The Trump Administration Is Sabotaging Our Postal System
On May 6, the United States Postal Service Board of Governors — all of whom are Trump appointees — selected Louis DeJoy, who has no experience at the USPS, to the position of Postmaster General.
The USPS, which is supposed to be apolitical, now has at its helm someone with many conflicts of interest. DeJoy was a top donor to Trump and the Republican National Committee, giving more than $2 million since 2016. And before accepting this position, he headed up fundraising for the 2020 Republican National Convention. DeJoy is the former CEO of New Breed Logistics, which has contracted with the USPS for more than 25 years. This company, along with his wife’s assets, leave him with between $30 and $70 million in assets in USPS competitors or contractors. Congressional Democrats have demanded an investigation into DeJoy’s new operational policies, and they have asked the Postal Service Inspector to review DeJoy’s finances.
On July 14, after just one month in his position and without consulting any unions or representatives of the USPS, DeJoy announced what he referred to as an “operational pivot” within the Postal Service. These “pivots” include reassigning or displacing 23 postal executives, cutting postal hours, implementing a hiring freeze, eliminating overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers, and requiring that late-arriving mail be left behind and delivered in the next day or two. DeJoy seems determined to restructure the country’s essential mail service into a for-profit business. One memo, entitled, “Pivoting for Our Future,” warns that “one aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that — temporarily — we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks.” Previously, postal workers were trained to never leave mail behind, even if that meant making multiple trips.
According to the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), almost 20% of all work by mail handlers is done in overtime. As a result of DeJoy’s policy changes, post offices are already seeing a backlog of mail. The APWA’s president, Mark Dimondstein, said that the union has received a number of reports from postal workers and customers that mail delivery has slowed and “degraded.” Dimondstein says the union is “absolutely opposed” to any policies that slow down the mail for financial reasons because the USPS is not a for-profit business; it is a service offered to the American people that is mandated in the U.S. Constitution.
On top of these already damaging changes, DeJoy has removed mail drop boxes around the country. He has also had mail sorting equipment that is used to process mail removed from Postal Service facilities in Iowa, according to Kimberly Karol, a 30-year veteran of the USPS and the head of the Iowa Postal Workers Union. Karol told NPR this week that these policies are “now affecting the way we do business and not allowing us to deliver every piece every day as we’ve done in the past.” She feels this “is a way to undermine the public confidence in the mail service” because it is causing mail to pile up.
Trump has recently tweeted some dangerous and incorrect information about delaying the election and alleging that mail-in ballots will lead to electoral fraud and a rigged election. There is absolutely no evidence that fraud is caused by absentee voting. In the past, the Republican Party supported mail-in voting because it allowed senior citizens — who tend to vote Republican — to vote easily. Although Trump has, himself, requested a mail-in ballot for the 2020 election and used mail-in voting for at least three previous elections, he is now attacking the idea of absentee voting. Why? This year, because of Covid-19, mail-in voting will permit Democrats to vote in higher numbers. In fact, here in Georgia, mail-in ballots contributed to higher Democratic Party voter turnout during the recent primary.
Trump admitted in an interview with Fox News on August 13 that he is withholding $25 billion from the USPS even though he knows “they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.” He went on to say that if they don’t receive this money then, “you can’t have universal mail-in voting…because they’re not equipped.” The leader of this country, our commander-in-chief, is deliberately sabotaging the USPS to prevent you from safely voting by mail. This is nothing short of voter suppression.
The USPS is a pillar of our American democracy. We cannot allow partisanship to impede our elections, and we need the USPS to run efficiently to make sure that all Americans can vote safely.
The USPS is self-funding, in that it does not receive any support from tax dollars. Under our current economic crisis and due to the pandemic, mail volumes are down significantly, and if projections are correct, the USPS is on track to be out of money by September. If that were to happen, it would be devastating for our entire country, and Georgia citizens would be hit hard. The USPS employs more than 630,000 workers, including a large proportion of people of color, women, and more than 100,000 military veterans. In Georgia, almost 20,000 people work for the USPS, and the Postal Service is also the backbone of a larger mailing industry, which employs over 210,000 people here in Georgia.
If the USPS goes bankrupt, service to Georgia’s rural areas would suffer. A recent analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies found that, without the USPS, Americans living in rural areas would have to pay large surcharges for deliveries. Small businesses and the elderly would also most be impacted if the USPS were to close or move to a for-profit model. Postal workers play a vital role in delivering medicine, Social Security checks, and other essentials. The Veterans Administration estimates that approximately 80% of all the prescriptions provided to veterans go through the mail, and 20% of people over the age of 40 who take medication for a chronic condition get their medicine through the mail. Almost 20% of Americans still pay their bills by mail.
The USPS is essential for ensuring that we have safe elections during the pandemic. One million Georgians have already requested mail-in ballots in 2020. Dimondstein told CNN that postal workers are capable of handling voting by mail, but putting policies in place that slow down the mail will have “an impact on everything, including ballots.” In Georgia, there’s no extension for mail-in ballots; ballots must arrive by the time polls close on November 3. Everyone’s vote matters, and all votes must be counted. Delaying the mail puts our democracy in danger.
Americans like the USPS; it is the most well-liked government agency in the country, with a 91% favorability rating. Americans overwhelmingly support giving the USPS financial assistance as part of coronavirus relief bills. The House recently passed the HEROES Act, which included $25 billion in direct aid to our Postal Service, but it has been held up in the Senate. Congress had already approved a $10 billion line of credit for the USPS, but due to restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, it remains unused. Trump has frequently said that he would not sign any legislation that includes a USPS bailout provision. This is unacceptable. And now, on top of not supporting the USPS financially, the mail is being slowed down by DeJoy’s new policies, something that will have further financial consequences. Dimondstein notes that every time the USPS has slowed down mail, they have also lost revenue.
When I am elected to Congress, I commit to supporting the USPS and introducing legislation to help keep the USPS running. I will vote to reform or eliminate the requirement that the Postal Service prepay the health benefits of its retirees because this unusual requirement costs it billions of dollars a year and keeps it from being able to update its vehicle fleet and modernize its facilities. This 2006 mandate accounts for approximately 90% of USPS’s losses since 2007.
The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 requires “prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas.” Georgians rely on this vital service, and that service must be protected. USPS is the most cost-efficient way to send packages and letters, and 48% of the world’s mail is handled by the Postal Service. Many Americans have recently gotten creative in showing their support of the USPS by purchasing stamps and other merchandise, and I encourage all who are able to consider doing the same. We cannot allow the USPS to continually be attacked when so many Americans — especially those living in rural areas — depend on its services. We must speak out and fight against the slow-down of mail, which is a direct danger to our elections. I encourage you to text USPS to 50409 to have a letter sent to your Congressional representative and your senators, demanding they protect the postal service during this crucial time.
If you are voting by mail-in ballot, I urge you to make sure you leave plenty of time for your ballot to be received. A spokesman for the USPS recommends that “domestic, non-military voters mail their ballots at least one week prior to their state’s due date to allow for timely receipt by election officials.” Because every day we see new information about additional delays and changes at the post office, it may be advisable to mail your ballot well in advance of the election.
You can also make sure to verify that your ballot was accepted by visiting the “Georgia My Voter Page,” where you can log-in and request information about the status of your ballot. Then, if there are any problems with your ballot, contact your county registrar to find out what your options are and ensure that your vote is counted.