Put postal workers on the list of election heroes
Dancers in USPS mailbox costumes celebrate Postal Workers and their role in the election. | via Twitter

Cities and towns erupted with dancing in the streets after news outlets declared Joe Biden and Kamala Harris winners on Nov. 7. Among the “heroes” who defended democracy and election integrity despite withering assault by Trump and his minions are the nation’s postal workers, whom revelers spontaneously hugged and high-fived during the celebrations.

Despite enormous challenges, postal workers “moved heaven and earth” to deliver 65 million mail-in ballots, double from 2016, ensuring voters could make their voices known during a deadly pandemic. The American Postal Workers Union and National Association of Letter Carriers, unions covering the 630,000 postal workers, had endorsed Biden and greeted the victory.

“We will soon have someone in the White House who supports the public Postal Service, not one planning to dismantle and privatize it,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “We will have a leader who champions union rights, not one proposing to eliminate our collective bargaining rights. We will have in the White House a President who respects the dedication and integrity of postal workers, not one who labels us as corrupt and a joke.”

Meanwhile, Trump is attempting a “soft” coup by claiming Democrats stole the election with fraudulent votes, including mail-in ballots, after denigrating them for months. He expects GOP-dominated courts to rule in his favor and GOP-dominated legislatures to approve alternative sets of electors, overturning popular will.

Trump and the GOP tried to ride to victory by disenfranchising millions of Democratic voters, primarily African-American and Latinx voters, and weaken the election and democratic infrastructure. Among the “pillars of democracy” they tried to sabotage and weaponize was the USPS.

Trump schemed to manipulate the postal service to slow or prevent mail-in ballots’ delivery because he knew they heavily favored Democrats. At the very least he hoped to undermine confidence in the Postal Service and create the impression mail ballots created vast opportunities for fraud. Meanwhile, Trump called on his supporters to vote in person, which they did, by and large.

Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin maneuvered to install GOP donor Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General. DeJoy wasted no time in implementing operational changes, including removing scores of high-speed sorting machines, removing blue boxes, and cutting overtime. On top of worker absenteeism from COVID-19, the changes resulted in mounting mail delays and growing alarm about whether mail-in ballots could be delivered on time.

In this screengrab from television, people celebrating the Biden-Harris win on Nov. 7 cheer as a USPS delivery truck drives by. | via Twitter

But what Trump and DeJoy didn’t count on was the resistance of postal workers and their unions. Postal workers worked heroically to ensure mail ballots, food, and prescriptions were delivered and resisted the operational changes DeJoy was implementing.

In July, postal workers, NALC, and APWU exposed the sabotage shortly after DeJoy’s changes began affecting service and mail started piling up. Photos of stacked sorting machines outside facilities went viral on social media, and increased mail delays resulting from new procedures led to public outrage. Democratic representatives hauled DeJoy before Congress on Aug. 18, and backed by public anger and four court injunctions, forced him to suspend implementation of his plans until after the election.

But the sabotage had an impact. The USPS reported on Oct. 16, just two weeks before the election, the on-time rate for delivery fell to 85.6% from over 91% in June, including food and prescriptions. By late October, 42% of Philadelphia mail took five days to deliver.

A video taken by a postal worker showing stacks of mail ballots in a Miami-Dade post office went viral on social media. In response to a lawsuit filed by the NAACP, Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered a sweep of 27 USPS processing facilities by postal inspectors on Nov. 3 to locate and deliver all mail-in ballots before the deadline. Postal officials refused to comply.

Sullivan issued the order after USPS officials admitted they couldn’t correctly trace 300,000 mail ballots. On Nov. 4, Sullivan blasted USPS attorneys for the agency ignoring his earlier order and demanded twice daily sweeps in facilities in states where ballots are postmarked on or before Election Day but delivered after Election Day.

“Nothing stops the postal system,” Sullivan said. “I’m deeply appreciative of that.”

The Washington Post reported Nov. 5 that USPS officials admitted workers had processed 150,000 mail-in ballots after Election Day. Consequently, election officials had not received thousands of votes, including in battleground states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, and Nevada. Inspectors discovered another 600 ballots in the second sweep of facilities on Nov. 5 in five Pennsylvania and North Carolina facilities.

In Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Michigan, mail-in ballots must arrive before polls close on Election Day to be counted, even if postmarked before Tuesday. DeJoy’s delays may have cost tens of thousands their right to vote in this election.

A worker walks past mailboxes that were removed from service, Aug. 20, 2020, in Hartford, Wis. | Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP

But GOP thugs and dirty tricksters aren’t done. GOP supporters raised $130,000 for an Erie, Pa. postal worker to claim without evidence that workers were backdating mail-in ballots to Nov. 3 in the local facility. Erie Postmaster Robert Weisenbach rejected the backdating claims, and on Nov. 10, the postal worker admitted he had lied.

However, in the meantime, the right-wing group Project Veritas promoted the claims, prompting Attorney General Bill Barr to issue an unprecedented and highly inappropriate directive for the Department of Justice prosecutors to investigate every election fraud claim.

Biden can’t immediately fire DeJoy when he becomes president. DeJoy, who formerly headed the private company XPO Logistics, which was recently awarded a lucrative contract with USPS, was appointed postmaster by the Board of Governors—all Trump appointees. Biden will have to replace governors when seats become vacant.

DeJoy has said he would continue operational changes after the election and once court orders are lifted, possibly impacting mail-in ballots for the Georgia Senate run-offs. But the nation can be thankful postal workers will be watching.

Postal Workers are appealing for support on Nov. 17 for a Day of Action to stop DeJoy’s plans. Details here.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. He is a regular writer for People's World, and active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.

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