Postal employees and supporters on a four-day hunger strike targeted The Washington Post on Wednesday when about 10 protesters picketed in front of the newspaper’s downtown offices to criticize editorials on the U.S. Postal Service.
The activists took aim at an editorial view that has focused on technology, declining mail volume and high labor costs as the culprits behind the postal service’s escalating financial problems. The real problem, the protesters have argued all week in rallies at the Capitol and postal service headquarters, is Congress, which has not passed legislation to give the agency access to money that it has paid in excess into retiree health benefit and pension funds.
“We’re here to teach The Post a lesson,” said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier from Portland, Ore., who flew to Washington to strike. “We feel like the paper is putting out misinformation.”
They cited an April 15 editorial that argued that declining mail volume requires dramatic reductions to the postal service’s infrastructure and workforce: “If the postal service were a private company, its shareholders would be clamoring for it to get on with the restructuring, pronto.”
Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt addressed the criticism in a statement Wednesday.
“Our reporting has made pretty clear to us that the Postmaster General is right when he says the Postal Service faces structural problems, brought on by a decline in first-class mail and other changes, that need to be met by structural changes, including to its labor force and infrastructure. We’ve been happy to print alternative views, including, as the demonstrators distributed today,” referring to a letter from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who took issue with the editorial.
Of several bills pending in Congress, The Post’s editorials support Republican-sponsored House legislation that would allow the postal service to close facilities, move quickly to five-day delivery and bar no-layoff clauses in labor agreements. The protesters support Democrat-sponsored bills that focus on returning billions of dollars in payments that the postal service has made to pension and health retiree funds that many postal-watchers believe were unnecessary.
After leaving The Post, the picketers marched from postal service headquarters at L’Enfant Plaza to the Treasury Department headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, where they held up a mock check for $44 billion, the total in payments they say have been made to pre-fund benefits for retirees.
On Thursday, the group plans to picket at L’Enfant Plaza and call for a meeting with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. Partridge said they have not yet heard from Donahoe’s office. Postal officials did not immediately respond for comment on whether the meeting will be scheduled.