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Image courtesy of the office of Congressman Brian Higgins
Image courtesy of the office of Congressman Brian Higgins

Higgins & Western New York community members 'Fight for future of US Postal Service'


Sat, Aug 22nd 2020 01:25 pm

House to vote on Delivering for America Act

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, joined Western New York postal workers and residents Friday in expressing outrage and opposition to operational changes he said threaten to sabotage the United States Postal Service.

Community members gathered in front of the William Street mail processing facility in Buffalo, as the congressman prepared to head to Washington, D.C., where the House of Representatives will vote on legislation to protect and provide emergency relief to the USPS.

“Let’s be clear, the latest attack by this administration doesn’t just undermine the postal service, it undermines our constitutional right to this public service, our currently fragile economy and our democracy,” Higgins said.

Over the past three weeks, more than 2,500 Western New Yorkers have reached out to Higgins’ office about the USPS, some contacting the office because they are experiencing delays in delivery of their mail, medications or other items, and others deeply concerned about the future of the postal service.

Lori Cash, president of American Postal Workers Union WNY Area Local 183, said, “The postal workers I represent take great pride in the work that they do, serving communities across Western New York. The changes that were put in place by PMG DeJoy last month affected not only our customers, but the workers on the front line trying to get that mail out every day. We are very happy with the recent announcement to roll back some of these changes. This will help to bring the ‘never delay the mail’ culture back to the workroom floor and give workers back the pride they feel at the end of the day when the mail has all been moved! And while this is a great start, we still look to Congress and the Senate to approve a stimulus package will help the American people and give some relief to the USPS that we all love. And we, of course, thank Congressman Higgins for all of his support and advocacy for the public postal service! It is truly appreciated by postal workers everywhere!”

Under the direction of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, 671 pieces of mail processing equipment were removed from postal facilities across the nation. This includes the removal of a quarter of the mail sorters – five out of 20 – from Buffalo and nearly a quarter of the sorters – four out of 17 – from the Rochester facility.

“Let us do our job,” said Frank Resetarits, who serves as New York State American Postal Workers Union (APWU) president as well as president of the Buffalo Local. “Postal workers have always delivered for Americans and we will continue that commitment to deliver your mail, packages and election ballots. But don’t slow us down with equipment removal and transportation challenges.”

In addition to the removal of machines, the postmaster has issued what Higgins’ camp called “sweeping directives that undermine the traditional one- to two-day service standards, which have been customary for the postal service.” Higgins was among over 170 members objecting to these changes. 

David J Grosskopf Jr., president of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 3, said, “Our letter carriers take incredible pride in what we do. We are entrusted to deliver urgent mail to the homes of Americans and we are committed to do so regardless of the conditions, including during this pandemic. We understand how important these deliveries are to the people we serve, and efforts to keep us from doing our job properly are taken to heart because it makes the difference in the lives of Americans.”

A press release said, “The postal service continues to play a vital role in every sector of our society. Approximately 80% of prescriptions provided to our veterans through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) are delivered through the mail. While many people receive Social Security payments by direct deposit, over 3,090 people in Western New York and nearly 550,000 people across the nation continue to rely on the USPS to deliver their monthly social security checks. Microbusinesses – small businesses with 10 employees or less – represent 75% of all employers nationwide and provide Americans with a variety of products and services. A 2019 USPS office of inspector general report found that 70% of microbusinesses choose the USPS for its convenience, cost, timely and reliable delivery, with each business spending on average several hundred dollars with the USPS each month.”

The USPS Buffalo district currently employs 6,110 people. In 2012, Higgins successfully won a fight to keep the William Street mail processing facility open.

Richard Lipsitz, president of WNYALF, AFL-CIO, added, “American workers are struggling and, rather than lifting people up, we are witnessing a direct attack on our postal workers and all Americans who rely on the postal service for delivery of social security payments, medications, packages and paychecks.”

In 2016, 139 million Americans voted in the general election – and nearly one-fourth (32 million) voted by mail. This year, total turnout could surpass 150 million voters, while vote by mail volume could double or more.

According to the NALC, in 2019, the postal service delivered an average of 470 million pieces per day, six days a week – and scaled up to deliver more than 650 million pieces of mail per day during December. Currently, with the economy depressed by the coronavirus pandemic, USPS is delivering about 350-400 million pieces of mail per day – meaning it has considerable excess capacity to handle a surge in mail volume.

On Saturday, the House of Representatives is scheduled to approve the Delivering for America Act (HR 8015), which Higgins is cosponsoring. The legislation bans the postmaster general from making operational changes during the COVID pandemic. This includes: any changes to postal services, any revision of service standards, any closure of consolidation of post offices or reduction of hours, any prohibition of overtime pay, and any changes that would result in delayed mail or the non-delivery of mail. The bill is also being amended to: require the postal service to treat all official election mail as first-class mail; prohibit the removal, decommissioning or other stoppage of mail-sorting machines; reverse changes that delay mail delivery; and prohibit the removal of mailboxes. The bill imposes these restrictions retroactively to January 2020.

In addition, the House will vote to authorize $25 billion in emergency aid for the postal service. The House previously included $25 billion for USPS in the Heroes Act package.

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