Worried citizens, carriers see changes in Wisconsin postal service
September 2, 2020
Wisconsin users of the U.S. Postal Service, whether for voting, receiving medications and paychecks, or shipping packages, have reason to be concerned. In a letter sent Tuesday, August 25, Senator Tammy Baldwin wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after receiving complaints from her constituents about delays in receiving medications, products, and mail-in ballots.
In her letter to DeJoy, Baldwin states that mail-sorting machines have been removed in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison, and Rothschild postal processing and distribution centers. Nearly one-third of the machines in Green Bay were removed.
The Wisconsin Examiner posted an article (“‘Extremely frustrating’ mail delays for prescriptions hit veterans, rural areas” by Jacob Fischler, Aug. 26, 2020) detailing some of the problems area vets and rural residents have had. For instance, one Vietnam War vet who receives her muscle spasm medication by mail was unable to move her head and neck for days due to delivery delays. Another resident in southwest Wisconsin who usually gets his HIV medication through the mail received a call from his pharmacy suggesting he pick up his prescription in person due to USPS delivery delays.
Postal delays are also affecting small business in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Public Radio reported (“Lost packages and late ballots,” WPR, Aug. 20, 2020) that a Fitchburg business owner, Susan Brown, found that over 33 of her orders sent to customers had gone missing. She spent hours with her customers and the USPS to try to find out what happened to them.
“That was, for sure, the final straw. And that’s when we started using FedEx,” Brown told WPR. She estimates that in the past, about 75 percent of her packages were sent through USPS and 25 percent via FedEx. Now those percentages are reversed, and Brown wonders if the USPS packages will get delivered.
That bodes ill for the upcoming presidential election. Wisconsin is a swing state so every vote will count heavily. About 2 million Wisconsin voters are expected to cast absentee ballots in November.
A small-town postal carrier who asked to remain anonymous told PaycheckTalk that, although his office still has its sorting machines, he’s seen other changes to his eastern Wisconsin postal office recently. Normally, letter carriers are given between one and two hours at the start of a shift to sort mail and get set up to deliver it. But that’s no longer true.
“Now we have 30 minutes to get out onto the route,” he said. “It’s called the 30-minute rule. Mail that isn’t ready to go [at the end of 30 minutes] gets saved for the next day.”
He went on to explain that the office has tightened down on overtime, too. He said that while his position doesn’t normally allow him to put in overtime, other carriers who do normally put in overtime hours have been told “no overtime.”
He feels determined to deliver his mail in a timely manner, but it hasn’t been easy the past two months.
“This season, it’s been so stressful to be a postal worker,” he said.
Baldwin’s letter to DeJoy demanded that he “immediately reverse harmful operational changes and directives that you instituted and which have resulted in delayed mail in Wisconsin and across the country.”
Baldwin went on in the letter to state that DeJoy’s temporary suspension of these changes “did not reverse the damage already done or put in place long-term solutions to prevent further delays.”
Wisconsin has joined a multi-state lawsuit against the USPS. The lawsuit asserts that removing mail-sorting equipment, cutting overtime, and changing operations at the USPS are illegal.