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The “Quiet Revolt” of USPS Workers

USPS workers are finding everyday ways to get the mail delivered in a timely way, despite attacks and austerity.

Maria Aurelio

September 30, 2020
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PAUL SANCYA / AP

As Trump attacks mail-in ballots, the postal service is in the spotlight as never before. Over the summer, the U.S. Postal service was consistently attacked by its new head, Trump donor Louis DeJoy. The cost-cutting measures have meant slowdowns, but postal workers are fighting back.

As Washington Post reporter Jacob Bogage explains,

Mechanics in New York drew out the dismantling and removal of mail-sorting machines until their supervisor gave up on the order. In Michigan, a group of letter carriers did an end run around a supervisor’s directive to leave election mail behind, starting their routes late to sift through it. In Ohio, postal clerks culled prescriptions and benefit checks from bins of stalled mail to make sure they were delivered, while some carriers ran late items out on their own time. In Pennsylvania, some postal workers looked for any excuse — a missed turn, heavy traffic, a rowdy dog — to buy enough time to finish their daily rounds.

In other words, postal workers are defying DeJoy and Trump. They are unsung heroes who are helping mail arrive in our mailboxes.

“I can’t see any postal worker not bending those rules,” one Philadelphia worker said in an interview.

Bogage calls this a “quiet revolt.”

The Post Office has been experiencing an unprecedented attack under the leadership of Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Trump declined to give the USPS emergency funds to deal with the slew of mail in ballots while bailing out airlines and other private companies. Over the summer, there were countless images of blue collection boxes being picked up and taken away. As DeJoy worked to implement “cost cutting” measures, Trump worked to sow suspicion about the post office. This included stricter dispatch schedules on transport trucks that prohibited late and extra trips, which would force workers to leave mail behind. These cost-cutting measures resulted in mail slowdowns around the country.Yet postal workers around the country, without coordination, have been fighting back using “insubordination to small acts of neighborly heroism,” as Bogage puts it. 

As we watch Trump attack mail-in ballots in an attempt to sow confusion and steal the election, postal workers and the post office are caught in the crossfire. One postal worker said, “It’s disheartening to hear that people think we’re going to fail. We handle this kind of volume all the time. But if they do these things with delivery times and we get high volume around holiday season and the election, it will fail.” He went on to say, “There’s a point where I got angry. I’m not happy at all that I’m being politicized. I’m literally trying to do my job, and they’re telling me that I can’t.”

Further, as the economic crisis deepens, it is likely that cuts to public services like the post office will be part of both Biden’s and Trump’s plans. DeJoy has already said that people should expect “dramatic” changes after the November election, including cutting service and price increases. One should not believe that the post office will be safe under Biden. In fact, the Obama administration notoriously implemented various public sector cuts throughout his administration, including seeking USPS funding cuts. In fact, in the last five years of the Obama administration collection boxes declined by more than 12,000. The USPS has long been at the receiving end of austerity cuts — with a huge pressure to privatize the service for years now.

It is clear who will lose: the USPS workers — the heroes who are defying Trump to make sure that we get essential mail. The heroes who made sure we got essentials during the pandemic. And it’s the working class, and especially rural communities and communities of color, who will have the most cut and the most to lose. These are the folks who rely on the post office the most for things like lifesaving medications that simply cannot be late. This is why we should fight both the Democrats and Republicans to fully fund the postal service.

The politicians of both parties have shown they don’t care about postal workers or the population. The postal workers are demonstrating that they are on the front lines of defending our democratic right to vote. They are on the front lines of fighting Trump and DeJoy. They point the way forward, demonstrating that they know how to best run the post office, and so the post office should be under democratic workers’ control.

The fight against Trump and the rise of the right are being indicated by these postal workers: the working class runs all of society. We are the only ones we can trust to fight back against Trump’s right-wing policies and undemocratic measures.

Solidarity with the postal workers.

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