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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Postal Service “Growing Worse” Pains

Photo Credit: Hoang ‘Leon’ Nguyen / The Republican

Article By: Devyn Manzi, Margaret Sullivan, and Kathy Scholpp

A retired secretary from a leafy suburb is distressed because she says, “This is the first time in my life that I have to say, ‘the check is in the mail.’ We always thought that was the punch-line of a joke.”

Not any longer, according to Peter Tallman, City Council member in Holyoke who retired after 37 years of working for the USPS. On August 20, 2020, Tallman joined dozens of other American citizens in a press event at Main Street Station, Springfield called “Rally to Save the Postal Service.” U.S. Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts’ First District organized and spoke at the rally, describing the “Delivering for America Act,” a bill he co-sponsored in Congress. It has now been passed by the House and progressed on to the Senate.

Branch 46 President Mike Harazmus [Hoang ‘Leon’ Nguyen / The Republican]

But this worries Michael Harazmus, President of local Branch 46 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Western Massachusetts, who says the Senate is “known as the graveyard for legislation favorable to the Postal Service.”

The financial problems of the Postal Service actually resulted from a 2006 federal law Harazmus says was “foisted on the Postal Service in the dark of night.” It imposed a duty on the USPS to fully fund, in advance, all health insurance benefits for present and future employees for 75 years, and to do so within ten years.

This staggering burden threw the Postal Service, which receives no tax dollars whatsoever, into a financial crisis.

Many USPS employees, from front-line workers to managers, regarded this as a thinly veiled attempt to financially handicap the USPS so it could be privatized for the benefit of competing corporate giants such as Federal Express, UPS, and DHL. But no public outcry resulted; contractual agreement prevents USPS employees from going on strike or even speaking negatively to the media about the Postal Service.

Woes increased when Trump mega-donor Louis DeJoy was appointed Postmaster General, effective June 15, 2020. In the run-up to the 2020 election, he presided over cuts and service changes to the USPS that he admitted caused delays.

A local postmaster, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed chagrin, saying that DeJoy had sent an email to all management agency-wide informing them that he would not let up on the crippling “reorganization” that was already appalling to employees and customers alike.

DeJoy confirmed on the record that he would not relent, when testifying before Congress on August 21, 2020. Asked by Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch whether he would replace the mail-sorting machines removed from post offices nation-wide, PMG DeJoy responded “I will not.”

He criticized Lynch’s position that he was damaging the postal service’s efficiency, angrily calling it “misinformation,” while giving no explanation of how he would remedy problems his actions had caused. Harazmus noted, “Some folks, me included, wonder if [PMG DeJoy] has the best interests of the Postal Service and the American People in mind.”

Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are not waiting for either Congress or PMG DeJoy to act. Vigorous public efforts are underway. Public coalitions supporting the Postal Service include the Grand Alliance to Save the Postal Service, which is composed of about 60 nonprofit groups throughout the country.

Another organization, Save the Post Office, has brought about heightened awareness of current issues affecting the Postal Service. A groundswell of support is arising.

Among all postal employees interviewed, the essential views are aligned: positive efforts to strengthen the Postal Service are in the public interest. Harazmus sums it up: “The Postal Service is number one most trusted and favored government entity 20 years running – according to Gallup, so!”

The ending of this story has yet to be written.

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