WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- Postal worker unions organized 492 rallies across the nation on Tuesday afternoon intended to convince lawmakers to save the U.S. Postal Service, without layoffs and cutbacks.
The rallies are the first of a new push-back campaign by postal workers to get lawmakers to find ways to stabilize the Postal Service without laying off some 120,000 employees. The unions also have produced a TV ad echoing the same point that is running on CNN, FOX and MSNBC through November.
The postal unions were quick to say they're not "protesting" at congressional offices. They're just pushing lawmakers to support legislation that would stave off a Postal Service default by using billions of dollars from an overfunded pension fund to a make a big debt obligation payment officially due Sept. 30.
"We're not labeling them the enemy. We want to persuade them of the wisdom of this plan," said Sally Davidow, spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union, one of the four unions behind the rallies. The others are the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mailhandlers and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association.
The Postal Service appears poised to get a temporary reprieve from default, because of the stop-gap budget measure passed by the Senate Monday night, which is expected to pass the House.
The budget measure would postpone until Nov. 18 a $5.5 billion payment that the Postal Service was due to make by Friday under federal law to a retiree health care fund.
"The continuing resolution approved by the Senate last night gives Congress and the Administration some much needed breathing room to continue to work together to come up with a comprehensive set of reforms that will address the Postal Service's short and long-term financial challenges," said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat who runs the subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service.
Over the past few months, the White House, lawmakers and the Postal Service have all come up with plans to save the post office. One of the more controversial proposals came from the postal agency itself, which included cutting Saturday service, closing postal offices and laying off 120,000 postal workers to cut costs.
Any plans to save the Postal Service must be passed by Congress, which is why the rallies are taking place.
Last week, the White House released its rescue plan, which opposed voiding union contracts to lay off workers and would allow the Postal Service use some of the $7 billion from its overfunded pension to offer incentives and buyouts for employees near retirement. It would also have postponed indefinitely the payment due to the retiree health care fund.
The White House also proposed allowing the postal service to slash Saturday service, raises stamp prices and make payments to its retirement health care fund on an as-needed basis.
Republicans oppose allowing the Postal Service to dip into the $7 billion in pension overpayments and have put forward their own legislation, which a House Oversight committee is expected to pass next month.
The Republican plan also ends Saturday service and allows the Postal Service to hike prices to reflect the "true cost" of delivering mail, while slashing discounts for nonprofits. It also would give the Postal Service power to renegotiate existing contracts if finances call for it.
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