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Postal workers rally outside Bachmann's office

Woodbury resident Chris Wittenberg spoke Tuesday at a rally for postal workers outside U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's Woodbury office. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

Twin Cities postal workers joined in on a coordinated nationwide effort Tuesday aimed at building congressional support for a bill that supporters say would spare the embattled service from massive cuts.

That included about 40 supporters who rallied outside U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's offices in Woodbury. Mail carriers and their supporters fanned out onto neighboring streets before organizers marched a petition up to Bachmann's office that urged support of the bill.

"The postal service will be placed on much sounder financial ground" if the legislation passes, said Woodbury resident Chris Wittenberg, a U.S. Postal Service employee.

The rally was organized by members of four USPS employee unions.

Wittenberg and others spoke in support of a House bill that seeks to backfill funding losses that have been steered toward mandated retirement health benefits for future payouts. The bill would tap those funds to erase red ink that's threatening drastic changes in the service, which could include slashing a delivery day and thousands of jobs.

Postal workers sounded off in a parking lot outside Bachmann's offices chanting, "We don't want a bailout, we just want to get the mail out."

Among the event's organizers was Lisa O'Neill, a Ham Lake, Minn., mail carrier who said she hoped the rally would bring enough attention that lawmakers like Bachmann might get behind the bill, which is supported mainly by Democrats.

"It is getting some momentum," O'Neill said of the bill, which includes support from some GOP members.

The Democratic-backed measure runs counter to Republican legislation calling for extensive reforms, including the possibility of ending Saturday delivery.

According to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's website, the so-called "pre-funding" burden behind future retirement benefit payouts is necessary.

"USPS has to save now, or it will not be able to afford retiree health care later," the committee's fact sheet states. "If they can't, taxpayers will be on the hook for billions of dollars."

O'Neill disagreed, arguing that taxpayer dollars aren't in jeopardy - the service is funded through postage revenue - only jobs.

"The fact is, we'd be in the black if we didn't have the burden of the pre-fund," she said. "This isn't a bailout."

Staff members in Bachmann's Woodbury office referred all comments to the congresswoman's Washington, D.C., staff. A call to a spokeswoman there was not immediately returned.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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