Speed Reads

Save the Mail

Dead chicks, newly dismantled mail sorting machines fuel distrust in DeJoy's USPS overhaul freeze

New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will get to explain the controversial changes he has made at the U.S. Postal Service before the Senate on Friday and the House on Saturday, but so far his promise Tuesday to suspend the changes is being met with skepticism. For one thing, his suspension is temporary, and it evidently does not involve replacing decommissioned mail sorting machines or blue postal drop boxes, or restoring overtime pay so the diminished postal workforce can deliver the mail in a timely fashion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, for example, WOOD-TV 8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, reported that three mail sorting machines had been dismantled in the central post office on Tuesday and Wednesday, though work taking apart the third machine was halted — but not reversed — after DeJoy's order came through.

"The machine, there's no electrical to it anymore, it's just sitting there," Amy Puhalski, president of American Postal Workers Union Local 281 in western Michigan, told The Holland Sentinel. "But they're not continuing on with pulling apart the actual piece of equipment." The dismantled machines will slow mail processing and delivery, she said. WOOD-TV also found several scrapped package sorting machines at another Grand Rapids facility.

Some companies that track USPS metrics or send bulk mail say the slowdowns in delivery haven't been that severe this summer, despite many anecdotes of late-arriving medicines, bills, and packages. But The Portland Press Herald in Maine highlighted one gruesome example of mail fail, reporting that in a shipment of live chicks delivered to Pauline Henderson's poultry farm last week, all 800 chicks were dead. "We've never had a problem like this before," Henderson said. "Usually they arrive every three weeks like clockwork. ... And out of 100 birds you may have one or two that die in shipping."

Henderson isn't alone. At least 4,800 chicks mailed to Maine farmers through the USPS had arrived dead in recent weeks, since DeJoy instituted his cost-cutting measures, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said in a letter to the postmaster general and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

Newly hatched chicks can live without food or water for up to two days, and the USPS has been shipping them to farmers since 1918, the Postal Service says. "It's one more of the consequences of this disorganization, this sort of chaos they've created at the post office and nobody thought through when they were thinking of slowing down the mail," Pingree said.