DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW/AP) – Deliveries of medication, bills, and other mail are showing up late to the Grand Strand and Pee Dee areas, a union leader working for the United States Postal Service told News13.
Some mail delivery in the region has been delayed by about two weeks, according to Ronnie Gee, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Local 2408 in Florence. Late deliveries have been reported nationwide.
“It really bothers me as a veteran myself and as an employee to see exactly what’s going on,” Gee told News13. Responding to a customer who was “very irate” about the delays, he said, “This is not the postal employees. Postal employees are doing their job.”
He began to notice the changes at his post office in Darlington last week. “Mail coming in late, abundance of mail coming in, then I noticed there was a delay,” Gee said.
After calls to other union officials, he learned some sorting machines had been dismantled in Columbia and Greenville. No machines have been removed in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, according to Gee. CNN reported last week that the postal service planned to remove 671 high-volume mail processing machines across the country.
Some postal officials said the reduction and operational changes, such as reduced overtime, would make the service more cost-effective, according to CNN, as mail volume declines.
Adrienne Griffin, the president of Greenville’s American Postal Workers Union, said four machines were removed with no explanation, even though she believes mail volume hasn’t substantially declined.
“This is the craziest thing. We were using those machines,” Griffin said. “It wasn’t just sitting here collecting dust and we’re not using it. We’re using them and they took them. So the operation has went up in smoke.”
“They said they were going to bring them back,” Griffin told News13, “and then maintenance said ‘No, they threw them away and threw them in the garbage. They’re not bringing them back.'”
Another policy change limits the loading time for mail trucks. “They have ten minutes to get the mail on the truck,” Griffin explained, “and if the mail is not loaded on the truck in ten minutes then the truck has to leave. They’re not giving the truck drivers wait slips.”
The consequence is mail piling up. “Mail is everywhere from one end of the building and mail’s being put in a section of the building you don’t even know,” said Griffin. “They’re finding it later. Packages sitting in the building for over a week. The customers are not getting their mail and package.”
Asked for a response to the allegations of delayed mail delivery and dismantled machines, a spokesperson for the Postal Service said early Monday morning they “will look in to this.”
“This is my personal opinion, not the union’s,” Gee said, “I think it’s voter suppression.”
Millions of Americans are expected to vote in November with mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, one of the top Trump mega-donors, has proven a complicit crony,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues on Sunday, “as he continues to push forward sweeping new operational changes that degrade postal service, delay the mail, and – according to the Postal Service itself – threaten to deny the ability of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming elections in a timely fashion.”
The Postal Service has warned most states it might not be able to meet ballot delivery deadlines, meaning some votes might not be counted. South Carolina received the warning, according to The State newspaper, but a spokesman for the State Election Commission said the delays have been a problem for years.
Asked whether he’d seen anything like the changes happening now, Gee responded, “Not within my 13 years with the Postal Service.”
The Postal Service has asked for $25 billion in emergency money to help with processing mail-in ballots in November. The money has been stalled in negotiations for a new coronavirus stimulus bill.
In an interview with Fox Business on Thursday, Trump indicated he opposed the funding. “They want $25 billion, billion, for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump explained. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
By Saturday, Trump claimed he supported more money for the Postal Service. Explaining his refusal to support the Democrats’ stimulus bill, he blamed other provisions, such as money to help states struggling with debt.
“Let me be clear that, with regard to election mail, the Postal Service and I are fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process,” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said earlier this month at a meeting of the Postal Service Board of Governors. “We will do everything that we can to deliver election mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards, and despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down election mail or any other mail.”
Gee urged people to contact their congressmen and senators. “Let them know that their mail’s late, they’re receiving their bills late, receiving their medications late, and go forward that way. That’s the best way to go.”