Postal union fears new cutbacks are meant to sabotage mail-in voting
Have you noticed a slowdown in your mail delivery lately? If so, you’re not alone. Cost cutting is causing delays, and postal union employees think it could put the November election is at risk.
Frank Resetarits always has mail.
However, he recently went two days with an empty post office box in Silver Creek, until finally it was stuffed with his missing mail.
This may not seem like the biggest deal to some, but for Resetarits–the president of the New York State branch of the American Postal Workers Union–this was a big red flag.
He said it was just the first step in the new Postmaster General’s plan to sabotage mail-in voting.
“It's almost like a deliberate recipe for disaster,” Resetarits said. “They're just looking for ways to back things up so that mail ballot doesn't work.”
When new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was sworn in on June 15, he made some immediate changes to the Postal Service in the name of “efficiency.”
“The Postal Service is taking immediate steps to increase operational efficiency by re-emphasizing existing plans that have been designed to provide prompt and reliable service within current service standards,” DeJoy’s office said in a written statement.
They did not comment on the alleged efforts to jeopardize mail-in voting.
He started off his term by cutting overtime – which accounts for nearly 20% of all work by mail handlers, city carriers, and postal drivers – and removing several mail preparation machines out of plants across the country. So far, Buffalo has lost three out of the five machines they’re expected to lose.
He also cut what are called “lates.” That’s when a truck may wait an extra 10 or 20 minutes for all the mail to be loaded. But now, those trucks are leaving on time with or without the mail.
“When they don't hold up the truck and the truck leaves, it leaves without my mail,” said Resetarits. He said that if they aren’t able to hold the trucks for a few extra minutes, residents around Western New York could go without their mail until the next day.
“Since this was implemented roughly almost two weeks ago, entire towns have been held over an extra day,” he said.
Anne Hoffman, who oversees postal clerks and the processing of mail at the Postal Service’s Buffalo plant said it is not just Silver Creek that is missing mail.
“Last week, Saturday, Bowmansville, Depew and Lancaster didn't go out,” she said. “Last Monday, North Tonawanda didn't go out.”
The Buffalo plant was not the only place causing delivery delays, it trickled down through the individual offices too. Mike Dipasquale oversees six offices around Buffalo and the Northtowns, and is an administrative aide to the postal union. He said mail delivery is also delayed at his offices.
“They're making the carriers go directly out to the street, deliver the mail. After they deliver the mail, they come back and sort the mail that was originally meant for that day for the next day,” said Dipasquale. This new system is part of a test called the “Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation” program.
This came as states across the country saw a high volume of voting by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic. New York State is projected to see a 46% increase in mailed ballots come November.
Western New Yorkers relied on mail-in ballots for the June 23 primaries and special election. After over 151,000 mail-in votes were finally counted nearly a month after the election, 27th Congressional District Republican Candidate Chris Jacobs’ lead went from roughly 40 points to a mere 5.
To Resetarits, this change showed the majority of mail-in voters leaned left. That would give DeJoy – who has given $360,000 to the Trump campaign and roughly $70,000 to the Republican National Committee since January – a political reason to delay mail delivery and cut costs.
Erie County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner, Jeremy Zellner, said delays and defunding of the Postal Service are not an option come November.
“We rely heavily on the post office,” Zellner said. “I'm obviously concerned that if there are budget cuts, and if there are slashes to the postal budget, that it's going to be a problem for us.”
Ralph Mohr, Zellner’s Republican counterpart, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Postal Service did warn the public in a letter released in May that they should expect roughly two weeks for ballots to make it round-trip through the mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, that did not account for the new changes implemented by DeJoy.
Resetarits said there’s not much the union can do.
“Delaying the mail isn't a violation of our contract,” he said. “Running a business into the ground isn't part of our contract, unfortunately.”
House Democrats expressed similar concerns about mail-in ballots to the Postmaster General in a letter sent on July 20. This came as Congress approved a $10 billion loan for the Postal Service from the Treasury Department during an early round of coronavirus relief bills. However, the USPS has yet to see that money as they grapple with the stipulation they would have to turn over the majority of their operations to Steve Mnuchin and the Treasury Department.
Meanwhile, President Trump has called the U.S. Postal Service “a joke” and repeatedly denounced mail-in voting, saying it will lead to the “most corrupt election in history.”