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Pittsburgh Postal Workers President Urges Americans To 'Not Lose Faith' In Mail System

Lucy Perkins
90.5 WESA

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that he would suspend operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that many feared would impact the general election. But a Pittsburgh representative for postal workers said employees worry that the politicized debate over voting by mail and funding for the postal service may have already impacted the public’s view of the institution.
“Don’t lose faith, don’t lose trust,” reassured Chuck Pugar, president of the Pittsburgh Metro Area Postal Workers Union. “If it’s up to the postal employees, that mail is going to be processed and delivered on time, like usual, through thick and thin.”

Pugar represents more than 2,000 postal service employees in Pittsburgh.

“Their primary concern is to maintain the trust in the American public and the customer service that the American people have come to enjoy and appreciate,” Pugar said. “That trust and that relationship is very valuable to postal employees and they don’t want to see that diminished. Everybody considers this a very treasured public service and they don’t want to jeopardize that.”

Much of the public outcry stems from reports of cuts to the postal service, which will be heavily relied on this fall as millions plan to cast their ballots in the general election by mail — from hours being cut at post offices, to blue collection mailboxes and processing equipment being removed from facilities. On Tuesday, Dejoy said in a statement that that equipment would remain in place to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” It’s unclear if mailboxes that have already been removed will be returned.  

Pugar said there are five local mail processing machines that have been idled — out of several dozen — but he said that may be unrelated to cuts ordered by the Trump administration. Pugar said it could be because letter mail has been down, while the number of people sending parcels and packages has increased during the pandemic. He said he has not seen any evidence that mail drop boxes have been pulled from Pittsburgh streets, as has been seen elsewhere in the U.S.

“If you’re looking to help us, call your congressmen and vote,” Pugar said. “There’s no shortage for conversation during this political campaign about how the candidates feel about the postal service. So if you’re looking to save it, listen to the candidate who says they’re going to save it. If you’re looking to not save it, you’ll find that too.”

Roughly 207,000 Allegheny County residents voted by mail in the June primary, which Pugar said went off “without a hiccup.” But he said funding needs to be extended so that they can do that again in November.

“Just make sure the postal service has enough money to operate so they don’t start shutting down [mail processing] machines and shuttering doors,” he said.

Federal backing for the long underfunded mail system is up to lawmakers in Washington, who remain divided. President Trump said last week that he opposed Democrats’ proposed funding boosts for the postal service ahead of the election.

“[Democrats] want $3 1/2 billion for something that'll turn out to be fraudulent — that's election money basically," Trump said. “They want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren't getting there. But if they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it."

Trump later softened his stance, saying he wouldn’t veto legislation that would provide relief for the postal service.

Pugar acknowledged that the postal service has been underfunded for years, but the lack of funding and President Trump’s reluctance to support it takes things to a new level.

“President Trump has called the postal service a joke, wrought with fraud,” Pugar said. “He’s not going to do anything to help [the postal service] along its way. So you get the postal service running out of money, while you have some people telling the public that the postal service is never going to get your mail-in ballot on time and you’re not going to get any help to alleviate that. So that's what makes 2020 a little different.”