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Postal workers launch hunger strike

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Letter-writing and phone calls haven’t worked; conventional lobbying hasn’t worked. So, starting this morning, 10 active and retired U.S. Postal Service employees are resorting to a more dramatic tactic: A hunger strike intended to prod lawmakers into dropping a requirement for the beleaguered mail carrier to “pre-fund” a retiree health care benefits fund.

“We’re trying to turn up the heat on Congress, which is stuck on stupid,” Jamie Partridge, a recently retired city letter carrier from Oregon who’s participating in the strike, said in a phone interview from outside a House office building.

After a news conference this morning with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the group plans a march on the Capitol tomorrow and on Thursday afternoon will take its grievances directly to USPS headquarters at 475 L’Enfant Plaza. The four-day fast is part of a broader effort by a labor-backed organization called Communities and Postal Workers United, which is also seeking a refund on surplus USPS pension contributions. Just for the Federal Employees Retirement System, that excess amounted to $11.4 billion as of the end of last September, according to a recently updated tally by the Postal Service’s inspector general.

Of course, USPS leaders are also pushing for relief from the pre-funding mandate contained in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, not to mention a refund on the surplus pension contributions. Under that act, the Postal Service has to pay about $5.5 billion into the health care fund at the end of each September to ensure coverage for future retirees. The pros and cons of this debate have been repeatedly rehashed, so FedLine won’t go into them here. Suffice it to say that the Postal Service no longer has the wherewithal to meet the requirement.

Last year, Congress averted what would have been at least a symbolically embarrassing default by deferring the September 2011 payment until this August. But with that new deadline barely a month away, the Postal Service appears no more able to cover the expense. Besides which, this September’s payment is looming. Anyone got $11 billion to spare?

Postal workers have a separate bone to pick, however, with Postmaster General Pat Donahoe, who has launched a two-pronged cost-cutting drive that will eliminate tens of thousands of jobs in the next couple of years.

Starting next week, the Postal Service plans to begin closing or consolidating several dozen mail processing plants as part of a longer-term push that could eventually halve the size of its network. At the same time, postal officials intend to cut customer service “window” hours at about 13,000 low-traffic post offices, and eventually replace most of the full-time postmasters in those offices with part-timers.

By Donahoe’s telling, steadily sinking mail volume leaves him no choice. But Partridge said the postmaster general could instead refuse to make the payments into the retiree health care and pension funds as a way of avoiding cuts “that are going to send the Postal Service into a death spiral.”

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Comments

  1. Debby Szeredy Says:
    June 25th, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Mid-Hudson Area Local also endorses the Hunger Strike and will be participating. The real sin is that the truth has not been told and/or purposely being ignored. This attack by PMG is an anti-union attack, USPS monies are there to keep the USPS solvent, mgt. has hired over 7000 new employees at $14.60 an hour over the last five months, offering early outs to Postmasters $20,000, Mail Handlers $15,000, and overpaid funds over 60 Billion. There is no need to cut small office customer service hours, or close and/or consolidate plants. PMG is in destruction mode of citizens constitutional right to be able to communicate freely and at an affordable cost. Congress fails to act to save our constitutional rights maybe fedx and ups are stuffing their pockets, maybe the surplus has been spent to bail out everyone else. To give up means to end the basic right to communicate with others.

  2. Jim Says:
    June 26th, 2012 at 9:03 am

    More power to them

  3. jimmy spibzzz Says:
    June 27th, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Yea, a hunger strike will solve our problems.There is a clerk buyout on the table just waiting for Guffeys signature,yet he refuses to sign.This is APWU dues at work.Put Guffey on a hunger strike and don’t feed him till he signs.

  4. exptf Says:
    June 27th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I’ve been on an involuntary hunger strike since they cut my paycheck by $800 a month. I worked 40 hours as a part timer, now I’m full time at 30 hours, thanks for the raise goofey! I’ll be homeless after my house is foreclosed next month, union’s answer is declare bankruptcy if you can’t live on the 30 hours pay. Let them eat cake, huh?

  5. twinkster@west market Says:
    June 28th, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Why is Darryl Issa doing everything except bringing the postal reform bill to the house floor for a vote? This a–hole wants to have his hands in everything but the right thing. Holding Eric Holder in contempt for something that the Bush admin is probably responsible for. Question the ATF big wigs at the Arizona office they can probably tell us all about operation fast and furious. Meanwhile get back to the sinking post awful ship, or is that what he wants it to do sink.

  6. JOSE0311USMC Says:
    July 10th, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    THE CARRIERS ON HUNGER STRIKE OVERWEIGHT ??? I HOPE THEY ARE. SOME NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT ANYWAY.

  7. mj Says:
    July 12th, 2012 at 11:14 am

    This is a JOKE right? Or is it April 1st.

  8. mj Says:
    July 12th, 2012 at 11:17 am

    August 11th can’t come too soon. Boy this is going to be good.{Animal House finale scene voice}

  9. mj Says:
    July 12th, 2012 at 11:18 am

    The band played on as the Titanic sank.

  10. James Says:
    July 21st, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Issa and his buddies are trying to get the post office to privatize so they can invest their money and buy it out. They could then charge whatever they want for stamps and mailing. The Unions need to file a class action lawsuit for the billions of access monies that legally can not be touched. The postmaster general claims the money is not their. A Federal labor attorney states that if the money is not there the FBI can be called in to investigate and start making arrests. This is no different than the RICO act when the mob used to embezzle union and company money. The FERS and CSRS over pay money has to be there and it belongs to all employees of the USPS. It is about time these crooks in Washington get a taste of jail time. It is also confusing why the postmaster general just keeps his mouth shout. Probably because he makes almost as much as the president and gets his big bonuses for being a failure. It is time to take back what is ours.