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What's next for the USPS in Western New York?

Union leaders, congressman call directives "malicious, deliberate and calculated"
Posted at 7:58 PM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 19:58:52-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Hours after Postmaster Louis DeJoy testified in front of the Senate and a day before the House will meet in Washington to vote on new legislation for the United States Postal Service, dozens of union leaders and members, concerned neighbors and local representatives came together in Buffalo.

The group gathered across from the William Street mail processing facility in Buffalo, they say, in an effort to fight for the future of the USPS.

“This is my neighborhood. You’re concerned about your neighborhood. These poor people,” said Rose Cannon. After hearing of the issue, Cannon came out in support of mail carriers and USPS employees.

The message Friday afternoon on William Street was echoed from speaker to speaker.

“This is a malicious, deliberate and calculated effort to destroy an institution,” said Congressman Brian Higgins (D, NY-26)

“We’re in a battle. We’re in a battle for the public’s mail,” said National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 3 Legislative Chair, Doug Fordyce.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D, 149th New York District) added: “A lot of crazy things happen, but this is one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard is like people got together and said, ‘How can we intentionally slow down the mail so we can alter an election?’”

The rally comes a few weeks after concerns began over new cost-cutting directives under DeJoy. Facing mounting criticism, DeJoy suspended the directives earlier this week “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”

While two Western New York union leaders agreed earlier this week it was a “step in the right direction,” both said more needed to be done. On Friday, other union leaders, Higgins and Ryan shared the same message: reverse service changes and fund the USPS.

“Let us do our jobs. That’s all we ask,” said New York State American Postal Workers Union President, Frank Resetarits.

Part of the original directives included removing five mail sorting machines from the William Street USPS location in Buffalo. Union leaders say at least two are now in a scrap yard down the street.

While testifying in front of the Senate Friday, DeJoy said those machines will not be reinstated

“There’s no intention to do that. They’re not needed,” said Postmaster DeJoy.

While Fordyce said the absence of the machines most likely will not hinder, in his opinion, Buffalo’s ability to move “an influx in additional absentee ballots,” the future is concerning.

“Even if every person in the country voted by mail, which is not going to happen, they’re anticipating approximately 150 million votes. We deliver 480 million pieces of mail every day, so as long as the delivery standards aren’t messed with too much, I don’t see us having any issue with getting the mail delivered for the election on time,” said Fordyce. He continued, “We anticipate once the virus is under control, the economy kicks back up, mail volume is going to come up too. We’re going to come back up to where we need...The concern is when the volume comes back, they’re gone.”

Concerns stemmed not just over the upcoming election and the expected increase of absentee ballots, but also over things like pharmaceutical deliveries.

“He’s already done damage and he’s already done irreparable damage,” Higgins said about DeJoy. The Congressman going as far as calling for DeJoy to step down.

“In truth and in fairness, this Postmaster General should resign,” said Higgins.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri spoke with both Erie County Election Commissioners Thursday afternoon on the upcoming election including issues with USPS. Democratic Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner said he was not concerned until hearing about the removal of machinery.

“I’d like to really look into that and hope that there wasn’t any issues there that are going to slow us up,” said Zellner.

DeMentri asked Zellner: “From your point of view, can you fix that? Can you do anything to fix it from the Board of Elections stand point?”

Zellner replied: “I don’t think I can do anything to fix it, but I know that Congress is trying to fix it. I think we’re in a very strange time politically. I’m hoping that elected officials are going to hold folks accountable because we need the Postal Service not only for just mail, for the mail in ballots, but for a lot of things.”

Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr added the Erie County Board of Elections and local USPS management have a “good relationship.”

“The Buffalo Post Office has gone out of their way to assist us in the primary election and every election. We’re in constant contact with the Post Office through these elections,” said Mohr. He continued, “And as we saw even in the primary election, when people just threw their ballots in the postal box without even a return envelop, the Post Office collected those and delivered them to the Board of Elections. So we have a very good relationship, and I’m not concerned at all that the Post Office will not be able to fulfill their duties.”

While DeJoy said in front of the Senate Friday, he believes his agency is ready for the upcoming election, Higgins and those at Friday’s rally say the fight has just begun.

“This is the start of this fight. This is the start of this fight, not the end of it,” said Higgins.

Postmaster DeJoy is set to testify next in front of the U.S. House Oversight Committee on Monday. Before that on Saturday, House members, including Higgins, will return to Washington to vote on USPS legislation, which includes $25 billion in funding.