What Local Postal Workers Say About The Trump Administration's Postal Service Cutbacks

Speaking on the steps of the old post office near Pasadena City Hall, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu blasted the Trump Administration for Postal Service changes she says have meant delivery slowdowns. August 18, 2020. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

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On Tuesday, Rep. Judy Chu (D-San Gabriel Valley) and members of the union that represents local postal workers blasted cost-saving measures they said are hamstringing the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the presidential election.

Chu called the recent cutbacks "sabotage" meant to undercut the public's faith in mail-in voting.

"This is a threat not only to our democracy, but also to our ability to stop the coronavirus pandemic," Chu said.

The press conference on the steps of the old post office near Pasadena City Hall was part of the Democratic Party's nationwide push, with events in cities across the country, to highlight the Trump Administration's changes and urge congressional Republicans to pass a House-backed $25 billion USPS funding bill.

According to Chu, the pressure campaign is working. Hours earlier, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he would suspend policy changes such as cutting overtime, reducing service hours and removing blue collection boxes and sorting machines.


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"They're only doing this because the American people have been so vocal and pushing back," Chu said. "We made it too hot — literally — to handle."

WHAT ARE POSTAL WORKERS SEEING?

Representatives from the American Postal Workers Union shared their members' frustrations with the service cuts during the press conference.

"Mail is being held over and left in the plant to be processed and go out a different day," said Phillip Warlick, Legislative Director for the American Postal Workers Union of California. He recently retired after 41 years with USPS.

Warlick said he hasn't seen sorting machines taken out of his local facility. But the overtime limits are affecting delivery times in Pasadena and other areas staffed by union members.

"Mail has been delayed," Warlick said.

According to Gaare Davis, a retired postal employee and President of APWU California, the overtime limits mean mail carriers have to abandon delivery mid-routes.

"And if you live on the last part of the route, you're not getting your mail," Davis said. "You may go two to three days until the mail gets light enough to make that delivery."

That also means added stress for mail carriers. "I feel so sorry for the carriers right now," Davis said.

"We want to process the mail. That's in our nature," Warlick said. "And so to not be able to do that is frustrating for postal workers."

Davis added: "The Postal Service may bring you your paychecks, your medication, numerous things that you count on."

Phillip Warlick, American Postal Workers Union of California Legislative Director, speaks outside the old Post Office near City Hall in Pasadena. Also pictured: U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (left) and Gaare Davis of APWU. August 18, 2020. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

DeJoy, a major Trump campaign donor who took over the agency in June, has said the moves are necessary to reign-in spending and keep the Postal Service "solvent."

His changes were met with fierce outcry from Democrats and some Republicans who worried the moves would jeopardize voting for the November election, when COVID-19 will likely push a historic number of people to vote by mail.

The Postmaster General is due to testify before the Senate on Friday and a House committee on Monday.

In late July, the Postal Service sent letters to 46 states warning mail-in ballots could arrive late to election officials because of service delays.

In California, where mail-in ballots are counted as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day, the potential danger was mostly confined to a smaller group of voters who may receive their ballots late if they register close to Nov. 3. The state legislature already extended the deadline for ballots to arrive at county registrar offices to 17 days.

DeJoy's statement included assurances the Postal Service can handle any volume of election mail coming its way in November.

"In addition, effective Oct. 1, we will engage standby resources in all areas of our operations, including transportation, to satisfy any unforeseen demand," DeJoy said.

California's top elections official remains skeptical.

"Given this Administration's track record with the truth, seeing is believing," Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement. "My office will continue constant communication with the U.S. Postal Service, and will continue to monitor for any signs of disruption to service."

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