Poor People's Campaign

August 17, 2020

The Poor People’s Campaign maintained its pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the third week in a row, demanding that he pass a COVID-19 relief bill that helps all people and protects the U.S. Postal Service.

Speakers for the third Moral Monday March on McConnell included Kentucky residents who will be disenfranchised if they can’t vote by mail; Elizabeth Powell, secretary-treasurer of the American Postal Workers Union; and actress and activist Jane Fonda, along with the campaign co-chairs, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. 

“Mitch McConnell for as long as he’s been in office, as long as he’s been the Senate Majority leader, has been trying to sabotage this country,” said Darlene Whitlow, a retired postal worker from Bowling Green, Kentucky. “And his newest target is the post office. He’s trying to commit a new form of voter suppression by not supporting the post office.”

In addition to having people call McConnell’s office, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is asking them to sign a petition for a fair and just COVID-19 relief bill. 

In May, the U.S. House passed a bill that included $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, which typically doesn’t receive taxpayer money, as part of a larger COVID-19 stimulus package. 

In refusing to let the U.S. Senate vote on the bill, McConnell is engaging in voter suppression because voters have the right to mail their ballots and know they will be counted. 

The House was scheduled to vote Monday on a stand-alone bill to help the USPS, which is so cash-strapped that it could run out of money by the end of September without taxpayer help. 

“We’ve got a problem with Mitch McConnell,” Powell said. “He’s been holding back everything that can help the post office and postal workers since day one.”

Fonda told the activists at the Moral Monday that they “need to rise up like a disturbed hornet’s nest and make the Trump administration sorry they ever thought to mess with the U.S. Post Office. … It’s essential for the smooth running of our democracy.”

Activists in Kentucky demanded that the campaign expose McConnell as the “grim reaper” that he is — words that he used to describe himself and a description that led Rev. Barber to describe the Senate majority leader as “arrogant and mean.”

“We need to expose what is going on — his mayhem, his meanness and the misery that he’s causing,” Rev. Barber said. 

The USPS “is a bulwark of our democracy,” Rev. Theoharis said. “The post office delivers life saving medicine to elders; it employs large numbers of Black Americans with better wages and working conditions and has since the Reconstruction. And in this pandemic, it could literally be a lifesaver to voters who are too sick or too afraid to vote in person.” 

Sarah Anderson, director of the global economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies, said McConnell is key to getting money for the USPS.

“He’s the key obstacle in between the demands we’ve all been pushing to actually seeing them” made into law, she said, adding that Trump most recently said he wouldn’t veto a bill that includes money for the USPS. 

“Mitch McConnell is key to saving our public postal service,” she said. 

Debbie Smith of Independence, Kentucky, has a rare lung disease associated with lupus. It took her eight months to get approved for a medication, and now its delivery is delayed by the USPS slowdown. Due to her compromised health, she can’t risk going out to vote in a crowded place with COVID-19 and the flu season coming up. 

“If they don’t let me vote by mail then I won’t be able to vote,” she said. 

Campaign activist Tayna Fogle spoke from her hospital bed, imploring people to flood McConnell’s office in Washington, D.C., and Kentucky with phone calls. 

“From the ‘hood to the holler, let’s stand together,” she said. “If you do not vote, we cannot change anything. It’s time to put him in his rocking chair.”

McConnell sent U.S. senators home on vacation rather than allow a vote on the COVID-19 bill that helps the USPS and people at the bottom of the economic ladder. Activists don’t have that same luxury, Rev. Barber said. 

“Vacation? Well, we’re not going to take a vacation,” Rev. Barber said. “We can’t take a vacation. The democracy is at stake. We need you to call; we need you to sign; and we need you to vote.”

Contact: Martha Waggoner | [email protected]

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, is building a broad and deep moral fusion movement rooted in the leadership of poor people to unite our country from the bottom up. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. Our updated agenda, A Moral Policy Agenda to Heal America: the Poor People’s Jubilee Platform, addresses these issues.