With the November election rapidly approaching, a desperate Trump has decided to speed up the attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, hoping to significantly suppress mail-in voting.
Once the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy (a major Trump campaign donor with no experience in the Postal Service) assumed his new position on June 15, the attacks on the postal service stepped into high gear. Dejoy quickly reshuffled the top administration of the Postal Service to further centralize power around himself, displacing or reassigning about 23 previous executives. Soon after, overtime work of postal employees was banned. Already significantly understaffed, the post office needs overtime just to deliver the mail on a timely basis.
In May the Postal Service approved a plan to reduce the number of high-powered sorting machines by about 15 percent. Dejoy implemented the plan as soon as he took office. These machines are barcode scanners that sort all mail except packages at a speed of about 35,000 scans per hour. Recently, postal workers have made anonymous complaints to the media about these machines being removed from facilities in Michigan, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas, and other states. Other facilities have reported that the machines have been taken completely offline. Most of the complaints have remained anonymous because postal workers have recently received notices instructing them not to speak to the media.
At several facilities where the sorting machines were not removed but just taken offline, some workers and local managers reconnected them to get the work done as usual. Soon, another senior manager around Dejoy’s inner circle sent out an internal memo stating: “They are not to reconnect/reinstall machines that have previously been disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance, no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager.”
Since then, Dejoy has promised that no more machines will be taken offline until after January, 2021. But it is clear that much of the damage has already been done.
These reductions in the postal service won’t just impact mail-in voting. People are reporting severe delays in receiving their mail. Millions of people depend on the Postal Service to deliver their necessary medications (some that can be life threatening if doses are delayed or skipped). Many of these are elderly and/or veterans. And during the pandemic, mail order prescriptions have increased by about 21 percent due to serious concerns about going into a pharmacy. The delays in mail have been so widespread that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs recently announced that it is no longer contracting with the United States Postal Service for delivering prescriptions to veterans, and has switched over to private companies like FedEx and UPS. This is no surprise. The fastest way to privatize public services has been to intentionally underfund them, and then criticize them for being dysfunctional, and then replace them with private companies.
Trump’s latest attacks on the postal service aren’t new. What’s new is timing the attacks just before a presidential election, during a pandemic when millions of people need to rely on mail-in voting.