Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Sharran Nelson, a United States Postal employee for 18 years, protests to keep the postal service open for six days a week during a rally outside of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on Tuesday afternoon. Nelson is a mail clerk at the North Metro office in Duluth.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Sharran Nelson wants to know a few things.
"How would you feel if you didn't get a letter today, or if you didn't get your paycheck?" the 18-year postal employee asked. "How would you feel if you didn't get medicine for your dear old momma?"
Nelson and a few dozen of her colleagues rallied outside the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on Tuesday afternoon, getting petitions signed and trying to, in their words, "save America's Postal Service." It was a scene replicated across the country as postal employees gathered to support H.R. 1351, which they say can help rectify the post office's financial problems and prevent layoffs and service reductions proposed by lawmakers.
Cries of "1351, we can get the job done" and "five days, no way" echoed off the walls of GJAC for more than an hour.
"We're asking them to lift that mandate, because it's killing us," said Tiawanna Jackson, a carrier stationed out of Stone Mountain for the last 14 years. "We're asking Congress to get on board, to sign this into action. This is not taxpayer's money, this is our money."
In recent months, a number of plans have been proposed to save the floundering post office, including one that would layoff 120,000 workers and put an end to Saturday deliveries.
In place of drastic cuts like those, H.R. 1351 would lift a 2006 law mandating a "pre-funding" of health care benefits for future retirees, suspending payments made by postal workers and using the overfunded balance to help counteract the Postal Service's debts.
It's a win-win, supporters say, using money the post office already has without costing taxpayers a cent.
"It's killing us," Jackson said. "The Postal Service can only pay so much before they go broke."
Added James Walker, a 37-year post office veteran: "The post office wants to blame the employees for the cost being out of control."
As of Tuesday afternoon, H.R. 1351 -- proposed in April by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) -- had 216 cosponsore in the U.S. House of Representatives, including five from Georgia. Rep. Hank Johnson, whose 4th District includes parts of Lilburn and Tucker, is among them.
Jackson and her cohorts collected hundreds of signatures Tuesday, and urged residents to reach out to their local representatives -- the post office may not be perfect, she said, but it's needed.
"I understand they go in there and there's some slow lines sometimes," Jackson said, "but we're at that (mailbox). We're there. If you need us, we're there."