PI Original Ellyn Fortino Monday March 25th, 2013, 10:15am

Illinois Letter Carriers Rally Against Elimination Of Saturday Mail Delivery (VIDEO)

Hundreds of Illinois letter carriers and their allies rallied at Federal Plaza Sunday in support of six-day mail delivery while also calling on U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to step down from his post.

Hundreds of Illinois letter carriers and their allies rallied at Federal Plaza Sunday in support of six-day mail delivery while also calling on U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to step down from his post.

Chanting “Five day, no way” and carrying signs reading “Liar Liar. You should be fired Donahoe,” the letter carriers said the postmaster’s plan to cut Saturday delivery is an attack on jobs, the union, collective bargaining and middle class Americans. They also said it’s another attempt to privatize the Postal Service.

Donahoe announced in February that he wants to eliminate Saturday delivery starting in August, citing the need to pay for health care and other costs.

The rally comes just days after the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed measures at odds with Donahoe to maintain six-day delivery up until September 30. Similar demonstrations against the delivery-day cuts were held in Springfield and across the country Sunday. 

“We’re not quite guaranteed those six months, because even though Congress passed postal reform, our Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, you know, he don’t think he has to answer to Congress,” said Mack Julion, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers’ (NALC) Chicago Branch 11. “He says that he may go forward with five-day delivery anyway.”

Neal Tisdale, NALC’s Chicago Region 3 national business agent, said Donahoe is not above the law.

“He’s going to find out the hard way what it’s like to break the law in this country,” Tisdale said. “The American public isn’t going to stand for it. Letter carriers aren’t going to stand for it.”

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church on Chicago's South Side, said eliminating Saturday service would destroy the postal system and add another blow to the sluggish U.S. economy.

“We are an economy struggling to get back on our feet,” he said. “This is not the time to take jobs away from people, this is the time to give jobs to people.”

Cutting Saturday delivery is “un-American,” added U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-9), who signed on to two resolutions protecting six-day delivery service and sustaining the Postal Service (HR 630 and HR 30).

“You are in every single community, and trust me, my people love their post offices,” she told the workers yesterday. “You connect people, and you connect communities, and they want six-day delivery.”

Despite popular belief, Julion said it’s not the Internet that’s “killing the Postal Service,” but instead the problem stems from a 2006 mandate that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund its retirees’ health care benefits for the next 75 years within a 10 year period, which breaks down to be about $5.5 billion each year.

The Postal Service relies on postage funds, not on taxpayer dollars to pay its bills, he added.

“Anytime someone tells me that ‘I don’t even mail a letter anymore. I don’t use the Postal Service. They can cut down service,’ well I say, ‘If you don’t use it, then why does it bother you, because you’re not paying for it,’” Julion said.

The communities that would be devastated the most from delivery-day cuts are those that can least afford it, including individuals in inner cities and in rural America, he explained.

“Everybody is not online,” Julion said.

Another mission of yesterday's rally was to “educate the ignorant in our own union, in our postal community” and others, said Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers President Ken Christy.

He also urged the letter carriers to contact their lawmakers in Washington to support their efforts.

“We must tell Senator Durbin letter carriers were the very first union to endorse him when he ran for public office, and we have to remind him that he's supposed to be our champion,” Christy said.

“And Senator Mark Kirk, he hasn’t always voted they way we like, but he’s been pretty much a moderate. We need to get a hold of him and his staff and tell him five day is the wrong way.”

Progress Illinois talked with Luis Rivas, president of the NALC’s Branch 2076 in Des Plaines and the legislative political liaison with the Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers, who helped sum up the delivery-day issue and the importance of yesterday’s rally:

Union workers from other sectors also stood in solidarity with the letter carriers.

Leshaun Williams, a registered nurse at Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center on Chicago’s South Side and a member of National Nurses United, said ceasing Saturday mail would be a detriment to the community she serves, along with others across the country.

“Like health care, mail service is vital to our community,” she said. “Our letter carriers are essential, as some of our elderly and disabled patients look forward to seeing their letter carriers every day, especially on Saturdays.”

Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, also lent his support.

“You are only as strong as the people you represent are together,” said Ramirez. “So stay together, and don’t back up, and don’t give in. We’re with you.”

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