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Michigan U.S. Representatives denounce Postmaster General, POTUS over mail slowdowns

U.S. Postal Service retirees in front of post office
Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

Michigan members of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday angrily denounced U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy and President Donald Trump for mail slowdowns in Michigan and across the nation.

U.S. Representatives Brenda Lawrence, Haley Stevens, Rashida Tlaib, and Dan Kildee held a press conference in front of a post office in Southfield, calling for DeJoy to resign. 

They say his actions support the president's expressed desire to deny the Post Office the financial resources it needs to properly handle mail in ballots in the November election.

"We have the President of the United States -- the President of the United States -- admittedly doing everything he can, including choking off essential support for the United States postal service in order to prevent people from casting their ballot? Shame on him," said Congressman Kildee. "Shame on him!"

DeJoy, a Trump supporter, has instituted a number of what he calls necessary reforms to save money for the financially struggling Postal Service since being appointed by the U.S. Postal Service Board of Directors this summer. Those reforms include:

  • a ban on overtime
  • restrictions on how long postal employees can sort mail before going out to deliver it
  • restrictions on how long a mail sorting machine can be used to sort each city's mail
  • requiring workers to sort mail in the afternoon, instead of in the morning, which causes mail to back up
  • removing hundreds of mail sorting machines from distributions centers.
  • removing hundreds of U.S. Postal Service mailboxes across the nation

In Michigan, at least nine mail sorting machines have been removed from the Pontiac mail distribution center, and several more have been removed from the Detroit distribution center and the Grand Rapids distribution center.

Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Woman placing mail in mailbox in front of Southfield Post Office

Union leaders say the loss of the sorting machines could mean the Postal Service may not be able to handle a large surge in volume of mail, such as is expected to happen with mail-in ball0ts being sent to clerks' offices in the days before the election.

Roscoe Woods, who is President of American Postal Workers Union Local 480-481, which includes workers at the Pontiac distribution center, says the results of the changes ordered by DeJoy were predictable.   Undelivered mail began piling up at the center, he says, making it resemble more of a warehouse than a distribution facility, he said. 

He says the only reason mail began moving more swiftly through the Pontiac center was the announcement that Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters and U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence would tour the facility.

During the press conference, Southfield resident Brent Gillum stopped by the post office to mail a package. 

Gillum says he always votes by mail, and he has noticed long delays recently in getting and sending his mail, both personal and related to his business. He says he views what's happening as an attack on democracy.

"I hope Congress can do something about it," he says. "And they need to something about this. This is criminal, it's absolutely criminal, and it's pushing us towards totalitarianism."

On Tuesday, U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a statement indicating he would suspend some of the changes he has ordered, until after the election. "We will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards," the statement said.  

Democratic leaders remain unsatisfied. DeJoy is scheduled to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and again before the House Oversight Committee on Monday.

DeJoy and the federal government also face two lawsuits filed by state Attorneys General in twenty states, including Michigan

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says the changes implemented by DeJoy are "procedurally and substantively unlawful" and threaten the timely delivery of mail to individuals who rely on the USPS for everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.

Nessel says under federal law, changes to USPS operations that affect nationwide mail service must be submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission and the public must be provided an opportunity to comment. 

“General DeJoy never engaged in that process here,” the lawsuit joined by Nessel states. “As a matter of substance, these changes will have a wide range of negative consequences that violate a diverse array of federal laws, from harming individuals with disabilities in violation of the Rehabilitation Act to disenfranchising voters in violation of the Constitution.”

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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