Senator Charles Schumer is urging Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to stop taking steps toward slowing United States Postal Service operations and is supporting billions of dollars of support in the next federal COVID relief bill. Representatives of thousands of Western New York postal workers, meanwhile, fear DeJoy's changes in postal work culture are setting them up to fail.
Earlier this year, DeJoy's predecessor Megan Brennan told the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that USPS fiscal losses could reach $13 billion. The HEROES Act, passed by the House of Representatives in May, includes $10 billion for the USPS this year and an additional $15 billion over the following two years.
"Our hope is to get Democrats and Republicans to come together," Schumer said. "There's bipartisan support for the Post Office. Rural America needs the Post Office. They know it. Pass this legislation."
DeJoy was appointed by President Trump in June to take the role of Postmaster General. Schumer said Thursday DeJoy's steps to slow down service include a reduction of overtime, eliminating extra mail transportation trips, not replacing workers who are unable to report for duty, and reducing equipment at mail processing plants. The website Vice reported this week that, according to an unnamed Buffalo postal worker quoted within the story, up to a half dozen sorting machines have been eliminated locally.
Postal union leaders say what DeJoy is trying to do is take what is a service and turn it into a business.
"Postmaster DeJoy is coming in, trying to turn this into a business and look at profits and look at changes that are going to seriously cause problems throughout the country, in service to our customers. And we cannot allow that to happen," said Lori Cash, president of American Postal Workers Local 183.
An estimated 6,100 people work within the USPS in the eight counties of Western New York. Frank Resetarits, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 374, says what many may not realize is that postal workers, when hired, take an oath of office. That oath, he explained, includes a promise to provide prompt, reliable and efficient service.
"That's what they're used to doing in here. However, our members now are confused," he said. "They don't know exactly what to do. They're used to doing this service-at-all-costs philosophy. However, with the 'no waits, no extra' philosophy now of the Postmaster General, where trucks leave whether the mail's ready or not, we're experiencing service delays. And that's contrary to every fiber that postal workers have operated by for over a decade."
Also raising worries is the prospect of problems processing and forwarding mail-in ballots this coming November. With the pandemic, a higher reliance on mailed ballots is expected.
President Trump told Fox News Thursday he opposes more money for the USPS because, as he claims, expanded voting by mail would result in rampant fraud. Those claims, according to fact checkers, are unfounded.
"Elections are the wellspring of our democracy," said Schumer. "If you can't get out of your house or don't want to get out of your house, you should be allowed to vote by mail. And the mail has to arrive on time before Election Day. And your absentee ballot has to arrive on time. So, it's outrageous."
Cash suggests while the integrity of the election could be at stake, there's a larger problem with what DeJoy is doing to the postal service.
"I think this started long before the election issue. I mean, when you think about it, Megan Brennan announced her retirement in October, that was long before the pandemic hit. So the wheels in motion of putting postmaster DeJoy in place started before the pandemic hit. Before we even knew this was going to affect the election, before mail-in ballots became an issue, privatization was the issue," she said. "The mail-in ballots, I think, is something that came along as an aftereffect, and it's just an added problem. Privatization is really the problem."