Published by EXPRESSNEWS.COM
Summary generated on August 20, 2020
The postmaster general ordered the removal of six mail sorting machines in San Antonio, two more than previously known to postal union leaders, who say cuts to the U.S. Postal Service are causing long delays in mail delivery.
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, confirmed the removal of the machines Wednesday after touring the main San Antonio post office and speaking with Dennis Stasa, senior plant manager for the Postal Service's Rio Grande District.
"They were told by Washington to remove those six machines," Castro said outside the post office, on Perrin Beitel.
When asked whether the processing hub showed signs of disarray, such as backed-up mail, Castro said it was not a busy time of day and the operation "Looked orderly." But Carlos Barrios, clerk craft director at the plant, later said mail handlers were directed to remove large piles of mail before Castro's visit in an effort to deceive the congressman.
"This mail has been sitting there for weeks and weeks out," Barrios said.
"So rather than show Castro when he comes in and he sees the cluster there, it's best to not even have it there. So they moved it and they transported the majority of that to the north dock, where they were put on a trailer so they can be sent to Austin."
Castro demanded an explanation after learning of the alleged deception.
"If this conduct is true, it's outrageous that USPS management would attempt to deceive the people of San Antonio about the condition of postal operations," the congressman said in a statement.
"I expect an explanation from USPS leadership and an immediate reversal of these delays: Deliver the people's mail now."
Asked to respond to Barrios' allegation, Stasa referred a reporter to an unrelated statement made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday saying he has suspended cutbacks until after the November election.
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales requested a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on whether a district attorney may prosecute a federal official who knowingly violates the Texas Election Code by preventing Texas voters - particularly those age 65 or older - from voting by mail.
San Antonians have found that the Postal Service has grown sluggish in recent weeks, delaying deliveries of medicine, bills and other parcels.
The reason, according to the leaders of postal unions, is recent rules put in place by DeJoy, a Republican mega-donor and supporter of President Donald Trump.
The changes, including the elimination of employee overtime, hit the Postal Service ahead of an election in which an unprecedented number of Americans are expected to vote by mail.
Congressional Democrats have pushed to aid the financially strapped Postal Service, but Trump has said he hopes to starve the agency of funds to prevent universal mail-in voting, claiming without evidence that such voting would lead to a fraudulent election.
DeJoy, who took office in June, said he would suspend the cutbacks, including moving machinery, until after the election to "Avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."
Castro said it was unclear whether a suspension would mean a reversal of actions already taken by the new postmaster general, who is scheduled to testify before the House on Monday.
"We're certainly going to ask about on Monday," Castro said.
Two of the six machines removed from the processing plant on Perrin Beitel were scheduled to be moved to Austin, postal union officials said, despite promises from DeJoy that all cost-saving moves would stop until after the election.
The two machines sort tricky pieces of mail, such as those without forwarding addresses.
Relocating those two machines would mean taking an additional day to transfer such mail to Austin's facility to get it sorted there, causing deliveries to "Fall further behind," Barrios said.
On Castro's tour Wednesday, Stasa told the congressman that removing the machines "Was a way for them to continue doing their work, but also to remove at this point what seems to be unnecessary equipment, at least according to the higher-ups," Castro said.
"He did promise to me that he would push back if there was a problem or if he perceived a problem in carrying out their mission with any orders that were given. And I think that's quite honestly what the citizens of San Antonio would expect."
Betty Hernandez, a San Antonio spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said she didn't know whether the additional two machines still would be moved.
Union officials said the reduction would lead to more delays in delivery that San Antonians say have caused late bill payments and slowed the arrival of mail-order medicines.
The delays mean carriers can no longer promise a letter or medicine will be delivered the next day, they said.
"They're telling the carriers, 'If you can't finish your route in eight hours, bring your mail back,'" said Ruben Martinez, who retired in June after 38 years with the Postal Service.
"You can't process all the mail like you used to," he said.
"There's a lot of mail that would be processed, but it's just sitting there. You can't do it because you don't have the machines."
Martinez has even noticed his own mail getting delivered slower and slower since the pandemic started.