As Congress debates the fate of the U.S. Postal Service, postal workers locally and across the country are calling for rallies today to support funding for the beleaguered mail delivery agency and a rollback of recently implemented service reductions.
The local chapter of the American Postal Workers Union and a local affiliate of the pro-union group Pride at Work are calling for a 5 p.m. rally at the USPS facility on Jefferson Road in Henrietta. The Rochester-area rally is meant to be a part of nationwide effort in which the APWU hopes to see thousands gather at post offices across the country to protest mail slowdowns and service reductions.
The rallies come as mail service locally and nationally is seeing slowdowns with the advent of cost-saving measures that began when newly installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy assumed the office in June.
Here as well as nationally those measures have resulted in “slower mail service, reductions in retail hours, removal of processing equipment, overall reductions in work hours, changes to the transporting of mail, and cuts to customer service,” wrote Rob Stahl, president of APWU Local 25, a Rochester-area chapter of the postal workers union, in an email.
Speaking anonymously because of longstanding USPS rules barring employees from speaking publicly about postal matters, an area mail carrier confirmed that a backlog of unsorted and undelivered mail is building up at the Jefferson Road facility. Businesses and residential patrons have complained to the carrier about delayed or undelivered mail, the carrier said. The rule barring public comment by USPS employees long predates DeJoy, the carrier added.
While the fact of mail delays appears to be undeniable, the slowdown’s significance has become a point of debate. In the runup to the November presidential election, the USPS has emerged as a political football.
Democrats are decrying cost-saving measures implemented under DeJoy as a GOP-engineered attempt to undermine the November ballot by slowing voting by mail. Republicans are dismissing those concerns as a baseless conspiracy theory.
In May, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes $25 billion in new USPS funding. The Republican-controlled Senate has not taken up the measure, however, and talks between the White House and Democratic congressional leaders over the relief bill fizzled.
Authorization for the $25 billion to be handed to the USPS is among results the APWU is calling for. The union is also wants all or most of the money-saving measures implemented under DeJoy to be halted or permanently reversed.
Democrats’ concerns over the state of the USPS follow President Donald Trump’s longstanding and often-aired complaints over the USPS as a money-losing operation and over mail-in balloting as rife with opportunities for fraud. Critics have denounced such complaints as backed by virtually no evidence of actual mail-in vote fraud. Still, Trump repeated them this week at the Republican convention.
In testimony to Senate and House committees in the last week, DeJoy said he had not spoken to Trump about the USPS and that many of the measures the APWU and Democrats criticize were called for before he took office. DeJoy said he was initially unaware that some measures were being carried out. While he admitted that the cost-cutting steps have caused delays, DeJoy insisted that the kinks are being worked out and service is returning to normal.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is dubious. In a statement issued Monday, Schumer is calling for a USPS Board of Governors committee to “address the ongoing lack of credibility with Postmaster DeJoy.”
In response to Democrats’ concerns that postal disruption would disenfranchise millions of Americans who plan to vote by mail in November, DeJoy is promising to take steps to see that election mail takes priority over even first-class mail and to halt implementation of cost-saving measures.
Those promises “largely ring hollow,” Schumer maintains, pointing out that DeJoy also told lawmakers that USPS would not restore the cuts to mailboxes and sorting equipment that have already been made or reauthorize overtime.
Schumer is calling for the USPS Board of Governors to immediately issue a report to Congress detailing the USPS’ stature and for DeJoy to be constantly monitored until the election.
House Minority Leader Keven McCarthy, R-Calif., has called Democrats’ concerns over postal delays disrupting the November election a conspiracy theory. McCarthy voted against the House bill that would have given the USPS $25 billion. Still, he also says he would support additional funding to shore up the USPS.
Saying that he does not share Trump’s mail-in vote concerns, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has similarly said he would support additional USPS aid.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.