activism

CMU professor organizes day of action for USPS

FRUITA, CO – Next Tuesday, August 25, an organized day of action will be held at the central post office station on 4th Street in downtown Grand Junction. The event is in response to national concerns about the fate of the postal service.

Louis DeJoy has been the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service since May, when he was appointed by USPS Board of Governors. Until this past week, however, like his predecessors before him, he remained largely unknown to vast swaths of middle America.

That all changed in recent weeks when he announced changes at the agency that resulted in slower mail deliveries, the removal of high speed mail processing machines, and photos being distributed on social media of those famous blue mailboxes being hauled away in bulk. He also said that he was canceling overtime hours for postal workers and reducing service hours in post offices around the country.

What tipped many Democratic-leaning voters, however, was his warning to election officials that mail-in ballots in some states may not be returned in time for local election deadlines in November.

An outcry erupted on social media and news outlets around the country, with activists organizing “Save the Post Office” rallies and letters to the editor campaigns.

Jennifer Hancock, an English professor at Colorado Mesa University, was one of those inspired to take action in protest.

“I wanted to gather a group of people as quickly as possible because I think time is really important, given that we vote by mail here in Colorado,” Hancock said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “And of course lots of other states will be requesting absentee ballots given the pandemic.”

Hancock, who is also juggling her teaching duties at CMU and all the attendant stresses of reopening campus in the throes of a pandemic, had originally planned the event to happen yesterday.

“I was hoping that Senator [Cory] Gardner might still be on the Western Slope. I know that he was here over the weekend.”

She had spoken to close friends who wanted to show their appreciation for the work that postal workers do, and to “encourage actual movements on those measures that are being implemented [by DeJoy].”

Ultimately, DeJoy announced on Tuesday that he would postpone any changes to operations until after the November election. In a statement he said that “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.”

Hancock moved the original date to next Tuesday. She said that she has conducted extensive research and acknowledged that “a lot of the decommissioning of the [sorting] machines were planned before [DeJoy] came in.”

“The volume [of mail] has been declining since online bill pay, etc., so some of that might not be sort of nefarious, but definitely over time, the elimination and some other stuff really seem to be direct political attacks,” Hancock said. “And the president admitted as much on Fox.”

Last Thursday, President Donald Trump was quoted in an interview on Fox News that Democrats in Congress were responsible for holding up a new stimulus bill by demanding additional funds for mail-in voting. Despite zero evidence to support his claims, Trump continues to maintain that mail-in ballots are often fraudulent.

Hancock said that the postal union already has plans to organize a day of action next Tuesday, and in conversations with postal workers she decided to coordinate her original rally with that of the union’s.

“Having lived in other places, I’m kind of sentimental about three things,” she said. “About American education, the national parks, and the postal service. Our postal service is really one of the best in the world, and we need to fully fund it. Right now I believe it doesn’t get any tax dollars. It’s completely funded by sales, and UPS and FedEx have cut into that. That’s how we get Social Security checks and disability benefits and all sorts of things. It needs to be funded for all Americans.”

Everyone is welcome to participate. For more information about the event, visit the Facebook event listing:

https://www.facebook.com/events/964417490652529