Protests across U.S.: Save six-day mail service!

Neither rain, snow nor sleet kept postal workers from protesting to demand “Save six day mail.”

From a spirited community march and union rally in New York’s Manhattan to a militant march through the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, postal workers and their supporters came out from coast to coast on March 24 to save six-day mail delivery. Wintery weather throughout most of the country did not dampen their enthusiasm.

The National Association of Letter Carriers called for the national day of action to prevent cutting mail service to five days a week. The American Postal Workers Union and the Rural Letter Carriers Union both endorsed. Hundreds of protests took place around the U.S., with at least one in every state. A common chant in all the rallies was “Five day, no way!”

In New York City, the group Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs and Service began with a community street meeting in front of the Port Authority Post Office, which is slated for closing. After an hour or so of connecting with the community — including the Fulton Houses across the street — CLUPJS and its allies marched to the Main Post Office at 31st Street and 8th Avenue to join a rally of 1,500 postal workers.

On the march with CLUPJS were Mary Pannell and high school student Victoria Pannell, who was a leader of the 2011 National Rally to Save Postal Jobs and Services, and letter carrier Charlie Twist, a NALC member.

CLUPJS believes the best way to fight to save postal jobs is to unite the fight of the workers and their unions with that of the communities to save necessary services. CLUPJS member and housing leader Rosa Maria de la Torre was invited to speak to the mass rally, along with leaders of the postal unions.

De la Torre made a strong case for building solidarity with communities that need postal service: “… [I]t is only through unity that battles affecting the poor and the working class can be won. CLUPJS urges all postal unions to work together. We in the community are committed to saving our post offices. We are petitioning against the closing of the Port Authority [Post Office] and against the sale of Old Chelsea Station … and for saving Saturday delivery.”

In Los Angeles, nearly 4,000 postal workers marching through crowded Hollywood streets received widespread encouragement from people yelling support and drivers honking their horns. This strong working-class action and the outpouring of support stood in stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and gave tourists a real struggle to observe.

More than 300 postal workers and supporters gathered in Philadelphia outside the Ben Franklin Post Office, named after the first U.S. Postmaster General. The protest drew letter carriers from around the tri-state area, who lined both sides of Market Street as drivers passing by honked in support. Teachers, state and city workers, carpenters and other unionists joined the protest.

Around 200 turned out at the Lower Paxton Post Office in Harrisburg, Pa. Workers from Reading, Pa.,also participated. In Pittsburgh seniors, veterans, religious groups, community associations and other labor organizations turned out to support postal workers.

A highly visible Western New York rally at a Buffalo post office near a huge shopping mall turned out some 400 postal workers and supporters. Union members welcomed the International Action Center’s signs declaring community support and opposition to closings, cuts and layoffs.

‘They want to privatize all public services’

Despite miserable rain and cold weather, over 100 letter carriers and supporters rallied at the General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C. A union rally like this is extremely rare in the largely non-union state of North Carolina. The impressive mobilization showed the potential strength of an organized working class there.

Eddie Davidson, president of statewide NALC Local 382, chaired the rally, along with Craig Schadewald, Local 382 vice president. MaryBe McMillan, secretary treasurer of the N.C. AFL-CIO, led the chant, “They say cut back, we say fight back!” that roared through the crowd.

Ajamu Dillahunt, former president of the Raleigh APWU and a leader in Black Workers for Justice, and Zaina Alsous, from NC Student Power Union, also spoke. “It is not just about postal workers, it is about all workers, municipal workers, mental health workers, we must all stand together, ” stated Dillahunt. “They want to privatize all public services.”

Cold, wet weather in Atlanta didn’t stop several hundred postal workers, their families and other union members from rallying outside the Crown Road Post Office for three hours. The large crowd filled the area around the sprawling complex and across the street. Again community support was expressed by passing motorists. Occasionally train engineers honked and waved. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed detailing the real story about Congress’ role behind the postal service’s budget shortfall.

Freezing weather on top of a snow storm in Wichita, Kan., couldn’t keep letter carriers and other postal workers from rallying outside the main post office. They were joined there by members of the Communication Workers, the American Federation of Teachers and community members. Members of the German union ver.di added international solidarity to the action. They were in Wichita protesting T- Mobile’s cutting union jobs, alongside CWA.

At a rally sponsored by the Wisconsin State NALC in front of the West Milwaukee Post Office, over 250 postal workers, their families and allies from many unions and community groups protested for two hours in blowing snow. The crowd chanted, “Ho, ho, hey, hey, we want our mail on Saturday!”

Before the rally ended, participants gathered to commemorate the work done everyday by postal workers for more than 200 years. That announcement drew many hoots and hollers of support. Other rallies took place in Madison and Green Bay, Wis.

Hundreds of postal workers converged at the huge central post office building in downtown San Diego. Cheered on by honks of passing drivers, the workers surrounded the building with a picket line and were clearly unified in their demands that Congress stop dismantling the U.S. Postal Service and not reduce Saturday services.

In Seattle,labor and community leaders from Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Colorado and New Mexico — in town for the AFL-CIO Western Regional Conference — joined local postal workers and community activists for a downtown rally.

Dante Strobino, Ellie Dorritie, Bob McCubbin, Audrey Hoak, Scott Scheffer, Johnnie Stevens and Dianne Mathiowetz contributed to this article.

Photos: New York/Brenda Ryan; Los Angeles/Scott Scheffer; Springfield, Ill./Tony Hutson; Buffalo, N.Y./Bev Hiestand