In an effort to bring attention to the financial plight of the Unites States Postal Service (USPS) and to fight calls for its privatization, 10 postal workers, activists, and supporters announced on Monday that they would be staging a four-day hunger strike.
“The strikers will make their stand days before the postal service makes changes that will end overnight delivery of up to 20 percent of the country’s first-class mail, as mail-sorting hubs are shuttered,” writes the Washington Post’s Lisa Rein.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) joined the protesters on Capitol Hill for their big announcement (which nobody saw because everyone was watching the Supreme Court this morning) and offered words of encouragement.
“Make no mistake about it, this is an effort to try to privatize even more postal services,” said Rep. Kucinich who, naturally, is not joining in the hunger strike. “And this would inevitably result in less service, and higher costs for postal service for the American people.”
When asked why he wasn’t joining the hunger strike, Rep Kucinich responded: “I’m a vegan, so I’m kind of hungry all the time. I’m here in moral support of their efforts.”
The protesters say they are focusing their attention on a requirement that mandates the “postal service pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance,” according to POLITICO.
“The postal service has adapted to the change in the volume of mail,” said Jamie Partridge speaking for Communities and Postal Workers Unite, a labor group that has “partnered” with the protest. “That’s not what’s killing the postal service. Not the Internet. Not private competition. Not even the recession. It’s this prefunded mandate.”
Wearing yellow T-shirts with the phrase, “Congress is starving the postal service,” the 10 hunger strikers plan to march on Capitol Hill, USPS headquarters, and the Washington Post headquarters (because the WaPo published op-eds endorsing budget cuts) before ending their hunger strike on Thursday, Rein reports.
The USPS released this statement commenting on the protest:
We respect the right of our employees and retirees to engage in lawful public dialogue regarding postal issues. We have worked hard over this past year to bring to the attention of Congress, the [Obama] administration, the news media and the American public the urgent need for postal reform legislation.
However, the federal agency was also careful to note that its $14 billion loss this fiscal year requires “necessary and responsible cost-reduction steps.”
“The hunger strikers have been endorsed by many groups active in the Occupy movement, as well as local chapters of several postal unions,” Rein writes.