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Priority Mail: What's Happening To The USPS & Why We Should All Give A Shit

Photo of postal truck engulfed in flames

image source: postaltimes.com

Much like a lot of the Western U.S., the United States Postal Service is burning right before our eyes. As we struggle to see through the dense smoke we are stuck wondering how we got here. The oft overlooked entity has become somewhat of a dirty word these days but, honestly, it’s not their fault. They are a victim of consequence. A victim of politics. A victim of suppression. And while we’ve been taking to the streets to call for the defunding of racist police departments across the nation, our elected officials have been pouring their efforts into defunding the USPS instead. They threw a still-lit cigarette butt on the stack of gasoline soaked birthday cards, 50% off Roombas and "Summer Clearance Sale" plunders that will never reach our doorsteps. In this post we’ll be covering some of the recent events that have plagued the USPS, what that means for us and what we can do to save the floundering organization that we love to hate but inherently depend upon.

The conditions were perfect: the right amount of fuel, the stifling heat of summer and a man hell bent on committing arson.

Fire Danger Level: Low
Let’s go back to April. The COVID-19 virus was beginning to wreak havoc in the U.S., most of us were forced to begrudgingly shut ourselves indoors and the USPS was the last thing on our mind. They were quietly delivering all the “essential” things we were rapidly ordering from online retailers but as far as we were concerned they were there, merely existing in the same manner they always had been. The only press they were getting came during another left field rant from president Trump who couldn't seem to resist mentioning them while reluctantly signing a COVID-19 relief package. After his temper tantrum about their need to raise their rates in order to secure any financial aid from Congress was over, we were all saying “hey, leave the Postal Service alone, they never hurt anybody.” But Trump had a plan. And this plan was put quietly into action long ago. Moves like the appointment of Robert M. Duncan, an expert in the field of voter suppression, in 2018 went largely unnoticed. But Duncan was a shiny new instrument that would be essential in the cacophony that we’re hearing now.

Fire Danger Level: Moderate 
Then May came around. Trump campaign megadonor Louis Dejoy was selected as Postmaster General. A: Conflict of interest. B: Trump lackey. C: Threat to mail in voting. D: All of the above. Upon stepping into his post in June, just as many expected him to, he continued to chip away at the crumbling infrastructure of the USPS. Dejoy began cutting costs and restricting overtime which made it impossible to hit deadlines and to handle the volume of mail that needed to be processed.

Fire Danger Level: High
As June moved into July businesses really began to feel the impact. Retail giants and Mom & Pop’s alike began to suffer major delays in expected shipping times and would see many packages go missing altogether as the USPS could not afford to staff enough people to keep up with the demand. The affordable shipping service that so many relied on began to let everyone down. So what about the “raise your rates,” Trumpian solution? For a small business like grey jays, the USPS is instrumental in allowing us to keep our shipping costs low for our loyal customer base. Increases in rates, especially the 4 time rate increase suggested by Trump, could have massive consequences on our ability to run our business. Conversely large online retailers that were met with USPS rate hikes would simply switch to another carrier rather than pay increased rates. Either way, the end result would be less money in the pocket of the Postal Service which relies entirely on customer fees to function. 

Fire Danger Level: Very High
Then August 13th rolls around. During an interview on his favorite news network Trump stated that he opposes funding the USPS because he doesn't want it to aid mail in voting. The speculation was over. We now knew exactly what Trump had planned and it came right from his sullen mouth. When the president states that he is deliberately trying to ensure the collapse of the USPS because he wants it to have a direct impact on mail-in voting it’s hard to take this any other way than precisely what it is: suppression of an election system which he stands to benefit from. Impeachable offense number 435.

Fire Danger Level: Extreme 
And that brings us to today. The House passed a $25 billion bill for emergency funding to the USPS but it’s unlikely that it will reach Trump’s desk. Dejoy has said that he is suspending any changes to the USPS through the election but internal USPS emails are instructing managers to not reconnect unused sorting machines that are vital to handling the increased volume that the election will undoubtedly bring. Delays on shipments continue and the risk of voter suppression is extreme. If this isn’t on everyone’s radar now, it absolutely should be or we just might be left with a pile of ash formerly known as the United States Postal Service.

What’s happening to the USPS matters. And what it could cost us is as relative as their rates.

First Class Mail: $
If rates go up we could be paying more for shipping on everything we purchase online and everything we ship. The “Free returns” policy you’re used to from online retailers might just up and vanish. Small businesses, such as ours, might be forced to re-evaluate flat rate shipping charges.

Priority Mail: $$
If processing & handling delays continue that could mean that the delivery times and the notorious reliability we’re all used to from USPS could be increasingly impacted. That might not mean much when it comes to a pair of earrings but for those dependent on vital medications that come via mail, such as the 330,000 veterans mentioned in a recent VoteVets ad, the consequences could be dire.

Priority Mail Express: $$$
This could have a substantial impact on November’s election. If the USPS cannot handle the increased volume that could mean that thousands of ballots could go uncounted if they are not received in time. And make no mistake that Trump knows this and is burning the midnight oil trying to ensure that mail-in voting, which in the recent Michigan primary was utilized at a much higher percentage by Democrats, is impacted. Keep in mind that Michigan is a key swing state for the upcoming presidential election. The institution of Duncan and Dejoy are also key to hindering mail-in voting. It doesn’t matter what the Biden favoring polls are saying right now, if the Trump camp can find a way to make sure that votes don’t get counted, he will easily walk back into the Oval Office for the next four years.

 

So What Can We Do?

Here are three things we can do right now to help the USPS:

  • Buy stamps. Send a friend a care package. Make sure to select USPS as your shipping option on your next online order. Support small businesses that utilize the USPS, such as ours. Every dollar helps to fund an entity that relies 100% on customers fees.

  • Sign these petitions: change.org, actionnetwork.org, moveon.org, common cause AND send letters to your senators or call them

  • Sign up to vote early. This will help to ensure that the USPS is not overwhelmed come election time.

The USPS is fighting for their very survival. If they can’t keep their heads above water all our shipping needs will be in the hands of large corporations that have the freedom to hike their rates whenever and to wherever they see fit. If they don’t survive the doors to voter suppression have been propped open. If they don’t survive we’ll be fondly remembering the hour long line at the post office while we’re stuck in an eternity without them.

 

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