08.19.20

SCHUMER: USPS STILL IN CHAOS; PUSHES NEW TWO-PRONG PLAN TO REVERSE DESTRUCTIVE CHANGES TO THE POSTAL SERVICE IMPACTING COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT HUDSON VALLEY; LEGISLATION WOULD IMMEDIATELY UNDO RECENT CRIPPLING CHANGES, CEMENT MAIL-IN BALLOTS AS FIRST CLASS PRIORITY & PROTECT USPS FROM FURTHER DEVASTATION

After Successfully Calling For DeJoy To Appear In Hearings This Week And Immediately Halt USPS Devastating Changes, Schumer Pushes Plan To Cement USPS Reliability And Service, No Matter WHO Is In Charge 

Senator Has Warned Postmaster’s Actions Have Jeopardized Hudson Valley Delivery Of Medications, VA Benefits, Paychecks & Sanctity Of The Nov. Election & Now Plans New Fight To Reverse Damage 

Schumer: Postal Service Pandemonium That Hit Hudson Valley Needs To Be Packed Up and Shipped Out

Standing at the U.S. Post Office in Middletown, New York, alongside local advocates and American Postal Workers Union officials and on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will finally suspend implementing additional, already-destructive, changes to postal operations until after the November election, today U.S. Senator Charles Schumer revealed new legislation that would restore postal services for all Hudson Valley residents immediately. Specifically, Schumer’s legislation would: first, reverse all of the rash and sudden “cost-cutting” decisions implemented this summer to restore critical operations for Hudson Valley residents and over 5,400 regional employees; second, it would ensure all mail-in ballots are treated as First Class priority mail to alleviate vote-by-mail issues that countless Hudson Valley residents saw during the recent June 2020 primaries. Following a personal call with Postmaster DeJoy yesterday, Schumer sent detailed list of questions to DeJoy to follow-up on questions that remain unanswered, such what practices USPS paused and which will continue; if election mail will still be classified as First Class; if and when USPS will replace dismantled and removed machines and collection boxes; and a list of every location where it equipment was removed. 

Schumer explained that Hudson Valley Post Office Operations are administered through the USPS Westchester District Offices, with branches across the region in Dutchess, Putnam, Ulster, Orange, Lower Westchester, and Yonkers, employing over 5,400 workers throughout the region. According to local employees, early this summer USPS management at the Mid-Hudson processing facility in Newburgh, New York, began to dismantle high-volume mail-processing machines. However, USPS did not announce this policy and when asked by workers, management did not explain why the machines were being taken apart. The dismantled machines are called delivery bar code sorters (DBCS) and are used for processing letters, postcards and other similarly sized mail in the Hudson Valley. This is concerning to local employees because these recently-operational machines are now dismantled and scattered across the Hudson Valley plant and cannot be easily activated to address a sudden mail surge.

Additionally, Schumer said, USPS management also temporarily suspended letter processing in the Mid-Hudson plant this summer, citing a decreased need for letter services and an increasing amount of parcels. The employees at the Mid-Hudson plant completely shifted, under a USPS “temporary” plan, to solely processing packages by hand which they are still doing today. Schumer explained that all letters, postcards, and other similar mail are now “temporarily” re-directed to Albany, New York, which has caused delays for Hudson Valley residents expecting critical medications, VA benefits, Social Security checks paychecks, food and more make it to their destinations. Importantly, local employees have not gotten answers from management surrounding when the “temporary plan” will end and when typical day-to-day operations will resume as the region recovers and rebuilds from the pandemic.

Importantly, all of these sudden, drastic changes occurred when Postmaster DeJoy began implementing broad “cost-cutting” structural changes at USPS and cutting overtime hours for Hudson Valley postal workers. Despite promises made by Postmaster DeJoy that USPS has “ample capacity” to handle a predicted surge in mail-in ballots, local union officials have expressed concerns surrounding increased mail as these issues continue just a few weeks away from the November election. Schumer said that the Hudson Valley post office operations must be immediately restored.

“I’ve successfully called for the undermining and destructive policies that are so clearly intent on upending a system that has worked for generations to stop, but that does not mean our work to preserve the USPS is over,” said Senator Schumer. “I’m pushing a new plan here to undo the changes DeJoy made. Bottom-line, we will not stand for the continued, in-your-face slowing down of the mail and the undermining of Americans who depend on medications, VA benefits, paychecks, even food, and we will not allow for these changes to take root and hobble the November election—no way.”

Schumer said he will drive new legislation that would:

1) Undo the changes slowing down the mail

2) Ensure our mail-in ballots are treated as First Class priority mail

Schumer warned that if the current slow-downs are allowed to remain in place, the Hudson Valley’s more than 5,400 postal jobs would be jeopardized, along with its critical functions that support everyday door-to-door service but also ensure critical medications, VA benefits, Social Security checks paychecks, food and more make it to their destinations.

Schumer said despite DeJoy’s announcement that no further operational changes will be implemented until November, he remains seriously concerned about the effects of the already-directed operational changes in post offices and processing centers  On August 7, 2020, the USPS announced a significant reorganization of Postal Service leadership and functions, which could impact the Hudson Valley.

The destructive changes, Schumer notes, include the elimination of extra mail transportation trips, the reduction of overtime, the start of a pilot program for mail sorting and delivery policies at hundreds of post offices, and the reduction equipment at mail processing plants. Specifically, the Senator pointed out that USPS centers in the Hudson Valley have already dismantled and eliminated some mail sorting machinery to comply with operational changes. Schumer said these decisions absolutely will continue to have an impact on New York and America unless immediately reversed, a case he made to the postmaster in person.

In urging the postmaster, both in letters and personally, Schumer argued the Postal Service is an “essential public institution with an obligation to serve every community in the nation.” Schumer told DeJoy he should not make changes in the Hudson Valley that will slow down mail or compromise service for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail for medicines, essential goods, voting, correspondence, and for their livelihoods. The Postal Service has characterized these changes as efficiency or cost-saving measures and add they minimized any “temporary service issues” as an “inevitable” side effect of implementing new procedures, Schumer and colleagues noted in a recent letter.

Schumer has argued that in the midst of a pandemic, these actions, whether intentional or not, already caused mail delays across the country and appear to constitute an unacceptable threat to the Postal Service and the millions of Americans who depend on it. According to Time, amid the pandemic, many postal service employees have seen their workload double because Americans started ordering more medicine and food online from inside their homes. But the volume of letter mail – the USPS’s biggest revenue stream – has fallen. In April, the U.S. Postmaster General, told the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that revenue losses this fiscal year could reach $13 billion. Schumer said that the USPS is like any other business that has been provided relief and assistance and that the numbers prove they’ve been hard hit.

Schumer was joined by Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano, Local 3722 American Postal Workers Union (Mid-Hudson) officials and Tara Herman, Founder of Concerned Voters of Westchester.

Schumer explained he has received dozens of complaint calls to his office in recent weeks from USPS customers throughout the Hudson Valley. 

 “Postal Workers are at the core of our community — they are our friends, family members, and neighbors. Despite the pandemic, they continued working around the clock for the City of Middletown and its residents in our darkest hours on the frontlines. That’s why cutting back extra trips, overtime, and the equipment needed for them to get the job done is just wrong,” said City of Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano. “I thank Senator Schumer for leading to fight to make sure that we protect our hometown USPS workers and the essential services they provide here in the Hudson Valley.”

“Countless Westchester voters experienced problems at every stage of the 2020 primary. Vote-by-mail, wait times up to 4 hours and much more that disenfranchised many. That's why we formed Concerned Voters of Westchester to ensure this never happens again.” said Tara Herman, Founder of Concerned Voters of Westchester.  In Westchester, we had extremely high turnout this June, but countless residents didn’t get their absentee ballots at all or got them too late. Trump’s attacks have eroded faith in the post office, leaving many feeling that they had no choice but to brave standing in long lines to vote during a pandemic. We all greatly value the essential work of the dedicated postal workers. We also appreciate Senator Schumer’s tireless work to restore faith in the USPS and provide the tools to make sure every vote counts in November.”

“We have over 400 members of the American Postal Workers Local 3722 that have risked their lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to continue serving Hudson Valley residents, including many that need our services now more than ever. Our members treat every letter and package as if it’s our own, knowing that even one day makes a huge difference in delivering medication, PPE, important financial information, and more,” said Diana Cline, President of American Postal Workers Local 3722. “That’s why we were shocked when management began dismantling high-volume mail-processing machines in Orange County. Right now, we don’t have a single mail-processing machine operating at the Mid-Hudson plant and machines have been taken apart since the beginning of the pandemic. As we gear up for a spike in mail in the coming months, with vote-by-mail anticipated as a popular alternative for in-person voting this November due to COVID-19, taking machines offline and dismantling them, diverting letters to different processing plants, and the lack of a plan or proper communication from management needs to stop. We thank Senator Schumer for fighting to make sure that our members have the tools needed to keep delivering for the residents in the Hudson Valley because serving them is our top priority.” 

 Schumer’s letter to Postmaster DeJoy is below:

Dear Postmaster DeJoy:

I am writing to follow-up on our phone call on Tuesday, August 18 regarding your decision to halt some operational changes until after the November election. As I said during our call, there is a lot of mistrust between the American public and the United States Postal Service right now because of statements you and President Trump have made about cutbacks in mail delivery during the COVID-19 public health emergency, and about mail-in voting through Election Day. Therefore, I am asking for specific responses to the following questions:

  1. Please outline specifically what operational initiatives and reforms you will be pausing between now and Election Day. What reforms do you plan to continue with during this period?
  2. Your statement mentioned nothing about treating all election mail as First Class mail, regardless of whether it was sent at the non-profit rate of 20 cents. As you know, this issue is of great concern to Secretaries of State and Board of Elections across the country. Will you commit to returning to that practice?
  3. In your statement, you state that prior to the Election, no mail processing facilities will be closed and that mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are. However, over the last week there has been documentation that mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes have already moved. Will USPS replace those items?
  4. Please provide a list of all of the locations where mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes have been removed over the past two weeks, and any accompanying analysis on who it will impact mail delivery in those areas.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

###



Previous Article Next Article