Forty people protested the scheduled June closing of the Salem, Ore., mail plant on April 17. When five “occupiers” stepped inside the plant, unfurling banners reading “No closures! No cuts” and “Save Salem’s mail,” they were arrested for trespassing.
The crowd outside cheered the five as they were led away in handcuffs.
“This closure is unnecessary, unfair and unwise,” declared Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier and one of the five arrestees. “About a hundred good-paying, family-supporting jobs will be lost. Mail for the mid-Willamette valley will be delayed. We’re trying to prevent this attack on our communities.”
Other arrestees represented communities hardest hit by a delay of the mail: the elderly, people of color, rural and small business people. If the mail-sorting plant does close, Salem-to-Salem mail will be trucked 39 miles to Portland to be sorted. One-half of the public presently pays bills by mail, and many lack access to reliable internet service.
The protesters, organized by Communities and Postal Workers United, a national grassroots network, claim that a 2006 Congressional mandate, which forces the U.S. Postal Service to prefund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, has created a phony financial crisis. Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, says CPWU, but the USPS has also overpaid tens of billions into two pension funds.