Maryland Lawmakers Take On The Postal Service | WYPR

Maryland Lawmakers Take On The Postal Service

Aug 18, 2020

Credit Robert Geiger/flickr creative commons

Maryland’s Congressional Democrats sharply criticized Monday recent changes to the postal service by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy they say could interfere with the November election.

They were joined by postal union representatives in a press conference near the site of the postal service’s Baltimore processing and distribution center.

Chris Van Hollen, Maryland’s junior senator, led off, telling of how constituents have complained to him and others about delays in getting their prescriptions or retirement checks and of small business owners worried about the business they conduct through the mail.

His staff looked into it, he said and found the delays were directly related to reductions in staffing and the removal of sorting machines ordered by Postmaster General Louis Dejoy, a businessman appointed in June by President Trump.

“This would be unacceptable at any time, but especially so during a pandemic when more and more people rely on the mail,” Van Hollen said. “And of course during a critical elections season when more Americans than ever before will be casting their votes through the United States mail.”

President Trump said in an interview last week with Fox Business Network that he opposes additional funding for the cash strapped postal service. If they don’t get the money, he said, they can’t have universal mail in voting.

That angered Maryland’s senior Senator Ben Cardin.

“They’re trying to make it more difficult for people to vote,” he fumed. “That’s unconscionable in a democracy.”

Congressman Kweisi Mfume, whose district includes much of Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, called DeJoy’s actions an assault on American democracy that is hurting senior citizens, veterans and others.

“What he is doing is impacting negatively small businesses across this country by slowing down the mail,” Mfume said. “And what he’s doing deliberately is to try to chip away at that 90 percent approval rate that Americans have with their post office.”

DeJoy, a major Republican donor and supporter of the president, has said he is trying to modernize the postal service and make it more efficient. He has eliminated most overtime for postal workers, imposed restrictions on transportation and reduced the use of mail processing equipment.

But Courtney Jenkins, the legislative director for the Baltimore local of the American Postal Workers Union, says those changes have resulted in slower mail delivery and delayed delivery of essential mail.

“So when the postmaster says I want to cut overtime, we’re not fighting because we just want to get rich,” he said. “We’re fighting because those things like overtime help us get your mail to your door in a timely manner, six days a week over 100 million addresses every day.”

Last week, postal workers began removing mail collection boxes in parts of California, New York Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. But the agency said Sunday it would stop that through November after hearing complaints from customers and members of Congress.

One disappeared from a North Baltimore neighborhood, but a postal service spokeswoman told The Sun it was removed for a construction project.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called her chamber back into session later this week to vote on a bill that would prohibit the postal service from making any changes in its operations or levels of service. And DeJoy is to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Monday.

But Mfume says he has a better idea.

“So, Mr. DeJoy,” he said, “do us all a favor, even before the hearings, submit your letter of resignation, ride off into the sunset and restore the decency and the fabric of the United States Postal system.”

Trump, in an appearance on Fox and Friends, defended DeJoy, saying he wanted to “make the post office great again.”