Rallies were held in cities from Milwaukee to Eau Claire and Mount Horeb prior to postmaster’s testimony Monday.
Residents in Mount Horeb and numerous other locations in Wisconsin joined in a national show of solidarity Saturday by marching in Save the Post Office events.
“It’s just so outrageous what’s going on,” said Blue Mounds resident DuMont Schmidt, who along with wife Barbara, joined with roughly 40 others to rally for the USPS in Mount Horeb. “We’re mainly thinking of people who are in a critical situation. We’re outraged about this disregard for millions of people who really need this. I never imagined it would ever come to this.”
The rallies, organized by MoveOn.org, were designed to show opposition to recent operational changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy with a stated goal of cost reduction.
President Donald Trump, though, has openly admitted to denying needed funds to the USPS to cripple its ability to handle an expected surge in mail-in ballots in November as Americans choose to vote absentee at record rates due to the pandemic.
Those at the Mount Horeb rally and other residents across Wisconsin told UpNorthNews delays cause by limited overtime and the removal of sorting machines have caused medication delays and food to rot on the way to its destination.
One major reason for the delays is the removal of seven sorting machines, each of which sorts 30,000 pieces of mail per hour, from the state’s main mail-sorting facility in Milwaukee, Chris Czubakowski, legislative director for the American Postal Workers Union of Wisconsin and vice president of the union’s Milwaukee chapter.
Last week, DeJoy said he was putting operational changes on hold until after the November election, but would not restore changes such as removing or disabling sorting machines. That means the sorting machines will not be returned to Milwaukee.
On Saturday, the House of Representatives approved a bill to allocate $25 billion to USPS. The bill isn’t expected to get past the Republican-led Senate.
A majority of those at the Mount Horeb rally expressed anger that the federal government sees USPS challenges through a financial lens.
“It’s a complete fallacy to talk of it being a business,” said Peter Gorman of Mount Horeb. “We don’t talk about the Pentagon losing $900 million or whatever it is. It’s a service, not a profit-maker.”
For the second time in a week, DeJoy was grilled by members of Congress Monday about the mail delays.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, chair of the House Oversight Committee, told DeJoy during Monday’s hearing that the USPS saw a roughly 8 percent decrease in service since he was named postmaster in May.
“This is just a disaster for the people who need their mail,” Maloney said. “This [report] is essentially your report card for that period of time. If any other CEO had this kind of plummeting record in his first two months on the job I can’t imagine why he would be kept on.”
The COVID-19 pandemic weighed on minds, too, particularly as it related to the election. Catherine Baer said her parents, in their 90s, have long voted absentee.
“Now they’re in an assisted living facility, people there aren’t allowed to leave the building because of the coronavirus,” she said. “Voting absentee is their only choice.”
When Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) asked DeJoy if he had a plan to make sure ballots were delivered on time, DeJoy said: “I need to get back to you.”
“If there is a plan that we, that we can, I mean — it’s normal processing procedures plus enhanced processing procedures around an election. I can probably give you some type of summarized objectives that we’ll try, that we’ll try to fulfill,” DeJoy continued.
Rally organizer Tim White, part of the Southwest Wisconsin Area Progressives, cited statistics that backed up the faith those in attendance have for USPS. He cited April Pew Research Data showing 91 percent approval for USPS, tops among government agencies.
“If they did polling before the election and 91 percent were positive about someone, that would be unbelievable. They’d win in a landslide,” White said. “The post office ranks that high and for someone to go after a government agency so highly respected, I’m not sure it’s a good political move.”
Mount Horeb area resident Aimee Gauger, who was at Saturday’s rally, understands her local post office’s duties better than most. In the 1980s, she was a substitute rural mail carrier working every other Saturday “and six weeks during the worst part of the winter when the regular carrier went on vacation.”
“I learned how precious the mail is to everyone,” said Gauger, who took an oath of confidentiality for the job. “People were always so kind and appreciative. For some it was the highlight of their day, especially older people and farmers.”
Gauger’s background makes her appreciate it all the more, something she thinks about every day when her mail arrives.
“Every piece of mail, still, that comes to my mailbox, I appreciate because I know how many people have handled it,” she said. “I still think it’s sort of a miracle.”