Retired postal worker Fred Porter said cuts to postal operations nationwide are more than a matter of dollars and cents.
In Porter's view, the cuts diminish an American heritage of grandmothers sending boxes of cookies to their grandchildren or families mailing Christmas cards to loved ones.
"The post office is set up to serve the people," Porter told the Herald. "Computers work great, but there's nothing like a birthday card or a thank-you card."
Porter, of Olympia, was one of three people who swung through Pasco on Tuesday as part of a four-day, statewide hunger strike protesting cuts to the Postal Service.
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One cut is a reduction in operating hours for many rural post offices, including those in Burbank, Eltopia, Mesa, Dixie, Kahlotus, Paterson, Plymouth, Prescott, Starbuck, Touchet and Wallula.
Another significant cut affecting Tri-Citians is the scheduled closure of the Pasco mail-handling facility in February, when mail handling will move from Pasco to Spokane. That means it'll take longer for mail to get to and from the Tri-Cities.
Postal Service officials cited declining mail volumes and a projected $14 billion fiscal 2012 loss as the reason for the cuts, which are projected to save $1.2 billion per year.
But Porter and fellow hunger strike participants David Yao of Seattle and Clint Burelson of Olympia said the postal service can make up its shortfall and prevent the cuts by tapping into billions of dollars in federally mandated payments into a retiree health benefits trust fund.
"We are symbolically starving ourselves to show that Congress is starving the post office," Burelson told the Herald.
Yao said a congressional requirement that the postal service pre-pay enough to fund retiree benefits for the next 75 years is unfair -- and is forcing cuts that shouldn't be necessary.
The payments amount to about $5.5 billion per year.
"That's paying for employees who haven't been born yet," Yao said. "The post office is still vital to people's lives. People depend on it to get their medicine and their paychecks. ... We're hoping the public will tell Congress to fix this problem."