NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Chanting "five days no, six days yes," over 500 Connecticut letter carriers, family members and supporters gathered for a noon-time rally on the New Haven Green. The action was one of dozens throughout the country as part of the "Delivering for America" campaign to stop Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe from taking unilateral action to eliminate Saturday postal delivery in August, eliminating 22,000 jobs.
"There are people in Washington DC who would love to see Halliburton run the entire economy," declared Connecticut State AFL-CIO president John Olsen to applause. "This is about privatization. They want to stop six day delivery to put the Postal Service out of business," he added urging the letter carriers to keep the pressure on.
Senator Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, spoke condemned the 2007 law which required the Postal Service to set aside - in only ten years - funding for retiree health benefits for the next 75 years. This has cost the Postal Service $32 billion since 2007, accounting for 78 percent of its red ink during this period. "It is a travesty," said Blumenthal.
"No other entity has such a requirement. If Exxon was required to do that, it would put a strain on their resources as well," said DeLauro. "Delivery of mail is one of governments' foremost responsibilities."
On March 20, when the U.S. Senate passed the continuing resolution to fund the government through the current fiscal year ending September 30, it included language that would maintain six-day delivery until that time. The House passed the continuing resolution the next day, and sent it to President Obama to sign into law.
"We are in this struggle with you until six day becomes the permanent way," said Bob Proto, speaking on behalf of the New Haven Central Labor Council and the Unite-Here unions at Yale.
Several bills pending before the Senate and the House would make six-day delivery permanent, beyond September 30. They include S 316 and HR 630, a postal modernization act introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep Peter DeFazio; and H. Res 30, introduced by Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri.
Letter carriers and their families traveled from all corners of the state to participate in the Palm Sunday rally to save their jobs and protect the needs of the community.
"This is not just about you, your jobs, or the 23 postal facilities that would close in Connecticut," said Blumenthal. "It's about our economy, jobs, and economic progress. We are at a critical turning point in the economy. We ought to be united," he said emphasizing "Don't let anyone tell you we don't have the money."
Blumenthal also charged that Donahoe does not have the legal right to ignore the mandate of Congress for six-day delivery. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) had just issued an opinion that the USPS is bound by law and the continuing resolution "to continue six-day delivery and rural delivery of mail at not less than the 1983 level" of six days a week.
Speaking prior to the rallies, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) president Fredric Rolando hailed the GAO ruling. "To cut a day of mail delivery would disrupt the nation's only universal delivery network, place disproportionate harm on rural communities, senior citizens, and small-business owners who rely on six-day mail service, and it would only serve to accelerate a financial 'death spiral' for the Postal Service," he said.
"If the Postmaster General doesn't listen to us on the New Haven Green, then we and the Letter Carriers will be at his house," declared Proto to the approval of the crowd.
Photo caption: Hundreds of letter carriers and their supporters rallied on the New Haven Green to defend Saturday mail delivery. Photo: Art Perlo