Postal Service workforce, flattened by the pandemic, quietly resists DeJoy’s changes

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 15: United States Postal Service (USPS) trucks are parked at a postal facility on August 15, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. In its recent quarterly statement the USPS reported a loss of nearly $2.3 billion and a 3.2 percent decline in package deliveries, the first decline in nearly a decade. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

This summer, as controversial new procedures at the U.S. Postal Service snarled the nation’s mail delivery and stirred fears of how the agency would handle the election, rank-and-file workers quietly began to resist.

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. 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 to buy enough time to finish their daily rounds.

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

With the Postal Service expected to play a historic role in this year’s election, some of the agency’s 630,000 workers say they feel a responsibility to counteract cost-cutting changes from their new boss, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, that they blame for the mail slowdowns. They question whether DeJoy — a top Republican fundraiser and booster of President Trump — is politicizing the institution in service to a president who has actively tried to sow distrust of mail-in voting, insisting without evidence that it will lead to massive fraud.

DeJoy insists the operational shifts were not politically motivated, emphasizing that he inherited an agency on the verge of financial collapse. At the time of his arrival in June, the Postal Service also was trying to fend off a takeover by Trump’s Treasury Department, according to internal Postal Service documents. Its workforce was getting flattened by the pandemic as a result of surging absences and package volumes, and its biggest customer, Amazon, was threatening to pull its multibillion-dollar business.

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