San Diegans join in nationwide rallies supporting Postal Service amid cuts
Under mounting pressure, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pledged to freeze Postal Service changes ahead of 2020 election
Cars honked as protesters waved signs in front of the Encinitas post office on Saturday, Aug. 22, calling on the Trump administration to rollback cuts to the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the 2020 election.
The event was one of hundreds throughout the country spearheaded by the liberal advocacy group Moveon.org, including more than a dozen rallies in front of post offices throughout the San Diego region.
“We all stand in solidarity with the post office and the postal workers,” said Misty O’Healy, 49, who helped organize the rally in Encinitas at the corner of Garden View Road and El Camino Real. “During the COVID pandemic, they’ve been front-line workers, so how can we not support them?”
Facing a wave of potential lawsuits, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced earlier in the week that he would reverse course on controversial changes to the Postal Service, such as eliminating overtime for mail carriers, removing mailboxes and slashing hours — at least until after the election.
Still many critics have remained skeptical that DeJoy, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in May, will follow through on his pledge. The American Postal Workers Union has said that hundreds of mail-sorting machines have already been removed, some destroyed.
“I’m very upset,” said retired mail carrier Ted Wayne, 59, who was protesting in front of the Encinitas post office where he’d worked during his 30-year career. “I’m worried about our democracy.”
People at the rally held signs that read: “Don’t mess with our USPS,” “Support the postman” and “Slowing mail is a felony.”
Cheryl Prince of Encinitas said the event was the first protest she’s attended since the pandemic lockdown started in March.
“I haven’t been protesting because of the COVID virus,” said the 75-year-old, “but I just finally decided I needed to do something to show my support.”
With much of the country still hunkered down amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many expect a surge in mail-in voting. That’s led some to believe that the Trump administration’s changes at the Postal Service are aimed at suppressing voter turnout.
“He’s sabotaging the post office and trying to make it slow down so that voters’ ballots don’t get in on time,” said Audrey Ledsma, 67, who organized a rally outside of the post office in College Grove. “He’s just messing with the system.”
Meanwhile, dozens gathered outside of the post office on Governor Drive in University City, an event which also drew several Democratic elected officials, to demand the agency remain intact.
“Even if DeJoy isn’t doing all the things we think he’s doing, Trump is still putting the idea in everyone’s mind that you can’t trust the post office,” said Tana Becker-Varano, 52, who organized the event, “and that’s just not true. We need to show up and defend the post office.”
Democrats have long accused Republicans of trying to undermine and privatize the Postal Service, such as when President George W. Bush signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act in 2006. The law forced the agency to fund its workers’ retirement health benefits 75 years into the future, triggering the creation of a massive $72 billion fund.
In the wake of the law, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the agency for struggling to remain solvent.
However, if the Postal Service were allowed to return to funding retiree health care on a pay-as-you-go basis, as is the case with the rest of the federal government and much of private industry, the largely self-funded agency would, at least today, have a stable operating budget, according to experts.
There were fears the agency would run out of money by this fall, but a surge in coronavirus-related shipping now appears to have extended that timeline at least through the middle of next year.
— Joshua Emerson Smith is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
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