Save the United States Postal Service

Photo by Pope Moysuh on Unsplash

It is without a doubt that the Vice Presidential buzz has dominated the news media coverage as people try to understand what the dynamics would look like for Joe Biden as he makes the leap from former Vice President to President in the run up to the U.S. elections in November. Given the critical mass of issues that are currently facing the country, it only makes sense that ‘Reading the Room’ becomes that much more important if Joe Biden wants to make sure that the Democratic Party comes out on the other end and proves to voters why voting for the Democratic ticket is incredibly vital in taking our country forward.

The critical juncture in which we stand as a country is truly a make or break situation. With the rise of COVID-19 in states around the country that re-opened too quickly and with minimal oversight and guidance by public health officials, the United States has officially reached the grim milestone of 5 million cases in the United States, and this is just the cases that we know of as they are reported by John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The scariest part of this? In the lead up to the general election, with the knowledge that voters want to protect themselves and limit the exposure they have to catching COVID-19, the President has committed himself to taking drastic measures against the United States Postal Service in making sure that mail becomes slower to get to their intended recipients and that the Post Master General, Trump donor Louis DeJoy carries out his directives to stall to stall mail across the board. With using language and rhetoric around ‘fiscal responsibility’ Dejoy had to say:

“We are at the beginning of a transformative process,” Louis DeJoy said in his first public remarks since becoming postmaster general. “Our goal is to change and improve the Postal Service to better serve the American public, and I am excited about the opportunities ahead.”

DeJoy confirmed news reports that part of that transformation will involve cutting back on overtime costs and “running our operations on time and on schedule.” Many Americans on both sides of the aisle worry that the cuts will delay the delivery of important mail, from prescriptions for veterans to mail ballots for this year’s presidential election, during a once-in-a-century health crisis.

As NPR’s Brian Naylor reported last week, that means that among other things, late-arriving mail will now be left behind by carriers and delivered the next day.

The question does persist however, why are we considering drastic action towards restructuring the USPS when there is a general election approaching and deadly viral pandemic that has taken the lives of 165,000+ Americans. In a recent report, we saw that 1 in 4 Americans knows someone who either died of the virus or knows someone who has. This doesn’t point to a stable transition of power in a democratic process but rather, the attempts to stymie and intervene when you know that the American public is not going to vote for you (and with good reason too).

As one of the many big threats facing the election, this is a major one. New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) has introduced the Delivering for America Act. As CNN Politics reports:

The Delivering for America Act, introduced by House Oversight and Reform chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, is the latest action over the agency’s cutbacks and slow mail service ahead of the 2020 election in November that is already upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor and ally to the President, on Friday announced a hiring freeze on leadership positions in the agency and a reorganization of top leaders.

The New York Democrat also said that the partisan nature of the changes to the USPS is alarming. As CNN Politics goes on to report:

“Our Postal Service should not become an instrument of partisan politics, but instead must be protected as a neutral, independent entity that focuses on one thing and one thing only — delivering the mail,” Maloney said in a statement. “Millions of people rely on the Postal Service every day to communicate, to access critical medications, and to vote. At this juncture in our nation’s history, when the number of Americans voting by mail for this Presidential election is expected to more than double from the last, Congress must protect the right of all eligible citizens to have their vote counted.”

However, the Postmaster General pushed back on concerns from the public and government officials by saying in a meeting with Governors across the country:

Despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down election mail or any other mail,” he said. “Instead we continue to employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling of all election mail.”

The issue doesn’t just stop with the lack of ballots delivered to American households for the election, but the fact that many time sensitive business transactions, legal proceedings and small e-commerce businesses suffering the most from delayed mail. Given the fact that many stores have shifted their operations online to meet customer demand, this new hurdle could prove to be one that further leads to losses. Some of the things are have already happened with the slow down in USPS operations are:

  • Management hiring freezes.
  • Non-union Postal workers quitting.

In a Common Dreams post, the ‘Friday Night Massacre’ on August 7th:

Already under fire for recent policy changes at the USPS that mail carriers from withinand outside critics have denounced as a sabotage effort to undermine the Postal Service broadly as well as disrupt efforts to carry out mail-in voting for November’s election amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the moves unveiled late Friday were viewed as an overt assault on democracy and a calculated opportunity to boost Republicans’ long-held dream of undercutting or privatizing the government-run mail service while also boosting their election prospects in the process.

“Another Friday night massacre by this administration — and this time dealing another devastating blow to our postal service,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) “The American people deserve answers and we’re going to keep fighting for them.”

Scanlon was among more than 80 congressional lawmakers who sent a letter to DeJoy earlier in the day expressing “deep concerns” about operational changes he has made for mail carriers that have delayed deliveries and lowered standards.

“It is vital that the U.S. Postal Service not reduce mail delivery times, which could harm rural communities, seniors, small businesses, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for critical letters and packages,” the letter stated. “Eliminating overtime and directing postal workers to leave mail on the floor of postal facilities will erode confidence in the Postal Service and drive customers away, resulting in even worse financial conditions in the future.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, warned what occurred Friday is designed to weak the Postal Service, slow vote-by-mail, and disrupt the 2020 Census.

Postal Workers Speak Out

In talking about some of the changes that workers have been experiencing when it comes to being under Postmaster DeJoy, Postal Workers have been quick to say that they are unhappy about their work being trifled with. The CNN video below shows how one of the postal workers feel about all these changes.

Just like standing in lines for long hours just to cast their ballot, Americans now have another thing to wait on: getting their mail.

“To say, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ set in stone, black and white — that doesn’t work. We have to be flexible,” Adams said. “And I think the postmaster general looks at this as a business. You know, it’s not (a business), it’s a service. So we have to make a few adjustments to get 80,400 pieces of mail out to the customers, which were due today.” — Scott Adams, general president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 458. Source: Sun Journal

New York is familiar with Vote by Mail Issues

In New York State, we have grappled with our issues when it comes to ensuring primaries that not only every New Yorker can part-take in, but making sure that we get absentee ballot forms to people in time for the postmark date, which proved to be incredibly contentious when it came to making sure that our elections are conducted safely.

According to election attorney Ali Najmi, who represents many clients who have ran in the past cycle, ranging from U.S. Congress to the State Legislature, there are many reasons that New York faced in it’s elections process. One of them, was that the lack of on time mail caused many ballots to be invalidated.

Among the suggestions to meet the mail by vote demand by November for New York State, Najmi argues that the strategic lies and misconceptions peddled by the Trump Administration poses a barrier to people being able to participate in elections.

In the video he mentions that there are changes to be made in order to fix voting for November. He says:

  • People don’t want to lick their envelopes to seal them.
  • Design changes that emphasize where people need to sign their ballot before submission.
  • Post marking envelopes also serve as grounds of disenfranchisement for voters because of the fact that some envelopes were coming past the June 23rd requirement.

I talk about the botched primary conducted by New York State and City and the challenges faced by voters, election administrators and the many attemps by Governor Cuomo to stop New Yorkers from voting. The scary part of this all is the lengths to which Cuomo went in order to prevent voters from participating in the Democratic process.

We often talk about the federal level and how much the Trump Administration is working overtime to disenfranchise, but special attention should be on New York State and the ways in which we’re actively being disenfranchised. I write about that in this article and this one.

What Actions Can You Take?

Combatting this threat requires Americans to step up and demand that the United States Postal Service remains clear of any partisan meddling. Americans rely on the USPS to get life-saving medicine and to communicate with their families.

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Navjot Pal Kaur

Navjot Pal Kaur

Kaur Republic has now transitioned to Substack. Please follow us there to become a monthly or yearly subscriber: https://kaurrep.substack.com/

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