On the day Post Master General Louis DeJoy had a Senate hearing about his controversial policies in the USPS, Sen. Ron Wyden brought his statewide Post Office tour to downtown Eugene.
Joined by Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Peter DeFazio and statewide elected officials and community members, the event stressed the importance of restoring the U.S. Postal Service to protect Americans who rely on prescriptions for their health and vote-by-mail for their civic duty.
After the event, Wyden says if Democrats take over Congress and the White House, they would work to curb ongoing attempts to privatize public services.
“There is no ‘masking’ the message from Oregon: We know Donald Trump wants to squash vote by mail because he’s afraid of democracy,” Wyden said at the event. “And we won’t let him.”
Wyden criticized DeJoy and his statements to the Senate. DeJoy told the Senate that he is not trying to affect how people vote in the election, according to a roundup of the hearing by The Washington Post.
“The facts behind those words are simple: Donald Trump has proved he is not going to stop scheming to advance his personal private interest by plotting to weaken the Postal Service,” Wyden said.
Wearing a USPS facemask, DeFazio referred to DeJoy as the “so-called” Post Master General and that DeJoy is lying about the health of the agency and is making the office slow down.
Although a Bush administration era Republican-controlled Congress passed a bill that requires the USPS to create a $72 billion fund to pay for the cost of its post-retirement health care costs, the Post Office has made money or broke even in the last five years before COVID-19, DeFazio said.
“It’s a bunch of BS that they’re inefficient and losing money,” he said.
DeFazio added that he had bipartisan support for a bill that would have revised the Bush administration mandate, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has ignored it.
He said that the Postal Service installed the sorting machine as a way to avoid labor costs, but DeJoy has removed those machines without replacing it by hiring more employees. As a result, the mail is piling up, he added.
Some Post Offices have had instances where animals — particularly baby chicks — shipped through the mail have died during sorting, according to a report by the New York Times, but the health of some Americans are in jeopardy, too. DeFazio read letters sent to him about how late mail has impacted their prescriptions.
One letter writer provides home care to a veteran, whose prescriptions are sent from the Roseburg VA. The home care worker said they had to ration the veteran’s most important medication from two pills to one pill a day.
“They are going to kill people,” DeFazio said in reaction to reading the letter.
According to the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Postal Service handles 1.2 billion prescription drug shipments a year.
The press conference also included remarks from state Sen. James Manning, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Val Hoyle, Eugene/Springfield NAACP Executive Director Eric Richardson, community member Isis Barone, a local union rep of the American Postal Workers Union, a pediatrician and former postmaster.
After the press conference, Wyden tells EW that the Postal Service’s statement about removing 27 mailboxes in Eugene due to COVID was “bogus.” He says Trump was very specific with his words when he told Fox Business that he would fight money going to the USPS the day the Postal Service took away mailboxes.
“I never thought I would see the day when a president of the United States would be so brazen as to hollow out a public service defined by the Founding Fathers, Article I of the Constitution) in order to benefit his private interests,” Wyden adds.
Wyden says if Democrats get the so-called “Blue Wave” that puts the party in charge of Congress and the White House, lawmakers would work to undo decades of privatization by both parties. If Democrats took the Senate, Wyden would become the Finance Committee chairman.
He says if that happens, he’ll work to fight off privatization — whether it’s coming for Social Security, Bonneville Dam or the USPS.
And that’s something all Democrats believe in right now, he says.
“I don’t know of any Democrat who’d be for the privatization of Medicare or social security,” he says. “Or the Post Office.”