USPS workers and customers rally at mail processing center in New Castle

Delaware Public Media | by Sophia Schmidt

Local 152 joined the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) national day of action Tuesday to draw attention to changes under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Local APWU officials have reported delivery delays they say are the result of the decommissioning of several sorting machines at Delaware’s sole mail processing center and limits on employee overtime and transportation runs.

“We want to do the job that we have done all our careers and provide a service to our customers but we have outside forces that are affecting that,” said APWU Local 152 Vice President Karen Jestser-Witkowski.

Postmaster General DeJoy committed last week to suspending the changes until after the Nov. 3 general election, much of which is expected to happen by mail. He told a Senate committee Friday he does not plan to replace the sorting machines that have been removed nationwide, but said delivering election mail securely and on time is his number one priority.

A local USPS spokesperson declined to comment last week on whether mail sorting machines had been removed in Delaware.

New Castle resident Vicki Baker was among the customers who joined the rally Tuesday. Baker says she goes to the processing center daily for her husband’s business selling books on Ebay. But she says her family has recently experienced mail delays.

“My mother’s 95 years old. She needs her medication in the mail,” she said. “People should be able to pay their bills on time and not be charged late fees now because they’re not getting mail.”

Baker, who wore a mask and plastic gloves to Tuesday’s protest, says she is also concerned about how the changes will affect mail-in voting in November’s election.

“We’re sort of on edge,” said Baker. “We don’t know whether we’ll go in person or whether we will go by mail. We want to do mail, but we want to make sure our ballots are received and counted.”

Local 152 President Trina Wynn says the removal of equipment will make delivering mail-in ballots for the Sept. 15 state primary election challenging.

“With the equipment being gone, I’m not as confident that we can handle it,” said Wynn. “I’m more confident in the workers themselves being dedicated to doing our best to get it out.”

To add to that challenge, state election deadlines are at odds with recent USPS guidance.

Under state code, election officials can send ballots to voters as little as four days before the election. The Postal Service is recommending voters mail their completed ballots in at least a week before election day.

Last week state Election Commissioner Anthony Albence urged those who plan to vote by mail to request their ballots and send them back as soon as possible.

Gov. Carney said Wednesday state officials have been meeting with regional postal managers to be confident they have the equipment to process the mail in a timely manner.

Wynn has called for the mail sorting machines she says were decommissioned to be replaced.

State Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark) expressed outrage during Tuesday’s rally.

“The blatant attempts by the Trump administration, by Dejoy, his lackey, to try to dismantle what the people have a right to—a postal service, delivery of their mail at an affordable price, is despicable,” Kowalko said.

Kowalko sees DeJoy’s commitment to suspend the changes as insufficient.

“He’s already inflicted a mortal wound,” said Kowalko. “[It’s] an empty promise. He has to restore what should be restored.”

The national American Postal Workers Union is calling for elected officials to provide at least $25 billion in “immediate support” for the Postal Service and to reverse the “mail slowdown policies introduced by Postmaster General DeJoy.”

Last week Delaware joined several other states suing the Postal Service over the changes.

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