Postal chief gets mic checked

By Brian Ward

WASHINGTON--A group of postal workers and Occupy D.C. activists disrupted a November 21 National Press Club speech by the U.S. Postmaster General with a "mic check" to call attention to the assault on postal workers' living standards.

Shortly after Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe began his speech about the future of the United States Postal Service (USPS), activists began their mic check and chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, Donahoe has got to go!"

Donahoe's plan for "saving" the postal service focuses on shedding more than 120,000 jobs, the closure of post offices around the country and cutting back postal delivery from six to five days a week. In response to this, activists involved in Occupy D.C. along with rank-and-file USPS workers planned a march and picket from McPherson Square (the site of Occupy D.C.) to the National Press Club.

Before the event, the protesters set up a spirited picket line of more than 40 people. Sheet metal workers joined USPS workers from Baltimore, Rockville, Md., Easton, Md., and New Jersey. The picketers also held a speak-out. "We ask the public to dump CEO and Postmaster General Donahoe, Wall Street's puppet, and appoint a defender of USPS workers," said Rich, a USPS worker from Baltimore.

Ken Lerch, president of National Association of Letter Carriers Local 3825 in Rockville, also took the bullhorn. "The Postal Service brought in $67 billion last year, and Wall Street wants to privatize USPS so they can get their hands on that money," he said. "Remember the lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? They are lying to us again, only this time about the postal service."

Beverly Collins works at an overnight delivery center in Easton, Md. "The eastern shore [of Maryland] is a remote and poor rural area, and these people will be most affected by these cuts," she said.

Again and again, workers repeated the message that postal service cuts fall on some of the most vulnerable segments of society. The post office is the largest employer of veterans and African Americans in the U.S., and its workforce is 44 percent female.

While the picket continued outside, five activists remained inside (10 were removed before the speech started), despite the unmarked vehicle and Homeland Security officials on hand who checked IDs and tried to bar the protesters. The mic check interrupted the event for several minutes while police and press club staff escorted the activists out of the room.

The action sent a message to Donahoe and Barack Obama that the public will not stand by silently while decent-paying jobs come under attack. But this must be only the beginning of a much longer battle.

Brian Tierney contributed to this article.