Rep. Wilmer, Montana ALC president Nylund reply to tabled bill news

DM News received several comments about a story it published about how a state legislator in Montana had pulled her do-not-mail bill. The bill, the Montana Do-Not-Mail Act, HB 718, was tabled Feb. 22 by Rep. Franke Wilmer, a Democrat, its chief sponsor. The bill called for creating a do-not-mail registry similar to the do-not-call registry. The following are comments submitted to DM News by Rep. Wilmer, D-MT, and Erik Nylund, president of the Montana State Association of Letter Carriers.

Franke Wilmer, Democrat, the Montana House of Representatives :

“I wanted to pursue this legislative idea for two reasons – energy and trees (environmental waste). I had about eight different legislative proposals in play (requested) at the beginning of the session.

“I thought initially that the idea might gain enough support to pass because opting out of commercial junk mail, but leaving political, religious, and non-profit in, might appeal to both parties for some of the same and different reasons (less competition in the mail!).

“I anticipated opposition from the retail sector, but underestimated the opposition from the Letter Carriers Association. Equally important to me was opposition from small printing businesses in Montana. I am a strong supporter of small, locally owned businesses.

“I called a printing company who I knew shared some of my same values for environment and energy conservation. This particular company does use quite a bit of post-consumer waste for printing stock. I concluded that I was not ready to take on all three – printing businesses, retail lobbyists, and the letter carriers, AND that I could think about accomplishing some of the same objectives with a different approach, for example, incentives to printers who use post-consumer products, etc. As for energy, there are a number of ways to increase energy efficiency and conservation.

“So, I just didn’t feel like it was a fight I was prepared and able to win at this point and that there were other ways of accomplishing at least some of the same objectives without putting people out of work either in small businesses or with the post office.

“I went to the committee and asked for a table motion. I have five other bills still in play, two have made it out of committee, and I have hopes for the third. One has to do with encouraging the development of alternative energy and conservation measures. For me as a freshman legislator, this is a full enough plate. A couple of bills I thought would not make it out of committee but would be worth introducing to initiate a public discussion about the policy ideas I went ahead with. Otherwise, I don’t think the time is right to pursue a junk mail opt-out registry.”

Erik Nylund, president, Montana State Association of Letter Carriers :

“I read the online version of your article in the DM News on the bill tabled in the Montana Legislature. The story behind the story, [which] may be of some value to your readers, was the coalition formed by interested parties to defeat the bill. I am a letter carrier in Missoula, MT, and president of the Montana State Association of Letter Carriers. I deliver to one of the largest mailing houses in the state, The Directory. We regularly keep each other informed of news that affects our industry. … For some time, my national union has partnered with mailers to reach solutions to our common challenges. The real success in this story was the very short notice coalition we built to defeat this bill in less than eight hours of hearing about it. Our industry has a wide range of interest groups, but none have more in common than mailing houses and letter carriers. We rely upon each other for our livelihoods.

“The reason I am writing you is more of your readers and my members need to realize how much we mean to each other. When we stick together, great things happen. I’ve seen too many articles in mailing industry publications that refer negatively to postal unions. One postal union does frequently attack your industry, but its members are the minority of the unionized postal workforce. The National Association of Letter Carriers has long worked to build relationships with your members and has long recognized our common interests. The American Postal Workers Union is not always on board with either of us. Unfortunately, stories about that organization’s antics often overshadow other postal union stories.

“In this case, we worked together to achieve a goal. We did it quite effectively. I firmly believe this bill was defeated because of an early morning conversation that took place between me and the owners of The Directory. That started the ball rolling on a massive phone and e-mail tree that involved hundreds of people who called and wrote their legislators. We couldn’t have done it without each other. We exchanged information and spread the message to our contacts. Those contacts included printers, mailers and various unions not always associated with the mailing industry.

“I hope your publication will make mention of this success story in Montana. Hopefully, we can repeat our success in other states. More importantly, your readers will be more aware that not all postal organizations fight their interests. I don’t wish to minimize the concerns the other postal union has – they are protecting their members. At the same time, I want to highlight the fact that we’re not all part of that organization. The members of the Montana State Association of Letter Carriers look forward to delivering more direct mail in the future.

“Thanks for providing me and my members with job security.”

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