As cutbacks and policy adjustments are fueling turmoil between President Donald Trump’s administration and it’s opponents over the fate of the United States Postal Service, local leaders and citizens have ardently vocalized their support for retaining many of the nation’s vital services provided through the agency, while congressional hearings continue take place.
Saturday, August 22 served as a day for those advocates to speak up around the country in unison to convey just how integral the USPS is to businesses, institutions, and individuals alike.
A movement that has now been dubbed #SavethePostOffice, urges Americans to call their respective senators, with the desired outcome of at least $25 billion in stimulus funding for the USPS.
MoveOn.org has also prompted national debate, listing 6 prominent tenets which include the following:
1. Repeal HR 6407 the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The Congressional Bill that requires the post office to prefund retiree healthcare benefits 75 years in advance. It also defines how a postal facility is to be closed.
2. Speed up our nation’s mail. Return service standards for the mail to standards used before July 2012.
3. Reopen all mail processing plants closed since 2010 and discontinue the practice of closing mail process plants in the future.
4. Expand retail hours at our nation’s post offices. Establish a program to postmark first class mail at all retail facilities.
5. Continue to deliver mail six days a week.
6. Offer new products and services at local post offices retail counters. Maximize the number of rural post offices.
Taking part in the national outcry and spearheading the South Pasadena protests that day was City Council District 2 Candidate, Michele Hammond, who says that she was prompted to promote the day’s event by MoveOn, joining the some 800 other events that took place throughout the United States. “It’s about supporting the Postal Service, supporting democracy or the right to vote,” explains Hammond, “It’s a very bipartisan issue. This is something I feel like affects everyone in America.”
Tracing the initial devastating blow back to the inception of the coronavirus in February/ March, some have taken the recent actions of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy as an exacerbation to the already ailing postal service’s many woes, which include understaffing, outdated equipment, and an antiquated fleet of vehicles. Additionally, DeJoy has also been accused of subverting certain services, using the COVID crisis as a platform for defunding, specifically targeting mail and package sorting and deliveries by way of imposing policies that remove high-speed sorting machines and blue mailboxes, a decision that postal workers have found to be very disrupting to their work.
DeJoy has defended himself saying the removal of the blue mailboxes was something “his predecessors had initiated in response to a steady decline in mail volume” according to the New York Times. He has also maintained that he was unaware of the sorting machine removals when they first began.
No sources have confirmed any blue mailboxes have been removed in the area, however rumors of mailboxes being locked in Burbank went viral earlier this month. According to an ABC7 report, an employee explained “it’s common practice for mailboxes outside post offices to be locked on days they are closed in an effort to prevent vandalism.”
There has also been a significant uptick of customers reporting issues that range from package delays and dubious notifications indicating “held at the request of the customer” messages, when the recipients were unaware of such things.
Hammond sees this as extremely alarming, especially as a former small business owner, noting the extensive list of services that the USPS provides, “We use it for passports, we use it for packages, small businesses rely on the post office greatly. They still do most of their mailings to fill orders using the postal service and that’s not going to change, especially with smaller businesses that are online. That’s their main source. They’re at the post office at least 20 times a week.”
As many cities organized demonstrations at their local post office, South Pasadena’s was a central location that many flocked to, amassing close to 40 USPS supporters who braved the sweltering heat, due to many neighboring communities, such as Alhambra, Eagle Rock, and Pasadena, apparently not assembling similar functions.
Paul Kennedy, a 68 year-old Alhambra resident, partook in his first demonstration with his wife, a seasoned activist, to object to what he says is “(the) unmitigated gall to take on not only institutions in this country that had been around forever, but one that’s constitutionally protected.” Notably displeased with the current administration — a feeling redoubled by a majority of those participating that day — Kennedy believes that “if we don’t wake up now, we’re gonna wake up in in a banana republic in November.”
Local legislators share similar stances on the matter, with Congresswoman Judy Chu, being a particularly vocal proponent for the USPS and longtime opponent of President Trump’s policies. On Tuesday, August 18 she was joined by Gaare Davis, former USPS employee and President of APWU California, and Phillip Warlick, Legislative Director for the American Postal Workers Union of California, in a concerted effort to spread awareness to the public of the issues taking place.
“This President has made it clear in multiple interviews, tweets and statements, that he’s intentionally sabotaging the post office in order to undermine the ability of Americans to vote from home,” addressed Chu during the press conference in front of the Pasadena Post Office, “This is a threat not only to our democracy, but also to our ability to stop the coronavirus pandemic.”
“It’s really the legislation that I’m concerned about,” says Mount Washington resident Michael Kelley, insisting that in the face of more potential USPS reductions, the November elections would require an expanded postal service to surmount the anticipated overflow of mail-in ballots in addition to other daily services needed to keep the economy fluid. “To my understanding, in Congress, (the legislation) is to just ensure that we’re going to have the funds to take care of postal business this year.”
For Karen Young, the daughter of a former postal worker, the issue hits close to home. “My dad worked for the post office for over 30 years,” she said, “I used to go where he worked over at Wilshire and La Brea. When I walk into the post office, there’s a certain smell and it brings back a lot of memories.”
When asked how she felt about President Trump’s actions, Young explained, “It’s sad and it makes me angry. He (Trump) likes absentee voting, but he doesn’t like mail-in voting, when they’re exactly the same thing. It’s based on his fears.”
Trump has stated that no more changes to the postal services would be put into effect until after the elections.
Members of the younger generation also were present, hoping to motivate others in their age demographic to be more active. Siblings Mason, Jesse, and Greer Clem see the post office as “one of our most essential public services.” Mason, the oldest of the trio expressed dismay over the recent handling of the USPS, stating her family’s reliance on the daily service, “There are veterans who aren’t getting their medication. My whole family gets medication in the mail. It’s a huge threat to safety and to our society.”
For someone like Clem, she hopes that the actions taken today will benefit future generations, who she admits may not be as aware of the issues as “people who are more reliant on the post office.” While looking to her little brother and his peers she acknowledged the significant age gap of 11 years between them and the importance of keeping that determination alive, saying, ” I’m really hoping that my generation, my siblings’ generation, together (are) able to keep up this momentum… We’ve seen how mobilized the younger generation can be if we really put our minds to it. I don’t think it’s necessarily as much at the forefront of our minds maybe as the older generation.”