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Posted June 26, 2012

Black preachers back postal hunger strikers

     "The actions this week in the nation's capital seek to defend the U.S. Postal Service and hundreds of thousands of unionized jobs. This is of critical importance not only for labor but for every community in this country. For the African-American community it is especially critical since the USPS is one of the largest employers of Black workers in the country. The unemployment rate for Black workers is officially over 16 percent. The real number is double that or more. These are depression numbers for Black America and the loss of more than 100,000 decent-paying unionized postal jobs will be devastating. The courageous hunger strikers protesting in Washington, D.C., June 25-28 are helping shine a bright light on what is happening in the boardrooms of Wall Street and in the back rooms in the Capitol Building. Congressional agents of Corporate America are consciously trying to starve the Postal Service as part of a grand scheme to privatize this national treasure. We are determined to stop them through the building of a powerful labor-community coalition."
 -- Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler,
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C.

      "The postal service has been an important lifeline for African-American communities. Our community has depended on the postal service to provide reliable delivery of mail, excellent customer services, accessible post offices, and living-wages jobs. The proposed downgrade in services, closing of post offices, and elimination of thousands of jobs will be devastating to our community. We need a strong and dependable postal service and believe that our united efforts will convince Congress to protect and strengthen this vital national resource."
  -- Rev. Cecil Prescod, Ainsworth UCC,
Portland, Oregon

     "If the United States Government continues its course to close postal offices, the primary communities that will be affected are those who are already vulnerable, the Black and Brown communities across Chicago and across this nation. The post office closures in this desperate economic climate will cost jobs that will push even more families into poverty and homelessness, and cause communities already suffering from higher unemployment to be more at risk!
     "The Post Office closures will not only add to the unemployment but they will deny access to communities who already lack resources. Statistics tell us that Black and Brown communities more than any other communities in the nation lack technical resources and most homes do not have computer or internet access. Cutting off access to postal service accessibility would further isolate an already cutoff community. To add to all of this, more and more Black, Brown and poor citizens have had to rely on post office boxes to secure their mail. Limiting access to post office boxes becomes yet one more slap in the face to communities already feeling neglected and abandoned! The government must understand that any decision to close post offices and layoff postal workers will directly affect the neighborhoods and communities that are most hurting and most at risk. It would be a deliberate attack on the Black and Brown communities and the poor of our country!"
 -- Rev. Michael L. Pfleger, The Faith Community of Saint Sabina,
Chicago IL

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has announced that he will begin closure of half the mail sorting plants in the country, cut hours from 25 to 75 percent in half the nation’s post offices, downgrade delivery standards and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs. 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.

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 the prefunding mandate and refunding a pension surplus.

"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 US PS 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.





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