Idea to trim US mail delivery prompts new hunger strike

 

Washington

As negotiations continue between the Senate and the House on a possible year-end deal to help the financially struggling US Postal Service, a small band of protesters launched its second hunger strike in six months on Tuesday.

The six former and current postal workers, who call themselves Communities and Postal Workers United, have set up an encampment on the National Mall in Washington. They say they are protesting an offer by Senate negotiators to put five-day mail delivery on the table, a change that could eliminate as many as 25,000 letter-carrier jobs.

"We're declaring an emergency postal hunger strike to head off five-day delivery," said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier from Portland, Ore. "If we can turn up the pressure and prevent the lame-duck session from passing postal legislation, we will, because it's bound to be a bad bill."

He said the hunger strike will continue until late Saturday.

During the 112th Congress, House and Senate leaders have been unable to agree on legislation to help stabilize the Postal Service, which is losing billions of dollars a year. A bill the Senate passed last spring would put off a switch to five-day service for two years, transfer billions of dollars from a pension fund to allow the agency to offer buyouts to workers and extend the payment schedule for benefits the Postal Service must set aside for future retirees.

A bill proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., would give the agency more latitude to cut services, for example, eliminating six-day service now. It would put a panel in charge of overseeing postal finances and prohibit labor contracts that prevent layoffs, among other provisions.

But Issa did not have the votes to bring it to the floor, and an overhaul seemed unlikely to pass this year.

In November, retiring Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., one of the sponsors of the Senate bill, offered to get talks moving by giving up Saturday delivery for letters, a change the Postal Service has sought for years but which has generated opposition in both parties.

But sticking points remain, say aides on committees involved in the talks. The Senate still opposes Issa's proposal to restrict the Postal Service's ability to negotiate labor agreements, and there is disagreement over how much payments for future health benefits should be reduced.

Any bill would likely be tacked onto legislation resolving the budget debate over taxes, spending and the federal deficit now consuming Congress.

"If action isn't taken soon, the Postal Service will go off its own fiscal cliff," said Emily Spain, a spokeswoman for Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del.

Partridge was one of 10 activists who held a five-day hunger strike in Washington in June, declaring that Congress was "starving" the Postal Service by requiring the agency to set aside health payments. They met with Capitol Hill staffers but were turned back from a meeting with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. Their highest-profile supporter is Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a labor champion who is leaving Congress.

In a statement, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said, "We respect the right of our employees to engage in lawful public dialogue regarding postal issues." He added, however, that "it is critical for Congress to pass comprehensive postal reform legislation" before adjourning this year.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Learning Support Assistant - Newport

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Operations Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently recruiting for an Operati...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, Security Cleared

£100 - £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Ham...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz