Two Michigan congresswomen led a call to action encouraging the Senate to take up legislation to protect the postal service. One of them is a former postal worker.
MICHIGAN — Postal sorting machines in Grand Rapids lie in pieces despite being totally functional. Businesses in Warren suffer from postal delays. Detroiters rally outside their post office to support postal workers as the Postal Service makes their jobs harder by removing those machines and cutting overtime.
These examples are how Michiganders are reacting to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s efforts to save the post office money through cost-cutting measures like taking sorting machines offline and stopping overtime. Those policies cause delays, and those delays impact Michiganders.
Prompted by this reality, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Delivering for America Act Saturday, which adds funding to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and rolls back all DeJoy’s policy changes hampering the delivery of the mail. But it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will take up the bill.
A Call to Action
The Postal Service has a 90% approval rating with the American public, said congresswoman and former postal worker Brenda Lawrence (D-Detroit). Lawrence joined Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Warren) in a call on the Senate to act on the Delivering for America Act Wednesday morning.
Dingell, Lawrence and Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Chicago) called on the Senate to take up the legislation A call frequently echoed by Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, who sparred with DeJoy in a recent Senate hearing.
Lawrence pointed to DeJoy’s recent testimony and related hearings on Capitol Hill as a critical part of pressuring DeJoy and the Postal Service to act in the interest of the American people. She pointed to the success in getting DeJoy to stop removing collection boxes following a coordinated day of action.
“We are creating a perfect information storm where we’re making sure the public can raise their voices to demand that an organization that has a 90% approval rating, that you do not dismantle it,” Lawrence told The ‘Gander. “Our job is to hold DeJoy accountable to that — not let it just be words.”
And that action is needed, Dingell said. Especially in light of the difficult position postal workers find themselves in.
“Across the nation, Postmaster General DeJoy is pushing forward with this sweeping new operational plan that degrades the Postal Service, delays mail and threatens to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail,” said Dingell. “And postal workers are being threatened if they speak to us. Threatened. They are scared to death that they could lose their jobs. We just want to know what’s happening.”
Postal workers who have spoken out about the slowdowns in the Service which have led to food rotting and medications being undelivered nationwide have pinned the blame for those situations squarely on the policies DeJoy implemented, NBC reports.
And though DeJoy pledged to suspend those changes, that suspension does not include the decommissioning of sorting machines. Dingell saw the postal sorting machines in Grand Rapids being destroyed after the House passed the Delivering for America Act, she said. And even the policies that may be paused will be implemented again following the November election.
And those policies, like denying overtime to postal workers, strain a distressed postal system and put those postal workers in a bind.
“They’re good men and women who take the responsibility seriously to deliver the mail through rain, through sleet, through pouring rain,” Dingell said. “A lot of people (are) working really hard to try to keep a system going because they care about the people that are on their routes.”
When Lawrence was a postal worker, she would drill into postal workers during training that their job is protecting the mail and serving the American people. Postal workers, she argued, are civil servants sworn to act on behalf of the people, without political bias.
“We never had a president of the United States use us as a political pawn,” she said. “During election time, I can tell you, we literally had a team that would walk the processing floor to ensure there were no ballots on the floor that every night they would go out.”
Now, Lawrence says, postal workers are political pawns. In her 30 years in the postal service, the political influence on the agency is unprecedented, she said.
“It’s very disconcerting,” she said.
Two Parties Fighting Over the Mail
The Postal Service has been a partisan issue for some time, but the intensity of that politicking increased dramatically with the election of President Donald Trump, who has seen the self-funded agency as a piece in his feud with fellow businessman Jeff Bezos. More recently, Trump has said the USPS is essential to voting by mail in November, and opposes it to suppress the absentee vote.
The result is the policies of DeJoy, from removing postal machines to scaling back overtime. That partisanship bothers Lawrence.
“Did you deliberately want to create chaos?” Lawrence asked. “Are you deliberately trying to slow us down?”
The answer to her questions might be “yes,” based on Trump’s remarks to Fox Business.
“They want $3.5 billion for the mail-in votes, universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion for the Post Office. They need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”
DeJoy told Congress he has asked the Trump campaign to stop talking about the Postal Service, saying the president’s comments were “not helpful.”