Congressional Democrats in suburbs call for end to postal delays

  • U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, left, and Sean Casten, outside the Ken Christy Post Office in Aurora, discuss how the House plans to vote this week on legislation to halt operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service.

      U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, left, and Sean Casten, outside the Ken Christy Post Office in Aurora, discuss how the House plans to vote this week on legislation to halt operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, with U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, Sean Casten behind her, on Tuesday in Aurora calls for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail even as record numbers of people plan to vote by mail.

      U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, with U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, Sean Casten behind her, on Tuesday in Aurora calls for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail even as record numbers of people plan to vote by mail. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, with U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, Sean Casten behind her, on Tuesday in Aurora calls for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail even as record numbers of people plan to vote by mail.

      U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, with U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, Sean Casten behind her, on Tuesday in Aurora calls for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail even as record numbers of people plan to vote by mail. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • From left, U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood walk toward their news conference Tuesday to address operational changes causing mounting mail delivery delays that are creating increasing problems for residents and businesses.

      From left, U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood walk toward their news conference Tuesday to address operational changes causing mounting mail delivery delays that are creating increasing problems for residents and businesses. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Valerie Savage, president of the American Postal Workers Local #351, joins three Democratic members of Congress on Tuesday in Aurora in calling for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail.

      Valerie Savage, president of the American Postal Workers Local #351, joins three Democratic members of Congress on Tuesday in Aurora in calling for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Michael Caref, of the National Business Agent Letter Carriers, speaks during a Tuesday news conference at the Ken Christy Post Office in Aurora to call for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail.

      Michael Caref, of the National Business Agent Letter Carriers, speaks during a Tuesday news conference at the Ken Christy Post Office in Aurora to call for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/18/2020 9:12 PM

Three Democratic members of Congress used the backdrop of an Aurora post office Tuesday to call for a rollback of operational changes that have caused delays in sending and receiving mail even as record numbers of people plan to vote by mail.

Postal workers joined Democrats at the Ken Christy Post Office to share what they see as implications of the procedural changes at the U.S. Postal Service -- delays of up to three days in the mail collection and sorting process and an additional three-day delay on the delivery side leading to rampant complaints from everyone who relies on the mail service.

 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced just before the Aurora gathering he would suspend his operational changes, which had included eliminating overtime, until after the election.

But Democrats Lauren Underwood of Naperville, Sean Casten of Downers Grove and Bill Foster of Naperville said that's not enough. They want guarantees a reduction of service quality won't be imposed at any point that would delay people getting prescriptions, Social Security checks or goods needed to run their businesses.

"Mr. DeJoy has just announced he's going to stop the rollback in standards," Casten said. "It means he was lying when he said he had to do this."

DeJoy announced the changes, such as eliminating late mail delivery trips, shortly after becoming postmaster general this year in what he described as an effort to address more than a decade of the Postal Service operating with multibillion-dollar losses.

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The changes have been in place only a few weeks, so it's unknown how much money may be saved. The last time the Postal Service tried making changes that resulted in slower mail delivery times, in 2011, its deficit grew exponentially as customers became displeased and turned to other options.

Foster said Congress does need to address Postal Service financial woes, but the priority during the COVID-19 outbreak and stretch run of the election should be increasing agency resources, not service cuts.

Democrats on Tuesday also called DeJoy's changes a way to suppress voting in the November presidential election. He is expected to testify before a Senate committee Friday and before a House panel Monday. Underwood said DeJoy already received a 10-page set of questions to which she is expecting answers.

"Why was he willingly participating in a politically motivated exercise to disenfranchise voters, to limit the reliability of a trusted institution?" she said. "We have heard the president of the United States say he doesn't want to support the Postal Service because it will help Democrats. The Postal Service is not a partisan agency. It is a critical part of each of our communities that connects us all to one another."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Underwood is one of many Democrats who supported more funding for the U.S. Postal Service through the HEROES Act legislation that passed the House. But the Trump administration has classified that money as an unnecessary bailout for the financially troubled agency and a Democratic plot to fund a vote-by-mail expansion the president doesn't trust.

DeJoy is also on record as saying the agency has ample resources to deliver vote-by-mail ballots on time even with service reductions.

The Aurora gathering was one of several by Democratic federal lawmakers throughout Illinois seeking to ramp up the pressure on DeJoy.

At a similar gathering, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield announced he and other members of the delegation intend to request a criminal investigation of DeJoy for interfering with the election in Illinois. DeJoy, a major donor to President Donald Trump and other Republicans, was appointed to the post in May.

"It is a crime to willfully delay the mail," Schneider said. "Yesterday alone, 600 people have reached out to my office to tell me how their mail has been adversely affected by DeJoy and President Donald Trump."

Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined 13 attorneys general in other states in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that asks for a judge to undo DeJoy's operational changes because he failed to submit the changes to the Postal Regulatory Commission before implementing them.

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