An estimated 400 to 500 people showed up at the King Street corner of the Capitol Square.
Postal workers rallied Tuesday in every congressional district across the country to dispel what they say is a campaign of misinformation about the U.S. Postal Service's fiscal situation and the source of its budgetary woes.
"The assumptions about the cause of the Postal Service crisis are generally wrong," American Postal Workers Union representative Sally Davidow says in an interview. "Many assume the financial problems are caused by Internet and email growth, but that is actually not the case."
The cause, she adds, "is a provision of a law passed in 2006 that puts a financial burden on the Postal Service that no other public agency or federal service faces."
The Congressional mandate requires the Postal Service to, within the decade, pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years. These funds -- $5.5 billion a year -- come out of the service's operating budget.
Congress enacted the 2006 provision to address budgetary concerns and keep the postal service from putting off these retirement obligations.
Before the provision was passed, Davidow says the service was doing well financially and experiencing modest surpluses each year. Since the bill took effect, the postal service has racked up billions of dollars in bills each year.
Keith Steffen, representative for NALC's local Branch 507, says the financial crisis could result in service cuts that include fewer days of mail delivery, the closing of hundreds of post offices and the laying off of thousands of workers.
That will in turn, says postal employees, hurt the U.S. economy, weaken communities and eventually destroy the "nation's only universal communications/delivery network."
In an effort to get citizens nationwide to understand the gravity of the situation, 491 rallies were scheduled Tuesday throughout the United States as part of the Save America's Postal Service campaign.
An estimated 400 to 500 people showed up at the King Street corner of the Capitol Square to ask local legislators to support House Bill 1351, which would eliminate the annual payment the service is required to make into its health benefit plan. Passage of this bill would eliminate the need for drastic service cuts, Steffen says.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) spoke at the rally, urging the postal workers in attendance to keep up their fight and encouraging citizens to push their congressional representatives to sign onto House Bill 1351.
"[The 2006 commission] is cookie-cutter, Tea Party legislation that they want to put in place state by state," Pocan said. "Are we going to let them get away with this? We need to fight these ways in Madison and in Washington by supporting House Bill 1351, a measure that will keep post offices open, keep mail delivery timely and save the jobs of tens of thousands of workers."
Pocan praised postal workers as crucial public servants while rally attendees shouted "Show me what democracy looks like!" -- bringing back chants from this spring's protests against Gov. Scott Walker's budget and labor policies.
Having Pocan and Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison) at the rally was important to the postal service's cause, says Steffen.
"We have to get the American people on our side, and this is a step," he says. "The proposals being presented would seriously damage the Post Office by causing serious service reductions to the American people."