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Dennis Kucinich
Joined by Rep. Dennis Kucinich and a handful of other notable political types, Washington-based members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

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Kucinich Pumps Up Crowd of Mail Carriers During NALC Rally (PHOTOS)

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Dennis Kucinich
Joined by Rep. Dennis Kucinich and a handful of other notable political types, Washington-based members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) rallied outside of the Federal Building in Seattle Thursday, part of a nationwide effort to protest potential job cuts and cuts in service facing the United States Postal Service.

Senate Bill 1789, which could come to a vote soon after lawmakers in Congress return from the Easter break on Monday, looks to cut costs and modernize the way the USPS does business, but the NALC says it carries potentially drastic consequences like the elimination of Saturday delivery within two years, the loss of 150,000 USPS jobs, and the eventual end of door-to-door delivery.

These grim prospects were enough to draw the mail carriers out in moderate force on a mild Thursday afternoon. On a day factions of the NALC held similar rallies around the country, 50-75 mail carriers and mail sympathizers from our state chanted, held signs, listened to speeches through a megaphone, and generally raised a ruckus around quitting time in downtown Seattle - all in hopes of grabbing the attention of an often apathetic public and directing it toward the potential downfall of an American institution.

Besides the obvious competition provided by the Internet, the NALC says the USPS has been hampered in recent years by a 2006 mandate from Congress that requires it to pre-fund future retiree health obligations. The NALC says this puts an unprecedented crunch on the USPS, costing $5.5 billion a year, or $21 billion over the last five years. Given the USPS substantial budget shortfalls, the NALC calls this forced surplus an unfair and unnecessary burden.

"We must not let go of the principal of universal service. We owe it to the people of the United States to make sure that the mail is going to be continued to be delivered by the US Postal Service, and not by private corporations who just want to make a profit at the expense of the American people," Kucinich, who was dressed in the suit and carried the same boyish charm he does on TV, told the crowd. Kucinich later cited Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution in his lobbying efforts, which gave Congress the power to establish post offices.

"Why would they put that in the Constitution of the United States if our founders did not believe that universal postal service was essential to a free nation?" Kucinich reasoned.

More photos after break

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Dennis Kucinich Pumps Up the Mail Carriers

While NALC President Fredric Rolando has gone on record as saying SB 1789 means well, in addressing the Annual Postal Workshop of the Center for Research in Regulated Industries on April 6 at Rutgers University he made clear that despite its good intentions, he believes the legislation still leaves much to be desired.

From that speech:

Passage of SB1789 guarantees that the Postal Service will face a new crisis in the near future. Sadly, when that crisis occurs, the Service will be far less able to survive it. The sponsors and other supporters of this bill mean well -- they are not enemies of the Postal Service or its employees. But they appear to be willing to aid and abet those who believe Postal Service is doomed and can't be revived. S.1789 is a band-aid, beneath which the Postal Service's wounds would continue to fester, eating away at its long-term future.

What the Postal Service needs most is a wholly new business model, built from the bottom up, one that looks above the immediate financial and structural problems to find opportunities to meet the evolving needs of the American people in 21st century.

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Darcy Burner Does Her Thing

Thursday in front of the Federal Building, Darcy Burner, currently a candidate for the House of Representatives in Washington's newly-redrawn 1st Congressional District, rallied the crowd in typical Burner fashion.

"It seems to me that the issues that we face right now are much more straightforward than a lot of the coverage has been. The work that you do connecting Americans to each other is an absolutely critical service for the wellbeing of our country. And the fact that we've been under attack by the Right relentlessly for years to dismantle the basic lifeline of postal service for people all over this country is unforgiveable and has to be stopped," Burner told the gathered mail carriers. "We need to make sure Americans can continue to get their mail. We need to make sure that door-to-door delivery can b e six days a week. We need to make sure that post offices remain open."

More photos after break

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Angry Mail Carriers

Of course, not everyone agrees with these assessments of the potential legislation. SB 1789 is sponsored by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. Lieberman considers the bill an attempt to save the postal service, which is so cash strapped that it plans to cut mail deliveries, raise stamp prices, and shut down two processing centers and more than a dozen postal facilities in Lieberman's home state of Connecticut alone if something isn't done.

Lawmakers who support the bill say it's a necessary step to modernize the USPS, and also see it as a way to protect the USPS from even more drastic cutbacks. It would provide for new sources of revenue, from endeavors like the sale of fishing licenses and the delivery of beer and wine, and also allow the extra pension contributions to be used to offer buyouts and early retirement incentives to postal service employees who face losing their jobs.

Meanwhile, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and several others have advocated changes to the bill that might alleviate some of the concerns raised by the likes of the NALC, American Postal Workers Union and National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, with Lieberman and others signaling an openness to revision before the matter comes to an official vote.

More photos after break

"We need to make sure Americans can continue to get their mail. We need to make sure that door-to-door delivery can be six days a week. We need to make sure that post offices remain open," Burner boomed through the megaphone, feeding the crowd of mail carriers what they came to hear.

"Americans deserve to know that come rain or sleet or snow or hail you all will be there delivering their mail."

Here are some more pictures from Thursday's NALC protest in Seattle.

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NALC Protesters

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Retirees Take Mail Seriously

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Darcy Burner Gazes at Dennis Kucinich

More photos after break

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Another Angry Mail Carrier

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Mail Carriers and Mail Carrier Sympathizers

Read a letter to senators from NALC President Fredric Rolando below.

Rolando to Senate Hb 1789

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