The action was thwarted by a heavy presence of Department of Homeland Security police, postal inspectors, and a half dozen postal managers standing inside the post office lobby. Senior plant manager Lisa Shear, herself a target of the protest, came out to warn activists that she would have them arrested if they stepped foot inside the lobby.
So, protesters marched and chanted with a bullhorn outside, sang happy birthday, and enjoyed birthday cake.
The Post Service was created by the Continental Congress on July 26, 1775. Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general. Today, some members of Congress are threatening its future by trying to privatize the U.S Postal Service (USPS) and bust its unions.
USPS is an independent agency that gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations. It is, however, subject to congressional control.
The postmaster general already has closed 30 percent of mail processing plants, reduced hours by 25 to 75 percent in half of post offices, put 10 percent of post offices up for sale, subcontracted trucking and mail handling to nonunion companies, eliminated tens of thousands of family-wage, postal jobs, and delayed mail delivery.
USPS management says the closures and sub-contracting are necessary to save labor costs in a “financial emergency.” Protesters maintain that the financial emergency is being manufactured in an attempt to transfer the agency’s wealth to for-profit, private corporations. The USPS is a $65 billion annual business with over $100 billion surplus in its pension and retiree health benefit funds, over 30,000 post offices (much of it in prime downtown locations), and 200,000 vehicles.
Since 2006 the USPS has been forced by Congress to spend nearly 10 percent of its budget pre-funding retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. No other U.S. agency or private business faces such a crushing financial burden. The USPS has also over-paid tens of billions into two pension funds.
Protest organizer Portland Communities and Postal Workers United (PCPWU) has been fighting the cuts and closures with civil disobedience.
Five protesters were arrested July 3 in an occupation of a private air cargo facility slated to process U.S. mail under a subcontract with USPS. Last April, five protesters went to jail for a civil disobedience action at the Salem mail processing plant, which has since been dismantled and moved to Portland. And in May 2012, 10 activists were arrested occupying Portland’s University Station post office, which also has been shuttered.
“We intend to disrupt this attack on our communities,” said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier with PCPWU.
The demand to end the subcontracting was echoed by leaders of Portland area postal unions: Joe Cogan, vice president of American Postal Workers Local 128; David Jarvis, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 315, and Jim Cook, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82.