This vote was on an amendment that would have allowed the U.S. Postal Service to force older employees to retire.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that would allow the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service to take cost-saving measures. One of the bill’s chief goals was to help the Postal Service reduce its workforce. The bill allowed the Postal Service to offer cash incentives to employees who quit or retire, but Sen. Coburn’s amendment would have given the Postmaster General an additional tool: Employees who were eligible for retirement could be forced to do so.
Sen. Coburn argued that his amendment would allow the Post Office to trim its labor costs by eliminating the workers who are often in the best position to retire. Because the mandatory retirements could not happen for at least 2 years, workers would have plenty of time to plan, he said.
“These workers will have defined benefit pensions – a luxury that a majority of most workers in the private sector do not have,” a statement on Sen. Coburn’s website said. “Retirement-eligible workers are in the best position to be dismissed from the Postal Service than their more junior colleagues who have not yet reached retirement eligibility.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) argued that the underlying bill’s approach to reducing the workforce – offering cash incentives to workers willing to leave – was better than the one advocated by Sen. Coburn’s amendment.
“First, to me, (Sen. Coburn’s amendment) smacks of age discrimination in some cases,” Sen. Collins said. “Second, we could be losing some of our most experienced and best personnel we need to implement the major changes that are authorized by this bill. Third and finally, I find it a little odd that we would want to tell people who are still in their working years and have had a good career and are contributing and are good employees that we do not want them to work anymore.”
Sen. Coburn’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 33-65. Voting “yea” were 33 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 53 Democrats and 12 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to allow the Postal Service to force older workers to retire.