Protesters to GOP: Hands off our postal service

There was a defiant show of support for the U.S. Postal Service in La Crosse on Saturday against attacks on the most popular federal agency in the nation.

Protesters gathered outside the downtown post office to decry cutbacks that have been implemented by U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. A major donor to President Trump, DeJoy also has made millions from a logistics company that does business with the postal service.

DeJoy was appointed in May, with the support of President Trump, as the postal service was reeling from a decline in mail volumes due to the pandemic. He instituted cost-cutting measures, including reducing overtime and transportation costs. The changes led to delays in mail delivery and fueled concerns about whether mail-in ballots would arrive on time to be counted in the fall elections. DeJoy’s appointment also has added to anxiety over the long-term future of the postal service, which is one of the nation’s most important employers.

Josefine Jaynes, a Readstown Democrat running for state assembly in the 96th District, spoke at Saturday’s demonstration in downtown La Crosse. She noted that around 70-80% of people in her district are served by rural postal carriers. Serving the rural reaches of districts like her’s would likely be too expensive for a privatized postal service, she added.

“Our rural postal carriers do more than just deliver the mail,” Jaynes said. “I remember summers spent on my grandma’s farm, up on a hill. My cousins and I would race down to meet the mailman, it was a race to see who could get there first, but if the mailman turned up the driveway to get to the house, we knew that meant one of two things: either a cow was out and a fence was down, or we got a package.”

Rural mail carriers also serve as a first line of defense for the elderly and those living alone. Jaynes said rural carriers are often the first to call first responders if they notice something is off at one of the houses on their route.

Jaynes, who is hoping to unseat state Rep. Loren Oldenburg, R-Viroqua, in the November elections, said it was disappointing that the postal service was even a subject of debate in a crucial election year when there are many other pressing concerns for rural voters.

“We need housing, and affordable daycare, and help with flooding and broadband,” she said. “When I decided to run for this seat, I never dreamed that our rural postal service would be under attack.”

Saturday’s protest took place at the same time as lawmakers were gathered in the U.S. House, breaking from their summer recess to vote on a bill that would provide $25 billion in relief funding for the postal service. The funding would be exceptional if approved, as the postal service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, instead relying on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. The measure was expected to pass with overwhelming Democratic support but is unlikely to be taken up in the U.S. Senate due to Republican opposition.

State Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, speaks to reporters at Saturday’s event in support of the USPS.

DeJoy did move earlier this week to allay fears about the election, saying some planned changes would now be delayed until after the November elections and that delivery of mail-in ballots would be prioritized. However, speaking at the La Crosse demonstration, Maureen Kinney of the League of Women Voters (LWV) said DeJoy’s statement was not enough.

“Many voters were left wondering whether their mailed ballot would arrive in time to be counted,” said Kinney, reading a statement from the LWV. “The resultant threat on voter confidence still lingers, making the reversal of these changes too little and too late.”

Several dozen protestors gathered outside the post office in La Crosse during Saturday’s protest, holding signs supporting the postal service and some criticizing President Trump, who has been a constant critic of the USPS and has attempted to spread misinformation about the security of mail-in voting.

State Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, also spoke at Saturday’s event, calling on Republicans in the U.S. Senate to act on previously passed legislation in the House to provide relief funding to the postal service. She added that it was vital that no one be dissuaded from voting in the fall.

The La Crosse protest was part of a national day of action to support the USPS and was organized locally by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and Coulee Progressives.

By Eric Timmons. Email questions to lacrosseindependent@gmail.com.

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