American Postal Workers Union leadership often is asked by loyal customers how they can help the U.S. Postal Service survive the numerous threats presented to it in 2020. The answer, Kimberly Karol said, is to keep using the Postal Service.
“The best way to support the Postal Service right now is to use it the way you always have, and to trust us to get the work done and support us as we try to restore the service standard so that we can do it in the way that they expect,” said Karol, president of the Iowa Postal Workers Union.
Financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with cost-cutting measures implemented by the Trump Administration’s new postmaster general, have contributed to a slowdown in USPS services that is being felt across the country. Insert President Trump and his tirades against voting by mail, and the American people are left wondering whether the Postal Service can be trusted to timely deliver letters, packages, prescription drugs and absentee ballots.
Karol, a longtime postal worker from Waterloo, is frustrated by the notion that USPS will be unable to process the tens of millions of absentee ballots that likely will be sent through the mail this fall. That simply is not true, she said.
“I’ve already sent in my request for an absentee ballot because I know what the process is. I know that we’re going to be able to get that mail moved and processed and delivered,” Karol said. “I know what kind of safeguards that we have in place, especially on election mailing, to safeguard and keep our reputation. Keep in mind, if we don’t make delivery on elections, that hurts our reputation. We have a 91% approval rating for a reason, because we have earned it.”
“I think it is a little unfair to single us out,” she said. “I truly wish that I could be a fly on the wall so I could find out what the motivation is.”
Postal workers compare the upcoming election season to Christmastime. They know there will be an influx of mail and they prepare for it.
“Basically the message that we’ve been trying to get out is, more people are going to vote by mail than ever before,” said Mike Bates, president of APWU Local 44 in Des Moines. “That was proven in the primaries in Iowa. But guess what, we didn’t miss a beat in the primaries. I do not believe we’re going to miss a beat this time around with the vote-by-mail here in Iowa.”
“But what we’ve been telling people is that it’s just like Christmas. You know there’s going to be an influx of mail-in ballots, so mail it just a little bit earlier than you normally would, just to be sure.”
In addition to sending an absentee ballot through the mail, Iowans also will have the option to vote in person early and on Election Day, Bates said, giving voters here the ability to choose the option that “works for you.”
“We know that the president’s comments about the Postal Service is undermining the public’s opinion of the Postal Service and it’s a scare tactic,” Bates said. “We know, because we’ve been doing it for years, that we have the capacity and we have the people and we have the knowledge and the trust to move people’s ballots.”
On Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he would suspend operational changes at USPS until after Election Day in order to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.”
Karol said she was “cautiously optimistic” DeJoy’s promise to halt the removal of mail sorting machines, limit employees’ overtime and close mail processing facilities will help restore timely service to USPS customers. But funding from Congress also is needed to help the Postal Service recoup some of the revenue it lost due to the pandemic, the union officials said.
The House will vote Saturday on a $25 billion bill to address the funding shortfalls and stop operational changes at USPS instituted by DeJoy.
Bates encouraged Iowans to call Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley and ask for their support on the legislation, which has not gained much traction with the GOP.
“The United States Postal Service should not be political,” said Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson Jeremy Busch. “But as her party works to dismantle this democratic institution, Sen. Ernst’s silence is the mark of a Washington politician running scared from her failed record and hoping voters won’t hold her accountable.”
Postal workers are “prideful” people, Bates said, and “I do not like the undermining of the confidence of the American people in the post office.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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