Eight protesters will be staging a hunger strike at D.C. postal headquarters and in the halls of Congress beginning June 25, the final 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.
“The Postmaster General is sending the service into a death spiral,” said Matt McAulifee, a postal mailhandler and hunger striker from Denver. “By slowing the mail, one to two days, the postal service will drive away customers. Businesses will switch to online billing and patrons will switch to online payment. Those most dependent on the mail - the elderly, the poor and rural communities - will be hit the hardest.”
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced in mid-May that he would 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. Tens of thousands of jobs will be eliminated. 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 a prefunding mandate and refunding a pension surplus.
Hunger strikers claim that a 2006 Congressional mandate, which forces the US 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.
“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, Oregon for the hunger strike. “Corporate interests, working through their friends in Congress, want to undermine the USPS, bust the unions then privatize it.”
“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.”
Sympathetic hunger strikes and other local protest actions are being organized by Communities and Postal Workers United, a national grassroots network.