Postal Service delays changes. Michigan, other states sue over slowdown

An internal review of the Postal Service found that postal districts in Michigan failed to meet delivery goal times from April 1 through June 30. The Detroit postal district had the second-worst on-time scores in the country. Delivery times in the state’s other district, covering northern and west Michigan, were also slower than many other states during that period. (Shutterstock)

Michigan is joining 12 other states in a lawsuit challenging recent policy changes at the U.S. Postal Service that have contributed to delayed mail times, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday. 

The lawsuit, led by Washington state, argues that policies implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Trump and GOP donor, “are both procedurally and substantively unlawful and threaten the timely delivery of mail,” according to a statement from Nessel’s office.

The states seek to reverse operational changes and halt new rules until the Postal Regulatory Commission issues an advisory opinion on the policies.

“We filed this lawsuit on behalf of the people of this state to ensure [people and businesses] can continue to depend on a system that is an integral part of our daily lives, our economic well-being and our democratic process,” Nessel said in the statement. 

The suit came from states led by Democratic attorneys general, as did a similar but separate suit over the policies by another group of Democratic states filed in Pennsylvania. 

The announcement came hours after Postal Service leaders said they would not implement further policy changes until after the November general election amid concerns about mail-in voting.

Trump, a Republican, has criticized the Postal Service as inefficient and expensive. Since DeJoy took charge in mid-June, he’s implemented several changes to reduce costs, including requiring letter carriers to leave mail at sorting facilities if it is not ready by a certain time and cutting back on or eliminating overtime. 

An internal review of the Postal Service found that postal districts in Michigan failed to meet delivery goal times from April 1 through June 30, even before the operational changes. The Detroit postal district had the second-worst on-time scores in the country. Delivery times in the state’s other district, covering northern and west Michigan, were also slower than many other states during that period.

Several machines have also been removed from Postal Service facilities in Michigan in recent weeks. 

In a Tuesday call with reporters, Roscoe Woods, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 480 and 481, said two delivery barcode sorters were removed last week, two more were removed this week, and two flat sorting machines were set to be removed this week at the Pontiac Michigan Metroplex facility. 

That, along with the reported removal of machines from Grand Rapids and Detroit, has reportedly slowed the sorting of 270,000 pieces of mail per hour in Michigan.

Some of the changes made under DeJoy have coincided with complaints about sluggish service, including absentee ballots delays mailed in the Aug. 4 primary. A record 1.6 million Michiganders voted by mail in the primary, and more than 6,400 weren’t counted because they reached clerks after Election Day. 

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement Tuesday. 

He vowed post office hours won’t change, processing equipment and collection boxes will remain in place, processing facilities will stay open and overtime will be approved as needed. The Postal Service will also “engage standby resources” beginning in October in all operations “to satisfy unforeseen demand.”

However, it’s unclear whether the machines that have been removed and the delivery policies that have been changed will be reversed. 

A Postal Service spokesperson declined to clarify when asked by Bridge on Tuesday afternoon. 

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, said during a press event Tuesday that it seems those policies won’t be reversed and legislative action is still necessary to restore service levels. He said he plans to support legislation that would retain pre-existing policies through the end of the year. 

Democrats in Congress are seeking $3.5 billion in funding for the Postal Service as a part of a COVID-19 relief package and added an additional $25 billion in funding for the agency to a standalone bill on Monday.

Democrats have accused the Trump administration of intentionally slowing mail to gain an edge in the November election. Trump has been a critic of mail-in voting, claiming it would increase election fraud. 

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middle of the mit
Wed, 08/19/2020 - 1:47am

This is an all out assault on our way of life. To go after the will of the people of the United States Of America.

“In Alaska and several other states, absentee ballots must be signed by a witness who can verify that a ballot was legitimately filled out by a particular voter. Without a signature, the ballot will not be counted.”
Think about that for a minute.....You need to have your signature.........for your ballot...verified by someone elses signature......who knows you.....for your ballot to be accepted.

How do the people who run the elections know that person, or anything else?And what are they going on? Their signature? Why wasn't the original voters signature enough? Talk about red tape and redundancy.

The other problem is what it is doing to business. Especially with the pandemic. The Post Office is in a important part of everybody's lives especially in rural areas. A lot of them have already dealt with reduced hours. Now there is reduced mail. How do people get their monthly bills? Do we just ask Fed Ex and UPS to stop by every person in Americas house everyday if they have some delivery? That isn't how this works! This is Constitutionally obligated duty of the Government. That is why private enterprise utilizes (uses) it for the purposes it does. It is duty bound to go places private enterprise would never go. If this is allowed to happen, You will see change. Will you be ready for it?

This is something that the American People should wholeheartedly reject in every way possible.

Remember in November.

Jake K
Thu, 08/20/2020 - 10:50am

Middle...if a state or community of any size is concerned about the validity of THEIR voting process, they should be able to establish a protocol which ensures an untainted process without asking you or me for permission. Regarding the signature deeper into the reasons - if someone other than the voter is delivering the ballot, there are safeguards in place to make sure the ballot was handled properly and that no one was coerced or otherwise influenced in the voting process or submission of the ballot.

Matt G
Wed, 08/19/2020 - 9:37am

“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement Tuesday.

Ah yes....after creating a literal impact on Michigan elections and threatening further impacts, the postmaster general now says he wants to avoid the appearance of an impact on elections.

Don't worry about the fact that we removed sorting machines and plan to remove more. Don't worry about the fact that we got rid of overtime while our workers are experiencing Christmas-level volumes of packages during the pandemic. We're totally not trying to slow the postal service down to make it seem like it's a terrible service so we can convince people of the need to privatize it for profit. It's fine, please ignore.

But it's just a media narrative, right?

Follow the money
Fri, 08/21/2020 - 4:00pm

Let's not forget that major Trump donor DeJoy is in the business of selling sorting machines..... There's a reason sooner or later all Trump sycophants end up in jail, Steve Bannon the latest to go in that direction. Oh but Trump doesn't recall knowing Bannon. LOL

As of seven minutes ago: USPS chief Louis DeJoy says he won't restore mail-sorting machines ahead of election

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 9:41am

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to tell people that the mailing deadline is 2 weeks before the election, like they do for the Christmas packages? Or if one is really paranoid about the mail, drop it off at the township hall or other government sponsored drop box. But no, we have to waste time and money on another lawsuit. I always get my absentee ballot about a month ahead of time. I’m sure 99% already know who they will vote for, so this whole thing should be a non-issue.

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 10:45am

This is the government we're stuck with because the Republican Party is more loyal to a Russian dictator and his tody than the American pubic. In a real world these Republican fascists would already be rotting in prison, and our country would be on the way to recovery.

James F Bish
Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:03am

Mail delivery/pickup is down to two days per week in NW Detroit. Our last delivery was last Friday. It is now 11 a.m. Wed.

A Yooper
Wed, 08/19/2020 - 11:40am

I always hesitate to say “What next” when it comes to this Administration. And, I am using the term administration very lightly as there is little of it that actually helps citizens.
Hands off the USPS save for infusing more cash in this treasured service!

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 12:19pm

Wondering what happened to the hugely expensive sorting machines that have already been removed and wondering if any of the mailboxes have been locked shut. Hope I get my license plate renewal tags in a timely manner. Trump has no idea how his selfish pursuits to fix the election affect the rest of us.

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 10:55am

Mine came back in about 4 days after I used the internet to renew the tags. Might be a little longer if your insurance company doesn't do the verify thing with Michigan, but all in all, the SOS office is pretty efficient with all the changes they have put in place in the last decade.

As for Trump, I'd rather have him leading stuff than somebody drooling all over himself in his basement. When will Joe ever answer a reporter's questions, or participate in a debate. Answer is he won't, because the VP will be P in record short time if he gets elected.

Sun, 08/23/2020 - 11:38am

Arjay, so what you are saying is that Gov. Whimer, Secretary of State Benson, and the USPS are doing a phenomenal job during the pandemic, despite Trump's overall failures and sabotage of the USPS.

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 3:06pm

This story does a good job of parroting deceitful Michigan Democratic talking points, but really does not provide much insight into exactly what is going on at USPS. The profitable USPS First Class mail volumes are dropping by about 4 billion pieces a year, so USPS loses $ 1 billion or more a year - even with big price increases. Employment costs are rising relentlessly while revenues are falling off a cliff. This has been going on since 2006, the last year USPS ostensibly made a profit.

First Class mail volume has dropped from 96 billion pieces across the entire USA in 2007 to 55 billion pieces in 2009. It peaked at 104 billion pieces in 2001. Population in the Detroit area has been stagnant over that period, so the SE Michigan volume drop was far greater than the nation as a whole. Why should USPS keep a bunch of fabulously expensive automated sorters idling in Michigan when they can be doing far more work elsewhere?

Other areas of the country will be using USPS to sort their ballots as well. How much money are we willing to throw away on idle sorting machines and personnel just to meet the demands of a quadrennial surge in Detroit?

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 5:37am

Who's going to pay for destroying the mail sorting machines?

Jake K.
Thu, 08/20/2020 - 10:22am

Complainers...get ready to pony-up additional $$ to get the USPS to the level you desire. You complain about the cost and time to have mail handled and delivered, but are you going to step forward to pay even more? Trump is the President now. Were you complaining during Obama's admin?
DeJoy is trying to manage an albatross of an agency. Give him time. Your complaints about the election are hilarious. April 15 is a date on most peoples' calendar. I don't hear a big uproar about having to have your tax return in the mail on plan for it. Get your absentee ballot, complete it and mail it. Start complaining about something else.

Jake K
Thu, 08/20/2020 - 10:52am

Another politically-motivated law suit. I only wish they would spend as much time trying to fix our state.