement provision under civilservice law, wherein no one but a local resident can take the examination to qualify for postmaster. If it is possible, under the Reorganization Act, to take away powers from the Senate of the United States, what assurance do you have that after this is accomplished the residence requirement could not be abrogated with equal facility?
While there is a residence requirement, to the best of our knowledge, however, there is absolutely nothing in the regulations that would prevent the Postmaster General, under this plan, from transferring postmasters from one community to another. Even under civil-service regulations, there are a great many things that can be done that are objectionable to the public, and, if the administrators of a major agency of Government are given unlimited authority such as this Reorganization Plan No. 2 provides, there will be a great increase in this type of manipulation.
, The Postmaster General, in testifying before the committee on Wednesday, May 14, stated that they would not transfer postmasters because there would be no particular point in transferring a postmaster receiving $3,000 to a $5,000 position. From the standpoint of the individual postmaster, it would seem that there would be a great deal of incentive for such a transfer-namely, $2,000 a year increase.
The CHAIRMAN. General Donaldson testified positively that that could not be done under this plan. I believe the Director of the Budget also testified accordingly.
I had some question in my mind about it, but they have given assurances to the committee that legally, under the plan, such transfers cannot be made, and residence eligibility requirements now provided by law, will remain.
Do you have any serious doubt about it?
Mr. KEATING. Very definitely. I was here when General Donaldson made his statement, and I didn't think it was too specific. As I recall, he said there would be no particular point in transferring a postmaster receiving $3,000 to a $5,000 position.
Of course, from the individual postmaster's standpoint, there would be a great deal of point in giving him a $2,000 increase.
The CHAIRMAN. You have here with you your general counsel who, I believe, has had years of experience as Solicitor of the Post Office Department. Mr. DELANY. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. This committee is very much interested in having this point cleared up. Mr. DELANY. May I file a statement on that point, Senator?
The CHAIRMAN. We would be glad to have you do so, because we want to know what effect plan No. 2 will have on existing residence requirements. I do not want to leave the record in a state of confusion. I already have my own opinion about it, but I would like expert advice so as to make this record very clear. (Subsequently the following statement was filed by Mr. Delany :)
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS,
Washington, D. C., May 21, 1952. Hon. John L. McCLELLAN, Chairman, Committee on Government Operations,
United States Senate, Washington, D. C. DEAR SENATOR MCCLELLAN: This statement is furnished you pursuant to your request, made at the hearings over which you presided, relating to Reorganization Plan No. 2, 1952. You wished my views concerning the possibility of the avoidance of residence requirements relating to postmasters at offices of the first three classes.
This question was raised in considering the possibility of postmasters being transferred from one city to another even though they had not previously resided in the other.
It is my view that the intent of the law now controlling the filling of postmaster vacancies will forbid such transfers. For example, the United States Code, title 39, section 31 (b) requires that appointments be made only to people who have been residents of the area which the office serves for 1 year; and further states specifically that such residence "shall be essential to the examination, appointment, reappointment, or promotion of applicants for postmaster at offices unless the Civil Service Commission finds that peculiar local conditions preclude or render impossible the application of such requirements.”
In addition, title 39, United States Code, section 32 requires a postmaster to maintain residence in the place where he is appointed.
Notwithstanding these provisions of law, the view might be taken that transfer is distinct from appointment and, therefore, the letter of the law does not preclude transfer of a postmaster residing in one city to the office of postmaster in another. The customary use of the terms “transfer” and “appointment” would permit a distinction to be made withdrawing transfers from the application of this law. Specific cases have been mentioned in testimony showing that in any