Keith Combs has been a Michigan postal worker for more than 30 years. Since 2016, he said everything has changed.
DETROIT, MI — Keith Combs has served his country in several capacities for more than 30 years.
He completed four years of military service before joining the United States Postal Service in 1989, where he still works today. He’s served as president for the Detroit district of the American Postal Workers Union for the past five years.
In all that time, Combs says he’s never seen changes to USPS like those instituted during the current presidential administration.
“Immediately when President Trump was elected, we started seeing signs of attempts to privatize the postal service,” Combs told The ‘Gander. “Throughout my career, there’s always been back room talk of the post office possibly privatizing, however, we’ve never seen it brought forward the way we have under President Trump.”
The USPS is facing increased scrutiny amid controversial decisions made by the newly-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Decisions to downsize and slow production are seeing real effects close to home for some Michiganders.
The Old Redford Post Office in Detroit has faced a Sept. 1 closure. On Aug. 19, it was announced it would stay open past Aug. 31 — for now.
Combs says he and other union employees were not given notice of the closing, as mandated by USPS operations procedures. Instead, post office box customers began receiving notices in late July that they would need to find another post office to use—before employees were told they could be out of a job.
“It’s confusing to us,” Combs said. “They have certain mandates and standards to apply to correctly close a building, and management hasn’t come to us to fulfill any of those mandates.”
Workers in fear have been bidding on new work assignments. Bidding does not guarantee they will receive assignments they requested, meaning postal workers could be stationed far from their homes or their previous Old Redford neighborhood, should the branch actually close.
But problems with a branch closure extend far beyond the post office’s walls and its employees.
A Community in Need
The Old Redford post office services the 48219 zip code in Detroit where the APWU estimates that 40% of the area’s 48,000 residents are seniors, a population known to utilize vote-by-mail and absentee options.
“These people could very well be forced into a situation where they cannot vote,” Combs said. “They (customers) were alarmed to hear about the closure, but that’s just the p.o. box customers.”
Other residents in the area were not been notified that USPS planned to close the Old Redford location.
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan’s 14th district worked for the USPS for 30 years before she began serving in Congress. She is condemning PMG DeJoy’s actions and rallied to save the Old Redford facility.
“Under the guise of ‘cost cutting,’ these measures are nothing more than a façade for President Trump and his Administration’s continued effort to attack USPS, undermine our democracy, and restrict Americans’ ability to safely vote-by-mail in the upcoming election,” Lawrence said in a statement. “It appears that every time President Trump tweets or attacks vote-by-mail, PMG DeJoy issues a new directive aimed at making the president’s fantasies a reality…It only took two months for the American people to see PMG DeJoy’s true intentions.”
Ring the Alarm
Without the requisite town hall meeting, many 48219 residents are unaware that they could be losing their local post office by the end of the month. Combs, USPS employees, and community members will rally on Thursday with Reps. Lawrence and Rashida Tlaib.
“We want to let residents know, who may not know, that their post office could be closing,” Combs said. “And to build support to hopefully stop this from happening, since the postal service hasn’t completed any of the mandates at this point.
A rally for the Old Redford branch will be held in front of the post office at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 20. Concerned residents can call the USPS district manager to complain about the closure at 313-226-8607 or contact their Congressperson.