Press Release: Bulletin #3 – Day 12 of Tent City on steps of Berkeley’s Post Office
Tent City to privateers: Hands off the public commons! Halt the heist of the Post Office!
The Tent City on the steps of Berkeley’s main post office is now in its 12th day. Two dozen campers have been sleeping there to rally opposition to the Grand Theft of the people’s Post Office being engineered by Postmaster General Donahoe and his right wing collaborators in Congress. “These post offices were paid for by our parents and grandparents,” said one camper. “Why should they be sold off to line the pockets of a handful of big corporations?”
Postal police and postal inspectors come by every day and all night, threatening to remove the camp and its banners, and arrest the protesters. But the Tent City, now calling itself Berkeley Post Office Defense (BPOD), is standing firm.
The action has attracted broad support in the city, and some great media coverage including daily live reports from all TV channels. Every day hundreds of old and new supporters stop by the information table, volunteering to join the campaign to halt the sale of the building and defend the people's Post Office. Their strong support for the occupation is heartening. It seems that virtually the entire city of Berkeley wants to preserve the P.O. as a public institution, prevent it from being privatized, and defend the public commons.
Participants in the encampment include a retired postal letter carrier, a minister, two graphic artists, a computer programmer, a builder, musicians, a gardener, a livestreamer and a former mail handler. An active support group provides food, flyers, supplies and and sound system.
Protesters denounce the Postmaster General's decision to sell historic post offices in Berkeley, the Bronx (NY) and LaJolla (CA), close thousands of post offices and mail processing plants, and lay off 100,000-plus unionized postal workers making a living wage, in what they say is a "systematic plan to dismantle and privatize the postal service."
“Young people today are being robbed of future employment,” said one passerby, “What jobs will be left for my young son and my daughter?” The Postal Service is one of a rapidly diminishing number of employers offering a living wage job, and is the largest unionized workplace in the nation with 550,000 workers. That makes it a prize target for the privateers who hope to bust up the Post Office and transfer the work to private companies paying Walmart wages.
Destruction of the public Post Office would have “a disproportionate effect on workers and communities of color,” according to Tent City occupant Dave Welsh, a retired postal worker. “Today people of color make up 40% of the postal workforce (20% for African Americans). For many workers of all nationalities, it is one of the few places where living-wage jobs are still available in our low-pay, ‘post-industrial’ economy. The campaign to privatize and de-unionize the USPS is a threat to the livelihood of every affected worker and neighborhood. But it stands to hit hardest in those communities of color that are already suffering unemployment at Great Depression levels.
“We need a movement that puts in the forefront those most impacted by the postal crisis – Black, brown and rural communities; elderly, disabled and low-income people,” Welsh added.
Every evening at the Tent City features a delicious, freshly cooked dinner; music by local and traveling musicians; a daily meeting to decide on strategy and tactics; and “movie night.” Opening night featured the acclaimed Italian-language film, Il Postino (the Postman), followed up by The Postman, a Hollywood blockbuster; Matewan, about the coal wars and union organizing in Appalachia; and a film about the 1970 Postal Strike that shut down the country’s mail service for most of a week.
The Post Office Defense action is the latest in a year-long campaign. The entire City Council came out against selling the Post Office, as did both houses of the California state legislature. Many hundreds came out to demonstrate and pack the hearings, or gathered at the steps and in the lobby to sing songs celebrating the Post Office, including “Please Mr. Postman” with new lyrics.
Legal action to stop the sale is under way, as well as a plan to rezone the P.O. as part of a historic district of public buildings, so it can’t be sold to private investors.
Organizations supporting the struggle in Berkeley include Save the Berkeley Post Office committee, Berkeley Post Office Defense (BPOD) and Strike Debt Bay Area. For more information, go to www.savethebpo.com or www.bpod.us or http://strike-debt-bay-area.tumblr.com/ A good source for the overall struggle to save the P.O. is www.savethepostoffice.com or www.cpwunited.com
To see photos and article on Tent City, and samples of TV coverage: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/06/1229362/-Enter-the-Postal-Police-Day-10-of-the-Berkeley-Post-Office-Occupation http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielarauz/9436414593/in/set-72157634933471546