Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Culver City. Kucinich has declared his support… (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich has thrown himself into a latest cause: Support of hunger-striking postal employees who oppose cuts to the Postal Service.
The congressman from Ohio played host on Monday to postal carriers, mail handlers and others outside the Capitol, pledging he would vote against efforts to shutter post offices and cut employee benefits as Congress seeks to close budget shortfalls in beleaguered postal operations.
“There’s been an effort to dismantle the Postal Service,” Kucinich said at the morning gathering. “An effort to take down the entire infrastructure of the post office.”
Supporting the hunger strikers is yet another public stand for the liberal leader, who lost his primary election this spring to a fellow Democratic lawmaker after the Ohio district maps were redrawn, cutting short his colorful career. He is expected to step down from office in January.
The Postal Service has been losing millions of dollars a day in the email era, and officials have considered stopping Saturday delivery and closing post offices to save money – only to be met with opposition from some in the public and members of Congress.
Slow-moving legislation that seeks to improve the Postal Service’s bottom line has been making its way through Congress. The bill would save money in part by changing the way the postal employee retirement system is funded, which employees argued Monday has been an unnecessary drain on financial resources. The bill would also prevent post office closures for the next two years.
The bill was approved last month in the Senate in a rare bipartisan agreement. But the legislation has stalled in the House where Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is seeking further cutbacks to postal operations.
The postal workers plan to hunger strike for the next several days in Washington, and in cities across the country, according to the group Community and Postal Workers United. Workers will hold vigils at the House congressional office buildings.
Kucinich, an icon in some of the nation’s most heated political battles, saluted their effort -- but drew the line at joining the workers on their hunger strike.
“I’m a vegan,” said Kucinich. “I kind of am hungry all the time.”