CHICAGO (WBBM) — A raucous crowd of postal workers braved the chilly drizzle at the Thompson Center on Tuesday protest the proposed closing of 3,700 branches across the country.
Postal employees are asking lawmakers to co-sponsor and support the passage of a bill they said would restore financial stability to the Postal Service.
The postal unions were quick to say they’re not “protesting” at congressional offices. They’re just pushing lawmakers to support legislation that would stave off a Postal Service default by using billions of dollars from an over-funded pension fund to a make a big debt obligation payment officially due Sept. 30.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding Reports
Postal worker unions organized 492 rallies across the nation on Tuesday afternoon intended to convince lawmakers to save the U.S. Postal Service, without layoffs and cutbacks.
The rallies are the first of a new push-back campaign by postal workers to get lawmakers to find ways to stabilize the Postal Service without laying off some 120,000 employees.
Under the current system, the Postal Service faces an $8.3 billion budget deficit. Postmaster General Patrick Donahue blames the debt on a decline in traditional mail — snail mail, if you will — as a result of increased electronic and mobile communication.
But postal employees attribute a 2006 mandate that requires the Postal Service to set aside money for future retirees. Under that law, the Postal Service must acquire funds for 75 years worth of retirees’ benefits over a 10-year span.
The union wants Congress to allow the Postal Service to recalculate the amount it should pay for pensions and reallocate the excess funds paid in years past towards the future health benefits.
Any plans to save the Postal Service must be passed by Congress, which is why the rallies are taking place.