The Stand

Local hunger strikers to protest Congress starving the USPS

Three local members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) will stage a hunger strike in Washington state June 25 through 28, in solidarity with their fellow unionists and community activists in Washington, D.C. and other locations throughout the nation.  The local APWU hunger strikers, Clint Burelson from Olympia, Anthony Foster from Tacoma, and David Yao from Seattle, contend that U.S. Postal Service cuts are a direct result of a 2006 law that pumps more than $5 billion per year from USPS coffers into the Federal Treasury. They say Congress is responsible for its failure to reverse that law.

Labor and community supporters of the hunger strikers are invited to join them as they carry out public protests across the state:

OLYMPIA — Monday, June 25,  1-2 p.m. at the Main Post Office, 900 Jefferson St. SE

VANCOUVER — Monday, June 25, 4-5 p.m. at the Main Post Office, 2700 Caples Ave.

PASCO — Tuesday, June 26, 4-5 p.m. at the Post Office, 3500 West Court St.

WENATCHEE — Wednesday, June 27, 4-5 p.m. at the Post Office, 301 Yakima St.

SEATTLE — Thursday, June 28, 5-6 p.m. at the Federal Building, 915 2nd Ave.

Activists will carry a large facsimile check for $22 billion, representing the amount paid by the USPS to the U.S. Treasury from 2006-2011.

BACKGROUND — Hunger Strike actions in Washington, D.C. will be staged on the U.S. Capitol grounds to illustrate that America’s postal service is being starved financially by Congress. The hunger strikes occur after announced cuts of 25-75% in hours for many small offices, and just days before the July 1 slowdown of some first-class mail. They will highlight the connection between loss of service to postal customers, and congressional delay in fixing overpayments into federal benefit funds.

“Not the internet, not private competition, not the recession — Congress is responsible for the postal mess,” said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier traveling from Portland, Ore., for the hunger strike in D.C.  “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.”

David Yao of Seattle, a 26-year postal employee who will be traveling throughout the state while on hunger strike, said, “Big cuts in hours at small offices throughout the state are not necessary. Delaying first-class mail, starting July 1, is not necessary. Reducing delivery days and ending door-to-door delivery are not necessary. But Congress will not stop the needless transfer of $5.5 billion annually from the postal budget onto the federal budget. They are using the Post Office as a cash cow.”

The activists claim that a 2006 Congressional mandate, which forces the USPS to prefund 75 years worth of retiree health benefits in a ten-year window, accounts for the bulk of losses that are sending the service into a death spiral.

Not only would the postal service have been profitable from 2007-2010 without the mandate, say the strikers, the USPS has also overpaid tens of billions into two pension funds.

U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced in May that he would begin closure of half the mail sorting plants in the country, which would delay most first-class mail delivery. He also announced plans to cut hours in half the nation’s post offices, mostly in rural areas.

On July 1, next-day delivery of first-class mail will be reduced to mailings within local distribution areas (there are five in Western Washington, and four east of the Cascades) . As of Feb. 1, 2013, next-day first class mail will be completely eliminated for the mailing public, unless Congress releases sufficient postal funds.

The hunger strikers are calling on Postmaster Donahoe to suspend cuts and closures, and calling on Congress to immediately fix the finances by repealing the prefunding mandate and refunding the pension surplus.

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Posted by on Jun 22 2012. Filed under LOCAL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Comments for “Local hunger strikers to protest Congress starving the USPS”

  1. I walked my first picket line when a junior in high school. I passionately believe in collective bargaining. I was a charter member of the residential building trades local 360 in Olympia and my maiden local was in Lancaster, California where I completed my apprenticeship. Still, I’m somewhat confused by the allegations that pre-funding health care benefits and retirement pensions is an attack on the postal service union members. I believe the APWU members themselves voted for an egregious contract last year that relegated new hires to the class of secondary workers when it came to salary, benefits, hours, and working conditions…a far bigger threat, in my view, to the post line worker than pre-funding their health and pension retirement benefits. From here, it looks like the union leadership is abandoning the security needed to insure promised benefits for its retired members in much the way it abandoned the need for fairness to new hires. (continued)

  2. (…continued) My wife is almost 70 and has worked as a postal clerk/carrier most of her life. She desperately needs the security that her retirement & health benefits won’t go the way of Soviet pensioners when that economy collapsed. Washington State employees (through their union) have expressed concern the State only funds their health insurance plans on an annual ongoing basis rather than pre-funding it…a requirement the APWU finds burdensome in this instance. Pre-funding is a prudent measure BECAUSE when a government finds itself in a budget crisis (like Washington State) the money for the pensioners’ benefits is ALREADY THERE! Congress just got done granting the USPS 11 billion dollar$ this fiscal year–FREE. That doesn’t sound like the US Congress is out to destroy the USPS (or APWU) to me. The pre-funding requirement seems more like an insurance policy against financial collapse and budgetary crisis when we may be looking at 100%/yr inflation soon because of profligate monetary policies. The APWU leadership appears to have accepted the USPS management fiction/pretext hook, line & sinker. It’s not a mistake to insist your nest egg (benefits) for your old age be funded sooner than later or leaving open the possibility they might not get funded later (in a pinch–which is coming) AT ALL! Retirees (and new hires) deserve better. They’re not getting it when the APWU leadership parrots the USPS management (hostile to collective bargaining rights and the union itself) propaganda.

  3. BTW, the argumentative premise cited above isn’t far fetched given the tale USPS management spooked the APWU membership by threatening to file for bankruptcy and abandon ALL its contractual obligations (including pension and health care funding) through that legal device. Given the use of this threat so recently, why wouldn’t any prudent postal working stiff want their retirement benefits PRE-FUNDED? Management already threatened to put all postal employees at risk–why would you trust them? Of course you should want the $ pre-funded where management cannot renege on its obligations. Workers should count their blessing the U.S. Congress had the foresight to insist on pre-funding to avoid such a calamity. While it’s true that ‘no other company has to pre-fund its obligations like the USPS has been mandated’, it’s also true that the US Treasury is uniquely responsible for paying those retirement obligations to postal workers–quasi government employees. Private companies may not have to pre-fund to the extent the USPS must, but they also routinely file for bankruptcy and leave their pensioners holding the bag. Pre-funded USPS employee retirement benefits avoids this loophole for management perfidy. By demanding the U.S. Congress relieve the USPS of its pre-funding obligations to retirees, the APWU has abandoned those members and its senses by accepting the wooden nickel management is proffering.

  4. Myra

    The long-winded double-talk in the above three entrys is a desperate attempt by a right-wing union buster to deny the reality of the article. All one has to do to is look at the CORPORATIST LEGISLATORS AND LOBBYISTS WHO SNEAKED THIS POISON PILL LEGISLATION THROUGH a few years ago.

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