U.S. Postal Service workers staged a hunger strike in front of the Capitol on Monday as part of a weeklong effort to pressure Congress into repealing the mandate to prefund pension reserves.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, joined 10 former and current USPS employees for a press conference to speak out against the prefunding requirement and drastic budget cuts and to pre-empt any potential move toward privatization of mail delivery.
“There are ways to create revenue without cutting jobs,” Kucinich said. The two-time presidential candidate said the prefunding mandate was created to “sink the post office and push toward privatization.”
The prefunding mandate was authorized in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and requires 10 percent of the USPS budget, or $5.5 billion, to go toward future retirement funds, according to Community and Postal Workers United.
Jamie Partridge, a 27-year letter carrier from Portland, Ore., and CPWU national coordinator, vowed not to eat from Monday morning until 6 p.m. Thursday when the hunger strike will end. He said he has tried more traditional forms of protests, but now must escalate his efforts to raise awareness.
“Congress created the problem and it should be willing to fix it,” Partridge said. “Congress is stuck on stupid.”
Steve Bruns, a 61-year-old retired postal worker from Frederick, Md., said he joined the hunger strike because a public postal system is an inherent American right that should not be taken away.
“The Postal Service is part of [common law], established in the Constitution,” he said. “It’s the most efficient postal service in the world and the American people are entitled to keep it.”
The protestors pointed to USPS’ ability to make deliveries to certain rural addresses -- which private companies will not do -- as an example of why their agency is necessary. They said they have made adjustments to remain financially solvent despite less mail volume, and the prefunding mandate is the primary cause of the agency’s continuing deficits.
The hunger strikers plan to hold a vigil outside the Rayburn House Building every morning through Thursday and to stage protests at the Capitol, The Washington Post building and USPS headquarters throughout the week.