Postal Worker Hunger Strike to Start Monday at Press Conference
WASHINGTON, DC—June 22, 2012—Ten postal activists from across the nation will descend on Washington, DC, this Monday morning (June 25) to begin a “Hunger Strike to Save the Postal Service.” Intent on shaming Congress into action to “repeal the prefunding mandate” and “refund the pension surplus,” the hunger strikers will “engage in dramatic actions” on Capitol Hill and at postal headquarters.
Among the group’s planned actions are a press conference, with Rep. Dennis Kucinich participating, at 10 a.m. at the Capitol; “Stop the Robbery” march from postal headquarters to the Capitol on Tuesday, June 26, at 9 a.m.; and a “Tell the Truth” protest at the Washington Post on Wednesday, June 27, at 9 a.m. The hunger strike will climax with a mass rally at postal headquarters, 475 L’Enfant Plaza, at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 28, to include an attempt to “encounter the Postmaster General.”
Gathering for a vigil every morning from 8-9 a.m. and every afternoon from 5-6:30 p.m. outside the Rayburn House Office Building on Independence Ave., the protesters will spend the bulk of their days demonstrating at Congressional offices, wearing yellow “Hunger Strike Back” t-shirts with the message: “Congress is starving the postal service.”
“We could easily protect the Postal Service if Congress would address the agency’s overpayment into its Retiree Health Benefits program,” asserted Rep. Kucinich.
The protesters claim that a 2006 Congressional mandate, which forces the U.S. Postal Service to prefund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, is responsible for the financial crisis facing the service. Without the mandate, postal revenues came close to matching expenses over the past six years. The USPS has also overpaid tens of billions into two pension funds, according to the Office of the Inspector General and the Postal Regulatory Commission.
The hunger strike begins the week before the U.S. Postal Service downgrades delivery standards for first class mail. Beginning July 1, overnight single piece first class mail delivery will end.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has announced that he will then begin closure of half the mail sorting plants in the country and cut hours from 25 to 75 percent in half the nation’s post offices. Forty thousand jobs will be eliminated.
“It’s not necessary. The postal service is not broke,” said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier traveling from Portland, Oregon for the hunger strike. “It’s not the internet, not private competition, not the recession—Congress is starving the U.S. Postal Service.”
The hunger strikers are calling on Donahoe to maintain delivery standards and suspend cuts and closures while allowing Congress to fix the finances by repealing the prefunding mandate and refunding the pension surplus.
“The Postmaster General is sending the service into a death spiral,” said Matt McAuliffe, a mailhandler and hunger striker from Denver. “By slowing the mail, one to two days, the postal service will drive away customers. Those most dependent on the mail, the elderly, the poor and rural communities will be hit the hardest.”
“Corporate interests, working through their friends in Congress, want to undermine the USPS, bust the unions then privatize it,” said Tom Dodge, a hunger striker and postal worker from Baltimore. “We will not stand by as our beloved postal service is destroyed.”
Sympathetic hunger strikes and other local protest actions are being organized in cities nationwide, including Seattle, Olympia, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Hundreds of individuals and groups have endorsed the hunger strike, which has been organized by Communities and Postal Workers United, a national grassroots network.