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MI Postal Workers Union President Says Changes Made To Mail Delivery 'Disgusts' Him

Mailboxes
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Postmaster Louis DeJoy says the Postal Service won't see any more changes until after the election.

This month, Michiganders saw delays in their mail largely due to changes made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in recent months.

DeJoy says he made those changes, like removing equipment or decreasing overtime, as cost-cutting measures.

But after concerns about how those changes would affect the November election because of the anticipated surge in absentee voting due to the pandemic, Dejoy says he has halted many of the initiatives for now.

Michael Mize is the president of the Michigan Postal Workers Union and the Flint Area Local. WKAR’s Sophia Saliby spoke to him about how those changes have impacted him.

Interview Highlights

On How Mail Was Getting Delayed

What they would do is they would say, 60,000 letters is what we're going to run today because we know we have to stop at 60,000 in order to make the truck. So, on Monday, they run 60,000 letters, but there was 80,000 letters there to run, so that means 20,000 letters got delayed a day. Well then, tomorrow, they have the same thing. That continues to build, and then soon enough, your processing facilities turned into almost a warehouse.

On What He Thinks Of Postmaster General DeJoy’s Initiatives

It more than concerns me, frankly, it disgusts me, and the reason that it disgusts me is that the American people deserve a strong public Postal Service the day after this election, the same as they do right now and the same as they do during this election. You know, we are a service for the American people, and my membership, all of us, that just doesn't do it for us. And that's not to say that I don't appreciate that he's going to make sure that changes don't happen now that could affect our democratic process, certainly that's an important issue to everyone, me included.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I’m Sophia Saliby. This month, Michiganders saw delays in their mail largely due to changes made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in recent months. DeJoy says he made those changes, like removing equipment or decreasing overtime, as cost-cutting measures.

But after concerns about how those changes would affect the November election because of the anticipated surge in absentee voting due to the pandemic, Dejoy says he has halted many of the initiatives for now.

Michael Mize is the president of the Michigan Postal Workers Union and the Flint Area Local. He joins me now to explain how those changes have impacted him. Thanks for being here.

Michael Mize: Glad to join you.

Saliby: I think the big question for a lot of Michiganders has been why has my mail, my packages [and] my medications been late?

Mize: There's a lot of reasons for it, but the most recent reasons are because of the changes that took effect shortly after Postmaster General Dejoy came in to his position, changing the way we do mail in the morning and the idea that they were going to cut over time, have targets that they had to meet for processing, things like that.

Saliby: You're based in Flint, so what have you seen on the ground in your office that has led to delays? Changes in practices? Shifts? Anything like that?

Mize: The changes that we’ve seen in our facility, which have been changed back now, but the things that we saw originally, were the handling of the manual hand sort. So, the way we used to do it is that mail would come in that wouldn't run out of the machine, and we would sort that mail in the morning, and the carriers would take that mail out that same day.

[With] the recent changes, they started sorting that mail throughout the day instead of in the morning, and then the carriers would sort it to go to the route the next day. So, there was a one-day delay on all of that mail when it came in. In our facilities, that was the big one that we saw.

Saliby: So, in some facilities like yours, you're seeing this one-day delay because of hand mail sorting. Other facilities are seeing cut offs in how many pieces of mail that they can process. And then you have this happening on a nationwide scale, did it really bring everything to a halt or a slowdown because of all these changes on such a grand scale?

Mize: It's a big slowdown. The processing facilities is where they really saw the major delays. They said no late trucks. They said, you know, a certain amount of mail is all that could be run before they could actually make a truck. So, what they would do is they would say, 60,000 letters is what we're going to run today because we know we have to stop at 60,000 in order to make the truck. So, on Monday, they run 60,000 letters, but there were 80,000 letters there to run, so that means 20,000 letters got delayed a day. Well then, tomorrow, they have the same thing.

That continues to build, and then soon enough, your processing facilities turn into almost a warehouse. And then you have mail that ends up being delayed several days, and some mail that ends up getting kind of lost in the shuffle [or] can get stuck in a corner somewhere. That's what creates the major delays is when they do things like that.

Saliby: Some Michiganders have rallied to support the Postal Service. I've seen posts online telling people to buy stamps and send more mail through the USPS. Is that actually going to help the organization?

Mize: All of that will help the organization, but what we need to really help the organization is we need Congress to act. We need Congress to put through the $25 billion stimulus which we know the House has done their part, but the Senate's not even considering it.

The factors that we saw through COVID have kind of put a magnifying glass, you know, kind of exploded the issues we already had. The big one prior to that was the 2006 Postal Reorganization Act that put the requirement on us to prepay retiree health benefits 75 years into the future. That's what created the mess that we really have.

Saliby: Postmaster General DeJoy has said he would stop changes and wait until after the election to institute any more reforms. Does that still concern you? '

Mize: It more than concerns me, frankly, it disgusts me, and the reason that it disgusts me is that the American people deserve a strong public Postal Service the day after this election, the same as they do right now and the same as they do during this election.

You know, we are a service for the American people, and my membership, all of us, that just doesn't do it for us. And that's not to say that I don't appreciate that he's going to make sure that changes don't happen now that could affect our democratic process, certainly that's an important issue to everyone, me included.

However, they are not starting any of the machines back up that they have unhooked or returning any machines that they took out. So, the ones that are already gone in the state of Michigan, they're gone. That's not changing.

Saliby: Michael Mize is the President of the Michigan Postal Workers Union and the Flint Area Local. Thank you for joining me.

Mize: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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