The chances of postal legislation clearing Congress this year are now zero following the House of Representatives’ abrupt decision to quit town Thursday night. A band of five retired and current postal workers nonetheless is nonetheless persevering in a hunger strike as scheduled through Saturday.
“We’re maintaining our guard,” Jamie Partridge, a retired city letter carrier from Portland, Oregon, said in a phone interview this morning. The group, encamped on the National Mall in downtown Washington, began the six-day fast at 9 a.m. Monday to protest efforts to end most Saturday mail delivery; they will keep going on until tomorrow at 5 p.m. The hunger strike is also intended as commentary on what the group sees as a congressionally sanctioned policy to “starve” the U.S. Postal Service by requiring it to pay billions of dollars each year into a fund for future retiree health care benefits. The five are part of a group called Communities and Postal Workers United that mounted a similar hunger strike in June.
This afternoon, participants and supporters are planning a parade up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, where they will seek to deliver a giant postcard to President Obama urging him to use his veto pen to block any legislation that lets the U.S. Postal Service go to five-day delivery.
That step is at the top of USPS leaders’ cost-cutting agenda. While the White House endorsed five-day delivery earlier this year, the move still effectively requires congressional approval.
A bill by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that would have given the go-ahead never made it out of the House. A proposed compromise to allow continued Saturday package delivery drew some attention, but apparently couldn’t overcome disagreements between lawmakers over other issues. Although House members are scheduled to return to Washington on Dec. 27, it’s a safe bet that they’ll be focused on spending and tax issues, not the Postal Service.
The five hunger strikers occupied Issa’s office on Thursday. One–identified in a press release as John Dennie, a retired mail handler from New York–was arrested by Capitol police and later released, Partridge said.