Booker: The U.S. postal service needs more money. Our democracy depends on it. | Opinion

Posted Sep 06, 2020

By Cory Booker

Sen. Cory Booker says mail delivery delays isn’t a minor inconvenience. People with chronic health conditions are forced to miss doses of medicine; small businesses aren’t able to get products to their customers on time and absentee ballots have arrived after the election or not at all. 

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Postal Service employees here in New Jersey and across the country have continued their vital work, often at great risk to themselves and their families.

I’ve had the privilege to speak with and hear from New Jersey’s postal workers during this crisis, some of whom have lost their colleagues to COVID-19. It is clear to me that while I, and so many others, see the work of our postal workers, and all of our essential workers, as heroic, they see it as their civic duty, a sacred responsibility for which they are willing to risk their health and safety.

But there’s a parallel crisis happening within the USPS: despite allocating billions of dollars to provide a financial lifeline to big corporations during this crisis, Republicans in Washington have refused to provide adequate resources to support the U.S. Postal Service from the financial losses incurred by COVID-19.

Since July, the Trump Administration and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s actions in the name of cost-cutting have actually made the postal service less efficient-- delaying the mail for millions of Americans. They have reduced overtime for postal workers, decommissioned countless sorting machines and made it harder for postal employees to sort mail and forced postal workers to leave unsorted mail behind at distribution centers.

New Jerseyans and Americans across the country aren’t getting their mail on time, and the result isn’t some minor inconvenience: veterans, seniors, people with chronic health conditions and others who rely on the mail to get their prescriptions are being forced to miss doses of medicine because of delays; small businesses aren’t able to get products to their customers on time and for some who requested absentee ballots for elections, the ballots have arrived after the election was already over or not at all.

A constituent in Jersey City contacted my office to tell us that the mail delays meant that he did not receive his mail-in ballot in time for the July 7th primary elections and because he has a disability and could not go to his local polling station, was unable to exercise his vote at all.

Another constituent, who has served his New Jersey community for decades as a postal worker wrote to my office: ”last week for the first time in my career, with exception of weather issues, I, along with my fellow letter carriers were told to bring back mail, rather than deliver it, in order to prevent overtime. The result is large amounts of undelivered mail and failure to serve the public, as they have come to expect from us.”

This is unacceptable. Our postal workers and the communities they serve deserve better.

The U.S. Postal Service is an indispensable public institution that employs 650,000 Americans, including 100,000 veterans, and is the only shipping provider that serves every single household in the United States. It is not a “joke,” as the president has jeered and it is not meant to be run like a privately-owned enterprise whose singular goal is to turn a profit. The USPS is meant to be run as if America depends on its function -- because it does.

This November, when millions of Americans will be relying on the mail to ensure their voices are heard at the ballot box, a functioning U.S. Postal Service will be necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our democracy and safeguard the health of millions of vulnerable Americans. No one in the United States of America should have to choose between their health and their sacred right to vote.

For months, I have been sounding the alarm alongside my Democratic colleagues in the Senate and the House about taking steps to protect and preserve our postal service. My office has written to appropriators calling for increased USPS funding, and we have led a resolution supported by the entire Senate Democratic caucus declaring support for the USPS. Recent public pressure from New Jerseyans and Americans speaking out against Commissioner DeJoy’s proposed changes has bought some time, but more needs to be done.

There is no shortage of crises that New Jerseyans and people across our country are facing, and when the Senate finally returns to Washington next week, we must act to pass sweeping relief to help people in their time of need, get our economy back on track, and get this virus under control.

Among the things we must do is adequately fund the U.S. Postal Service, and right the wrongs happening there before it’s too late. Failure is not an option. Our postal workers have not let anything-- snow, sleet, rain, or a pandemic -- stop them from doing their jobs. It’s time for Republicans leaders in Washington to do theirs.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has served in the Senate since 2013. He is also the former mayor of Newark.

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