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Three area members of Congress on Tuesday gathered to decry the operational changes made at the U.S. Postal Service which have caused delays to mail delivery around the country.
U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, and Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, held a news conference outside the Ken Christy Post Office in Aurora to criticize the changes. They argued that the delays in service threaten the efficacy of the general election as government officials prepare for an unprecedented amount of mail-in voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am horrified by this administration's efforts to dismantle this essential service and I demand a reversal of the recent operational changes that have put all of us and our very democracy at risk," Underwood said.
Shortly before the news conference began, news broke that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he would "suspend" the changes until after the election to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail," according to a statement.
Casten still was critical of DeJoy's announcement.
"It means he was lying when he said he had to do this," Casten said.
The representatives all related stories they had heard from constituents, telling of seniors and veterans who relied on the Postal Service to deliver medication and business owners who were worried they wouldn't be able to ship essential supplies in a timely manner.
Casten highlighted the role of the Postal Service in the nation's economy while also taking a jab at President Donald Trump.
"If you want to run this country the way that Trump ran Trump Steaks and Trump Airlines and Trump Casinos, slow down the Postal Service," he said.
Valerie Savage, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 351 in Aurora, said operational changes, such as shutting down equipment used to sort mail, were already creating delays at her facility. She said that upper management's decision to greatly reduce overtime for workers caused at least a "one to two-day delay" in mail delivery.
Savage said the changes have affected morale among postal workers because they take pride in getting mail out on time and they're hearing from customers who are frustrated by the delays.
"We don't even know what to tell them," she said.
Savage and Foster argued that the Postal Service was capable of delivering mail during the pandemic and upcoming election without the operational changes in place.
"There is no excuse for the sort of delays that we've been seeing," Foster said.
He also said that the House of Representatives, which Democrats control, included about $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service to pay for extra needs during the pandemic in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act. While the House passed its latest COVID-19 relief bill in May, the Senate has yet to pass a relief bill of its own.
The members of Congress said they also wanted more answers from DeJoy about his policy changes when he testifies before the House next week. Underwood said he owes the country an explanation about why he was "participating in a politically motivated exercise to disenfranchise voters." She argued that voters should be able to trust the Postal Service because it isn't a "partisan agency."
"We are having this conversation today because the president felt he did not trust democracy would give him a win at the election," Casten said. "I trust democracy. We all trust democracy and we got to stand up for it right now."