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IL Postal Workers Union President Says USPS Changes Likely Will Affect Peoria

Ken Mayfield, right, National Association of Letter Carriers Oklahoma City Branch president, holds a sign during a news conference in front of a USPS post office Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Oklahoma City.
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Ken Mayfield, right, National Association of Letter Carriers Oklahoma City Branch president, holds a sign during a news conference in front of a USPS post office Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Oklahoma City.

The Postmaster General Tuesday said the planned changes to postal delivery service that have caused a national outrage won't take effect until next year. Illinois American Postal Union Workers President Bob Gunter said the reversal by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy came from that public outcry.

“That's the only reason he did it,” said Gunter of the effect a mail slowdown could have on the expected increase in mail volume heading into the November election. The pandemic has motivated many states to pursue mail-in balloting options.

“There aren’t many things that the people in this country can agree on anymore. But one thing we do agree on is that we need a strong public postal service that belongs to the American people. And while we're happy about the changes (reversal), it doesn't need to be done permanently. We do not need to wait three months after the election, you'll have mail delay," he said.

Those changes including the removal of the blue drop-off boxes and sorting machines are on top of overtime elimination and limiting office hours.

“That all delays mail. You know, we're in the business of giving service the American people that we want to deliver the mail and we want to deliver mail on time. And by implementing these changes, it did delay the mail,” said Gunter, who paused briefly when asked if he feels the changes being implemented by DeJoy are political.

“Well … obviously he's a big donor to (President) Trump and Trump appointed him. It appears that way. The Postal Service is not supposed to be political. In 1971, they changed the law and the Postal Service is supposed to be a quasi-government agency that operates without political interference. I can't say for sure that’s the situation but obviously it looks that way. Also, he has other conflicts of interest. But it doesn't appear that any businessman would come in and sabotage the very business that he's supposed to be running,” said Gunter.

Video and news stories of blue mailboxes being carted up and hauled away on trailers as well as sorting machines being removed have gone viral and prompted the public outcry. The Peoria-based Gunter said to his knowledge, no blue mailboxes have been taken out of circulation in the Peoria area, and that conversations with the Peoria postmaster lead him to believe there are no immediate plans to do so.

Sorting machines are another story.

“Before this, we had eight sorting machines, and they have taken out two of them,” said Gunter. “And I believe that will have an effect. I believe that will eventually … as the pandemic subsides, someday … I believe the mail volume will increase and that will have an effect on getting the mail though.”

Gunter said he doesn’t have a lot of information about mailboxes and sorting machines more broadly in Illinois.

“But I do have some offices that because of the mandate to stop overtime. I have smaller offices that didn't even open when they were told that if you had to use over time, just don’t even open the office for the day. Then I've had some places where their mail has not gotten out because they didn't bring in overtime,” said Gunter, adding that the economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic had already deeply affected the finances of the Postal Service.

“Without some stimulus that has been given to other companies, the postal service is expected to run out of money early next year. We definitely need a stimulus from the government that was given to the other companies. The last stimulus package that hasn't been passed yet had $25 billion for the postal service. We need that. Congress needs to give us that money,” said Gunter.

DeJoy is due to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Monday where he will likely face pointed questions from especially Democrats.

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