Postal hunger strikers declare victory, end fast

The somewhat quixotic postal hunger strikers say they’ve declared “victory” and ended their fast:

Completing the sixth day of their hunger strike to save six day delivery, five postal workers broke their fast and declared a “people’s victory”. “Along with hundreds of thousands of postal workers and our community allies who have been battling for years to save America’s postal service, we were able raise awareness and increase pressure on the decision-makers as they attempted to wrangle back-room deals,” said hunger striker Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier from Portland, Oregon. The strikers established an “emergency” encampment on the National Mall Monday, demanding that Congress and the President halt closures and cuts to the U.S. Postal Service.

“The lame duck is still threatening to cripple the postal eagle,” declared Partridge, acknowledging that Congress will reconvene after the Christmas holiday. Six day mail delivery is on the chopping block, according to Representative Darrell Issa, Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Tom Carper who are engaged in secret postal reform negotiations. One of the hunger strikers, John Dennie, a retired mail handler from New York, was arrested in Issa’s office Thursday for refusing to leave until the Congressman pledged to save six day mail delivery.

Friday afternoon, the postal hunger strikers paraded with a horse and carriage from the Postal Museum, up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to celebrate the 237 year history of the postal service and 150 years of Saturday delivery (city free delivery was established 1863). They attempted to deliver a giant postcard calling on Obama to use his veto power to save six day mail delivery. President Obama has twice allowed for cutting to five day delivery in budget proposals. “We helped elect Obama and he owes us,” said Ken Lerch, a local letter carriers union president.

Cutting mail delivery to five days will eliminate 80,000 postal jobs, according to postal unions. The hunger strikers claim the cuts would gut service and send the postal service into a death spiral. “We will not stand by as our beloved postal service is destroyed,” said Tom Dodge, hunger striker, postal worker from Baltimore, and a coordinator of Communities and Postal Workers United (CPWU).

Last June, ten CPWU activists staged a hunger strike declaring that Congress was starving the postal service. The activists claim that a 2006 Congressional mandate, which forces the USPS to prefund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, is bankrupting the service. Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, say the strikers, the USPS has also overpaid tens of billions into two pension funds.

“Not the internet, not private competition, not labor costs, not the recession – Congress is responsible for the postal mess” said Kevin Cole, a return hunger striker and postal maintenance worker from California. “Corporate interests, working through their friends in Congress and the Presidency, want to undermine the USPS, bust the unions then privatize it.”

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced in mid-May that he would close half the mail sorting plants in the country and cut hours from 25 – 75% in half the nation’s post offices, over a two year period. Thirteen thousand jobs have already been eliminated and delivery standards relaxed. “Extensive disruption has resulted from these plant closures,” said Dennie. The hunger strikers delivered evidence Friday morning to the Postal Board of Governors documenting the PMG’s criminal delay and obstruction of the mail and calling for his prosecution. The strikers are calling on postal management to suspend cuts and closures and allow Congress to fix the finances by repealing the prefunding mandate and refunding the pension surplus.

Boehner admits postal “crisis” is phony

It has become obvious over the last few months that Darrell Issa doesn’t have the votes from his own party to pass his bill to more or less dismantle the US Postal Service as we know it. Rural voters who tend to vote Republican also seem to be pretty attached to their post offices. (Sort of like the teabaggers who rail against socialism as they cash their Social Security checks!)

According to The Hill, though, there’s another reason the House GOP hasn’t acted- they apparently remembered that the “crisis” wasn’t a real crisis!

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested, in his last news conference before Congress broke for August, that the House had delayed dealing with postal reform because USPS was able to keep its head above water.

“The postal legislation, there’s a lot of conversation about it,” Boehner said Thursday. “But, you know, these missed payments are not going to affect the ability of the post office to do its job.”

When you keep repeating phrases like “losing $25 million a day” constantly, you can forget that it’s just an arbitrary number you and your cronies conjured up back in 2006, not actual cash going out the door.

It’s refreshing to see that Boehner has dropped the pretense that there’s an imminent postal “crisis”. Unfortunately for the USPS, its employees and business partners, though, it probably means that Congress will do nothing about the USPS until there really is a genuine cash crisis- by which time it may be too late.

via House GOP: Uncertainty over Post Office finances delaying reforms – The Hill's On The Money.

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