Not Bending, Not Folding, Definitely Not Spindling; Just Keepin’ it Lively Outside of Staples.

This is the one week anniversary of the Berkeley Staples table and outdoors occupation, staffed continually.  Dave Welsh honored that one-week anniversary by bringing his keyboard and playing from his repertoire of resistance songs, along with other musicians.

Meanwhile, a number of people, some from Berkeley Post Office Defenders, some from Save the Berkeley Post Office, passed out flyers to passersby, engaging them and convincing them not shop at Staples, while Occupy SF / First They Came for The Homeless peeps continued to staff the table.

 

Why We Are Here At Staples.

We are the Berkeley Post Office Defenders.

We are here to say

  • “No!” to union busting,
  • “No!” to McJobs,
  • “No!” to privatization of our constitutionally-guaranteed Postal Service,
  • “No!” to austerity,

Not only is Postal Service management selling off historic Post Offices like ours in Berkeley and others all over the country, they are engaged in an unheralded attempt to privatize the entire Postal Service workforce.

Starting Oct. 2013 eighty-four Staples stores began operating full-service Post Ofice counters, commencing a “pilot program” for the USPS. These counters are being staffed NOT by trained and Postal Employees making a living wage ($20-$30/hr with benefits) but with near minimum-wage Staples clerks ($9-$12/hr with few or no benefits) with no training in safe mailing handling.

This is just a first step. If Postal Service management is successful in this, their initial attempt to replace living wage, union jobs with low wage employment the program will roll out in over 1500 Staples all over the country; then management will certainly demand that something similar be extended into other kinds of postal employee work and large numbers of Post Offices will be sold off. Up to ½ million good-paying jobs are at stake!

The principle that government services should neither be privatized nor provided by employees who don’t make enough to keep themselves out of poverty is being directly challenged! We already provide food, housing and health subsidies to half of Walmart’s workforce because they can’t make ends meet on low wage jobs. Does it make sense to do the same for USPS workers?

We are here to demand

  • That Staples remove their Postal Service counters and cancel this pilot program, in Berkeley and across the country.
  • That the Postal Service stop playing the privatization game and pay all those who process the mail a living wage.
  • That the Postal Service discontinue its attempt to sell the downtown Berkeley Post Office and other Post Offices around the country, That the Postal Service provide adequate services at these beautiful, historic, centralized public buildings.

 

Lots more pictures here.

Occupyin’ Staples! Jammin’ the Sale!

At the beginning of June some Occupy San Francisco peeps took up stations outside of a Staples in San Francisco, protesting Post Office privatization and union-busting, and stayed there, 24-7, for nine days, garnering national attention.

Now they’ve come over to the East Bay, to Berkeley, setting up a table in front of the downtown Berkeley Staples store at Shattuck & Durant.They’ve been there for three days and counting. Visitors welcome, but don’t shop at Staples!

Here is the Facebook page they’ve established (with lots more pictures from both Berkeley and San Francisco) which goes by “First They Came for the Homeless.”

Meanwhile, Berkeley Post Office Defenders has been busy organizing for a “Jam The Sale!” event. If you’re a musician check it out below and let us know, or if you know any musicians, ask them to check out our flyer, send them our way and let BPOD know they are interested!

misical-mobilization-flyer-jp2_Page_1

misical-mobilization-flyer-jp2_Page_2

We’re Planning to JAM THE SALE!

A Musical Mobilization to Stop the Sale of our Post Office

 From morning to night musicians will play on the Berkeley Post Office steps proclaiming our community right to retain our Post Office and protesting the privatization of public resources.  

Berkeley Post Office Defenders thank all the musicians who have given their time and energy for the past two years to stop the United States Postal Service (USPS) from selling Berkeley’s beautiful, historic, publicly owned Main Post Office building at 2000 Allston Way. The building has been emptied of almost all services except for a couple of understaffed retail windows, but no sale has been announced.

This fight is now at a crucial juncture, and all musicians who care about the public commons and the public good are invited to help win it once and for all. Please come to the front steps of our post office, with your friends and families and fans, and play music! Sign up here so we can find you when the event is scheduled.

Things are happening fast.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a surprising and welcome observation that far from being an obsolete institution, the Post Office is ideally suited to provide nationally plenty of necessary and even profitable services, from internet access and package delivery to basic banking. The OIG also released a report finding that USPS has failed to meet its responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act to protect the public art, architecture and history our Post Offices hold, recommending that no sales take place until those issues are adequately addressed.

The Plan to Play

The OIG’s next report is expected to address the sales themselves. Our plan for action to stop the sale of Berkeley’s Main Post Office is to meet the release of that report with a demand for immediate withdrawal of our post office from sale. And we will make this demand with the persistent resistance that only music can sustain. From morning to night musicians will play on the post office steps under banners proclaiming our refusal to have our postal services discontinued and our building stolen:

“Haven’t you heard us yet?

Our Post Office is Not for Sale!”

 

STATEMENT ON THE HISTORIC PRESERVATION REPORT TO CONGRESS AS IT EFFECTS THE BERKELEY POST OFFICE

BERKELEY POST OFFICE DEFENDERS STATEMENT ON THE ADVISORY COUNCIL’S HISTORIC PRESERVATION REPORT TO CONGRESS AS IT AFFECTS THE BERKELEY POST OFFICE SALE AND THE SALE OF OTHER SUCH HISTORIC POSTAL BUILDINGS.

On April 17th, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation issued its Preserving Historic Post Offices report to Congress “on compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for the closure and disposal of its historic postal facilities.” This report was requested by legislation initiated by Berkeley’s United States Representative in Congress Barbara Lee.

The report tells us some that is new, and much that we already know from Berkeley’s experience attempting to interact with Postal Service management. We are well aware that they refuse to care about the community’s concerns – when they deign to listen at all (public meetings attended by hundreds of Berkeley residents in near-universal opposition to the sale of Berkeley’s Post Office whose voices were totally ignored showed us that); we know that Postal Service management ignores the law when it is inconvenient to their purposes; and we know that they are hell-bent on selling Post Office assets in pursuit of immediate revenue, all as the report suggests.

We also know from other sources such as Peter Byrne’s investigative reporting that Postal Service management has allowed its real estate agent, CBRE, to engage in unethical and possibly illegal practices as it sells off Historic Post Offices in violation of procedures it has sworn to abide by; it has allowed CBRE to act as both appraiser, buyer’s agent and seller’s agent; and has stood by as CBRE has sold properties for below market value to its board members’ cronies.

What we gleaned from the report that we didn’t know before is telling but therefore not surprising:

  • the USPS has refused to allow other public entities, such as cities or counties, to purchase Historic Post Offices at market rate bids in violation of various laws such as Section 111 of the NHPA.
  • the USPS is not correctly applying the “Criteria of Adverse Effect”, incorrectly classifying sales of Post Offices as having no effect on the community or the environment.
  • USPS regulations and procedures regarding sales are in conflict with applicable law in certain cases.
  • the USPS refuses to consider leasing uneeded space, a sensible way to preserve its assets, gain revenue, and preserve our heritage.
  • the USPS is putting publicly funded murals and other works of art in historic post offices at risk for deterioration and loss.
  • the USPS should be using the GSA’s Office of Real Property Disposal to sell Post Offices, not a private firm.
  • the USPS should be taking advantage of the Historic Surplus Property Program, set up by Congress in 1949.

All of these observations are important, but the most crucial part of the Report is its second recommendation:

The USPS should suspend any further actions to relocate services out of historic postal facilities and dispose of those historic facilities until such time as it fully implements the recommendations of this report. If the USPS fails to suspend such actions, the ACHP recommends that Congress direct the USPS to suspend all relocation of service decisions and disposal actions for postal facilities that are listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places until such time as the USPS fully implements the recommendations of this report directed to it.

Berkeley Post Office Defenders enthusiastically endorses this recommendation while stating the obvious: it does not go far enough.

OUR HISTORIC POST OFFICES SHOULD NOT BE FOR SALE, PERIOD!

These buildings belong to the people of the United States; our grandparents and great-grandparents labored to build them and also paid for them with their tax dollars. As such they must remain as the property of the United States, in common for the benefit of us all. It is criminal to privatize them for any reason, let alone for a quick cash fix and to the benefit of one-percent real estate moguls.

In light of the Advisory Council’s report, Peter Byrne’s investigations and common sense, Berkeley Post Office Defenders

  • Demand that the United States Postal Service permanently halt the process of selling the Historic Downtown Berkeley Post Office and other such properties around the country.
  • Thank all of the thousands of people  who have worked in the past two years to defend and preserve our post offices.
  • Ask the people of the United States to continue to demand of their elected representatives not to allow this theft of public assets, nor the privatization of our commons,  to continue.
  • Call upon the people to take such actions as are necessary to demonstrate that their will be heard and acted on in this matter.

Public Banking at the Post Office: Laura Wells and Musical Guests

Public Banking at the Post Office

a discussion with
Laura Wells
2014 Candidate for California State Controller
2010 Green Party Candidate for California Governor
and Advocate for establishing a State Bank for California

music by
Phat Love Participatory Orchestra
Fresh Juice Party
Bill and Bob’s Country Combo
The Funky Nixons
Hali Hammer and Dave Welsh

and updates

on ongoing initiatives to save our Post Office, including the proposed Zoning Overlay Ordinance, protests at Staples, Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s proposed moratorium on selling historic Post Offices, and legal actions

Saturday 29 March 2014
12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.

on the steps of
Berkeley’s Main Post Office
2000 Allston Way @ Milvia Street

http://www.berkeleypostofficedefenders.wordpress.com
http://www.savethebpo.com http://www.facebook.com/savetheberkeleypostoffice
http://www.LauraWells.org http://www.PublicBankingInstitute.org

image