Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hunger Strike and Rally By Postal Workers

Published Jul 1, 2012 10:53 PM 
Postal workers and community activists are staging a four-day hunger strike to defend tens of thousands of post office jobs. In response to congressional actions that are starving the United States Postal Service of funds, at least 12 postal union members and their supporters will go without food June 25-28 as part of the Hunger Strike Back — Save the Post Office campaign.
Coordinated rallies, press conferences and visits to congressional offices are planned in Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma, Wash.; Richmond, Va.; South Bend, Ind.; San Francisco; Chicago; Philadelphia; and other cities.
The largest protests will occur in Washington, D.C., where many hunger strikers and their supporters are converging. A caravan organized by Community Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services will pick up people from the Mid-Hudson region of New York through Manhattan; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; and Baltimore on the way to Washington. Included in their delegation will be Debby Szeredy, a hunger striker and also president of the Mid-Hudson American Postal Workers Union local.
Among the protesters in Washington will be Nannette Corley, president of the Montgomery County, Md., local of the APWU and also a hunger striker. This female African-American union organizer joins a long list of Black and Latino/a groups and leaders endorsing the actions, including the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the National Action Network Youth Movement and the Chicago NAACP.
“Take away a parent’s job, [and you] take away a child’s future,” said Victoria Panell, youth leader of NAN. Twenty-one percent of postal jobs are held by African Americans. The postal service is the largest employer of Black workers making more than $55,000 annually. Many of those jobs are threatened by ongoing and planned postal cutbacks in jobs and services. (multiculturallife.org)
On July 1, the USPS begins to phase out overnight first-class mail delivery standards. In effect, mail that used to be delivered within 24 hours in most cities will instead be put in mail boxes two or three days later. This relaxation of the decades-old operating standards will inevitably encourage private competitors to step in. It is a major step in the privatization of the post office.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is also shutting down half of the mail processing plants and cutting hours by 25 percent to 75 percent in half of the post offices from coast to coast. The postal service also wants congressional approval to cut mail delivery from six to five days a week. More than 100,000 union jobs will be eliminated. Rural communities and oppressed neighborhoods will be especially hit hard by the loss of postal services as well as the decrease in good-paying career jobs with health care and pension benefits.
Union busting by the 1%
“Not the Internet, not private competition, not the recession — Congress is responsible for the postal debt,” said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier traveling from Portland, Ore., to Washington, D.C., for the hunger strike and a main organizer of the four-day event. “Corporate interests, working through their friends in Congress, want to undermine the USPS, bust the unions, then give the work to private, for-profit interests.” (Communities and Postal Workers United press release)
A 2006 congressional mandate forces the USPS to pre-fund retiree health care benefits 75 years in advance. No other business or agency has that requirement, and it is killing the 250-year-old postal service. Without this $5.5 billion yearly requirement, the post office would have made a profit in the last three years.
“We could easily protect the Postal Service if Congress would address the agency’s overpayment into its Retiree Health Benefits program,” asserted U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. (PostalNews.com, June 22)
“We will not stand by as our beloved postal service is destroyed,” said Tom Dodge, a hunger striker and postal worker from Baltimore. “We will shame Congress and denounce the Postmaster General. We will engage in dramatic actions on Capitol Hill and at the USPS Headquarters to turn up the heat on decision makers.” (Communities and Postal Workers United press release) The Washington, D.C., actions are being organized by CPWU, a national grassroots network.
Among the planned actions are a press conference at the Capitol; a “Stop the Robbery” march from postal headquarters to the Capitol on June 26; and a “Tell the Truth” protest at the Washington Post building on June 27. The activists also plan to visit the headquarters of the four main postal unions. The hunger strike will end with a mass rally at postal headquarters on June 28, where a “citizen’s arrest” of Postmaster General Donahoe will be attempted.
A list of endorsers over 400 strong includes many APWU and National Association of Letter Carriers locals and officials. In addition, Jobs With Justice branches, Occupy working groups, labor officials and members in numerous unions, as well as religious and community organizations throughout the U.S. have endorsed.

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