BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — The United States Postal Service is now the center of a nationwide debate concerning politics, mail-in voting, and funding. On top of that, complaints about delivery problems are piling up.
That scenario has several Members of Congress very concerned after seeing an internal memo from the U.S. Postal Service indicating 671 sorting machines are being pulled from post offices nationwide - including five from Buffalo's main post office and processing facility on William Street.
"First, we want those machines put back. And number two, we want an explanation about what the 'hell' is going on," said Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo).
Higgins told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that he fears it is a ploy by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy - a Trump supporter, donor, and appointee - to make it harder for states to conduct mail-in voting during the November 2020 Presidential election.
"There is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the United States postal services in advance of an election where over 75% of voters will vote by mail," added Higgins.
The Democratic congressman is one of several Members of Congress who sent letters to Postmaster DeJoy demanding answers.
"A lot of seniors are reaching out to us because they are dependent upon the postal service for their medication," said Republican Congressman Tom Reed during an interview on WBEN Radio.
Responding to a rising number of mail delivery complaints, Reed is also looking for answers; "Why are you doing that? We want more effective and efficient delivery of our postal services, not less."
Frank Resetarits, President of the American Postal Workers Union Local 374, said workers inside the Buffalo William Street processing plant told him five of twenty 'Delivery Bar Code Sorters' have already been dismantled.
The loss of the sorters, along with strict rules for overtime, have meant delivery trucks are leaving behind piles of unsorted mail on a regular basis - including Express Mail, said Resetarits. "The trucks leave whether the mail is ready or not. We are experiencing service delays."
Resetarits explained the "Delivery Bar Code Sorters' are used to sift through piles of mail and put them into bundles for each carrier's route. He said the post office is attempting to retrofit some of the other sorters to handle more mail, but the effort has not been successful yet.
Union workers inside the Buffalo facility say they feel Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is attempting to run the postal service like a business and not as a service.
"Having to tell a grandparent that I don't know where their grandchild's gift is, or I don't know where their medication is, or where their stimulus check is, is disheartening," said Lori Cash, a veteran postal worker at the Buffalo main post office and President of American Postal Workers Local 183.
The U.S. Postal Service issued the following response to the complaints:
“The Postal Service routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes. Package volume is up, but mail volume continues to decline. Adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes will ensure more efficient, cost effective operations and better service for our customers. “
The post office situation became a major topic this week after President Trump suggested during a Fox Business Network interview that he would not support funding for the postal service to handle mail-in voting unless there was an agreement with Democrats on pandemic relief.
Trump later clarified his remarks.
"If they make a deal, the Postal Service is taken care of, the money they need for the mail-in ballots will be taken care of, that doesn't mean we are going to agree to it, but all they have to do is make a deal," said President Trump.
"So, you would sign something that does include funding?" a reporter asked. "Sure, a separate thing, I would do it," responded the President.