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Postal service update

Just a reminder, destroying the US Postal Service has real effects on real people.

Delays in mail sorting and processing are leaving Houston-area businesses, brides and voters wary of the coming months. Whether it’s essential medication, ballots or important letters and business items, the USPS is relied upon to deliver in a timely manner. Yet, many Houstonians are already feeling the effects of the slowdown, including month-long wait times and undelivered mail.

Melissa Palacios Gonzalez, a U.S. Navy veteran, runs an accessories and clothing shop out of her home in Spring. When customers place online orders of jewelry or sunglasses, shimmery metallic sandals or distressed baseball caps from Aesthetic Glam, Palacios Gonzalez drops them off at the U.S. post office nearby.

But over the summer, she and other Houstonians noticed shipping delays as first the coronavirus strained delivery times, then systemic cutbacks by the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, reduced the USPS’s delivery capacity.

A USPS Priority Mail order of flip flops, which was supposed to be delivered in one or two days, took a week to reach its destination, Palacios Gonzalez said.

“If it becomes a routine problem —” she started to explain, then stopped and sighed. “Even if I say, ‘Oh, sorry that happened, here’s a percentage savings on me,’ I’m still potentially losing money and a customer.”

[…]

Due to delays in the U.S. Postal Service, Adrienne Lynch’s baby’s clothes often come weeks late.

The East Sunset Heights resident said her 20-month-old daughter is growing so fast, she often has to order new clothes. Care packages from the toddler’s grandmother also normally come much later than originally estimated by the post office.

Lynch’s mail service is in constant flux, she said. Some weeks, she notices deliveries every day. Other weeks, the household won’t receive mail for a few days.

Lynch first noticed the delays in March and April. They have continued and worsened since then, she said.

“Sometimes our outgoing mail may not be picked up for a day or so,” she said. “Or on the package tracking, you will see that your package is out for delivery, but it’s sent back to the post office at the end of the day because the carrier’s shift is over and they can’t do overtime.”

Uju Nwankwo, 27, sent about 100 to 130 wedding save-the-dates through the mail on July 19 for her February wedding. Almost a month later, many of her Houston friends have yet to receive the letters.

“There seems to be no rhyme or reason, so I don’t really get it,” Nwankwo said of the sporadic deliveries.

When the soon-to-be bride contacted USPS, she said she was told her area was experiencing sorting delays. Now, with no way to track her letters, Nwankwo just has to wait it out.

Neither Nwankwo nor Lynch blame postal workers for the delays.

Carriers have a “really tough job” in worsening conditions, Lynch said. She’s started leaving bottles of water and thank you notes in the shade for postal workers to show her appreciation for their work.

“I think the delays we are experiencing locally are directly related to the system,” Lynch said. “Postal workers and their union want to serve the country, but their hands are tied.”

See here and here for some background. The potential consequences for some folks can be quite serious.

Operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service are causing delays in mail deliveries all over the country. A man in Humble said he had to go without his daily heart medication for a week due to the delays.

Don White, 82, said he has been tracking the package and said it remained at a north Houston mail processing facility for 10 days. He’s hoping to get in on Monday.

He said he’s irritated by the situation because his mail-order medication has never been this late before.

“There have been a few times in which it’s taken a week, week and a half, two weeks, but this is the first time I actually ran out and checking with the post office didn’t do much good, even though I had a tracking number on it,” White said.

He said in the meantime, his daughter has helped him get the medication at a local grocery store pharmacy.

Lucky for him he has someone nearby who can help him like that. Not everyone would be so fortunate.

There are lawsuits.

Let the Postal Service lawsuits begin. There are plenty of plaintiffs, including states. At least 20 state attorneys general are going to court over U.S. Postal Service delays and the threat to the November election, The Washington Post reports. “We’re trying to stop Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service, which we believe to be an attack on the integrity of election. It’s a straight-up attack on democracy,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, said in an interview. “This conduct is illegal. It’s unconstitutional. It’s harmful to the country. It’s harmful to individuals.

“We’re asking a court to make him stop,” he said. The ”we” in this case comprises Frosh’s fellow attorneys general from Washington State, the lead state in the case, as well as Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. This suit names Donald Trump and Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, as defendants. It and another suit from Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, among others, will argue that DeJoy and the Postal Service broke the law by making operational changes to slow service without the approval of the Postal Regulatory Commission. They will also argue that these changes, which they are seeking to reverse, will impede the states’ ability to run free and fair elections. All of the attorneys general signing on to these cases are Democrats, of course. They have all the standing they need: The Constitution gives states and Congress the power to run and regulate elections. “States have the right to conduct mail-in elections if they choose,” Frosh said. “Trump is trying to undermine that.”

Not Texas, of course. Our Attorney General doesn’t object to this kind of lawbreaking. But at least one prominent Texan finds this all disgraceful.

Austin resident Carolyn Lewis, a George W. Bush-era presidential appointee and 2009 chair of the USPS board of governors, told The Texas Tribune in a series of email and phone interviews Monday and Tuesday that she has been disturbed by reports of sweeping cost-cutting measures that led to a slowdown in the mail and raised concerns that the postal service will not be able to handle an influx of mailed-in ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mr. DeJoy is failing to fulfill the mission of the USPS to provide prompt and reliable mail delivery at a time when that mission is as important as it has ever been,” said Lewis, who served on the USPS board of governors from 2004 to 2010, in a Monday email interview with the Tribune. “He is also destroying confidence in the organization that will only make its long-term viability even harder to achieve. If he does not change course immediately I hope the [board of governors] makes a change in leadership quickly.”

[…]

Lewis’ tenure also marked a moment of transition for the postal service. With the onset of modern technology, like email, the era marked a call for modernization in order to preserve the USPS’ mission to deliver the mail to all reaches of the country in a timely fashion while also remaining financially viable.

But DeJoy’s approach to modernization “feels different in several ways,” she said.

Alluding to a dysfunctional confirmation process within the U.S. Senate that for the last 10 years left gaping vacancies on the board, Lewis said that the postmaster general and the current board members “are very new and have none of the institutional knowledge that is usually there when you have more staggered terms of Governors.”

“Yet they seem to be rushing ahead to make changes before having time to fully understand the impact of those changes on all the stakeholders and there are many: employees, mailers, Congress and the American public,” she said.

She also has not seen “evidence that the current leadership has communicated their overall plan and goals that are driving the specific actions they are taking,” and “there is clearly not a priority on ensuring prompt and reliable mail delivery or fulfilling the mission” of the USPS.

“I do not know for certain the motivation of the [postmaster general] and the Governors, but their actions are certainly inviting questions, and legitimately so,” she added.

It took a couple of days, but this issue now has the full attention of Congress.

Houston Democratic congressional delegates on Tuesday announced they will propose legislation that would give the U.S. Postal Service an emergency loan and reverse recent cutbacks.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday afternoon that he would suspend all recent changes to the postal service until after the November election.

“Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards,” said DeJoy in a statement. “The American public should know that this is our number one priority between now and Election Day.”

The postmaster general’s move did not satisfy Democratic lawmakers, who said legislation is needed to ensure the postal service can continue to operate at full capacity beyond November.

“What he’s proposing is not acceptable,” said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of DeJoy’s statement. “We need the changes to be reversed in totality forever. And that’s what the legislation is about.”

[…]

Previous legislation that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives would have provided the loan. Trump said he would block the funding.

The coming bill, also supported by U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Al Green and Lizzie Fletcher, would also make administrators within the postal service cease and desist from making any more cuts.

Jackson Lee said she will help oversee an investigation of the extent of recent reported actions directed by DeJoy, such as terminating mail sorting machines, reducing staffing and cutting back overtime at post offices across the country.

“We need to know whether there have been any civil rights violations or criminal acts taking place,” said Jackson Lee.

DeJoy will be testifying before Congress on Friday, and I hope it’s a painful experience for him. But clearly, simply agreeing to stop wrecking the place is insufficient. If I’m caught hauling bags of money from a bank vault, it is not sufficient for me to say “okay, fine, I won’t take any more money from the vault”. Vandals are expected to make restitution, and that should very much include Louis DeJoy. Daily Kos has more.

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18 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    I am also concerned about the Post Office. How can the rioters in Portland receive their weekly checks if we take away the Post Office.

  2. C.L. says:

    Trump and his lackey’s action may have contributed to it, but to claim that the Post office troubles – lost packages, delayed packages, spotty weekly delivery, etc – is a recent (like in the last year) phenomenon, is just disingenuous. They’ve been a slow moving train wreck for a very long time now.

    Nobody in Congress gave a shit when their constituents complained about local delivery of mail (or the lack thereof) for the past decade, but now that mail in ballots may not be received in time, well then – let the Hearings begin !

  3. C.L. says:

    Paul, as a small business owner who, I assume, relies upon the USPS to deliver Notices of This/That/and The Other between Kubosh Law and your clients, between your Clients and the Court, between the Courts and Kubosh Law, etc., I’m surprised that you turned this particular Kuff post into something it was not.

    Never miss an opportunity, I guess.

  4. Jules says:

    CL, just because something sucks doesn’t mean it can’t get worse. And great response to Paul.

  5. Manny says:

    The very few times that I have complained about the post office, I have always gotten a response.

    The biggest problem is dropping off at the wrong address, normally happens when the regular mail person is not working.

    When you have a racist like Trump stating that he wants to stop the mail, I have no reason not to believe him especially when the post office lap dog starts doing things that would delay the mail.

    I like to know what company, government or private, never screws up?

    Having used USPS, UPS, FedEx, Lone Star, they have all screwed up at least once.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    So let me get this straight, the post office, which has had fewer and fewer blue boxes for years now, and which has lost my mail several times over the past decade, and which, at least with my mail, has been doing an excellent job so far this year; all my bills have come, my carrier picks up outgoing mail from my mailbox, and all packages have been on time; is now the victim of a vast right wing conspiracy? Sounds like somebody needs to replace the tinfoil for their hat.

    There are many hoaxes out there to scare us. What about the @Sciencing_bi Twitter account, which was an account from a female, bisexual, indigenous science professor, (nearly the maximum number of categories of victimhood permitted per person) who got COVID, and told the story of her illness and death on Twitter. But it was all made up by another scientist called Beth McLaughlin. But scientists all sent messages saying that they new the deceased scientist who never existed.

    I

  7. Flypusher says:

    While I won’t make any excuses for Congress not addressing USPS issues in the past, election integrity and the right to have your votes counted are big effing deals. The backlash is merited. Now that Congress has that fire lit under them, let’s use it constructively.

  8. Flypusher says:

    Riddle me this, you know that you’re about to get a big increase in mail volume because of the pandemic. What honest reason do you have for saying no overtime?

  9. mollusk says:

    If we’re going to rely on anecdotal evidence, how about the small first class package I finally got yesterday, a week after the evening it was picked up in Oakland, and four days after it was scanned in at the main Houston sorting facility? Normally this would be a second day delivery, third tops.

  10. Jason Hochman says:

    mollusk, the entire linked Houston Chronicle article was based on anecdotal evidence, so your experience is just as important to the discussion.

  11. Logo says:

    Re: [mail] between your Clients and the Court, between the Courts and [lawfirm], etc.

    E-FILING WAS ALREADY THE NORM IN TEXAS BEFORE COVID

    Almost all court filing is done electronically these days (SCOTX efiling mandate). Many law firms and solos have also turned to serving clients electronically, including signing of engagement letters and other documents with online e-sig verification, with phone communication supplemental and as-needed. Sometimes cell phone photos of signed documents (like affidavits/verifications) are used and attached to filings. Since efiling and universal computer use, there is no longer a need for paper or hard copies, except for convenience purposes and personal preference in the production/markup/revision process.

    Many civil lawsuits never require an appearance in court. Can be done entirely remotely as long as the case is resolved without a trial. Summary judgments and default judgments do not even require a live hearing when a county, such as Harris County, has local rules providing for “hearing” by submission
    . This was so even before the advent of COVID, though some judges liked attorneys appearing in the courtroom to argue their nonevidentiary motions more than others.

    Texas courts of appeals issue all notices, orders, and opinions electronically, via email to parties’ attorneys, and post opinions on their websites for the public (with some COAs being less transparent than others with respect to documents other than opinions and orders). Only pro se litigants and prison inmates (a subcategory of pro se) mail papers, but even pro se litigants can e-file if they figure out how.

    Bottom line: The legal sector’s dependence on the USPS is pretty much a thing of the past, with large efficiency and cost savings for law firms (though that was typically passed on to clients in the past) and corresponding revenue losses for the postal service. Not to mention that discovery and motion practice required certified mail to generate proof of service and receipt. I have seen no data on the impact on the transition to electronic law practice on the USPS, but the amount of lost revenue must have been considerable, though probably not as large as the cost of the society-wide transition to electronic billing and payment.

    That said, there is an exception: mass solicitation of defendants (criminal and civil debt suits) under a loophole in the Texas barratry statutes (or ignoring them)(plural because there are civil and criminal statutes). The obvious reason for reliance on conventional mail in that context is that the defendants’ email addresses are not contained in the court records, and cannot therefore be harvested for contacting them to offer legal services, unlike defendant name and address information.

  12. Andrew Lynch says:

    Post office has been failing for a long time before Trump took over. Stop the panic over nothing. The USPS will not make any significant changes until after the election.

  13. Jules says:

    Andrew Lynch, wrong, the USPS has already made changes – decommissioning sorters and getting rid of overtime.

  14. Manny says:

    Jason the only tin foil hat belongs on your head. Trump made the mess, until he admitted that he wanted to stop mail in voting, the concerns were not there by most people or the media. No one said it is a right wing conspiracy expect people like you that want to destroy this country because you hate Democracy. You don’t vote or so you have claimed so you don’t believe in democracy.

    Why don’t you move, although I doubt that any country that is not a developing country would take you.

    As to the money for the post office, that is what the post office had asked for. I don’t expect the post office to be a money maker if I did I would expect all the other federal offices to also be money makers. How much money does the military bring in?

    Do you need help finding a QAnon site to post?

    The Republican Party has became a party of racists and bigots, I am sure that there are exceptions but they are exceptions.

  15. Manny says:

    Andrew why do you expect the post office to make money? It provides a service just like the military.

    The question is why hasn’t the post office been properly funded.

    Who is panicking? I will tell you who, Trump and all his racists/bigot followers they see a big loss coming and they are running around making all kind of crazy allegations about those that care for this country.

  16. mollusk says:

    @ Logo (or whoever you are – your style looks familar…) As an actual practicing lawyer I can tell you that there are still times when we must use the mail to satisfy statutory requirements, and when we do we generally must send that mail within a specified time frame or lose the rights we are trying to preserve. I had just such an occasion last Friday, as I often do approaching the 15th of the month. That’s a much bigger PITA than it used to be, since late mail pickups have been cut back drastically – there is apparently no longer a 24 hour facility available to the public even at IAH, much less the ability we used to have to come swanning up to the downtown post office at 11:55 pm. There are also occasions when the USPS is the best, quickest way to get some physical thing from one place to another – particularly if the recipient is in a remote place.

  17. voter_worker says:

    Just read a report in The Independent that the USPS has recently filed a patent related to blockchain management of election-related mail.

  18. […] tweeted about this as well. Given the great uncertainties caused by the ongoing sabotage of the postal service, it makes all kinds of sense to allow ballots […]