NEW HAVEN — The postal service is a matter of life and death, said postal worker Albert Alston.
Alston, who is also a paraprofessional in New Haven’s schools, works in the express mail division of a U.S. Postal Service distribution center in Wallingford.
“People also mail animals. We take in animals — crickets, snakes, bees — and if the mail is slowed down then those animals can sit for an extra day,” he said. “And if they sit there, those animals don’t always make it.”
Alston was one of several postal workers flanking U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong at a press event Thursday morning outside the Brewery Street post office.
DeLauro was present to announce her support for the Delivering for America Act, which will go before Congress for a vote Saturday. Tong joined a federal lawsuit with a multi-state coalition this week to demand that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy halt any actions to cut postal service resources.
Observers criticized cuts made by DeJoy as an attempt to interfere with the upcoming federal election in November, as the ongoing pandemic will make vote-by-mail a more attractive option to voters. President Donald Trump has spent months casting doubt on the validity of mailed-in ballots, suggesting they could be subject to fraud. Last week, he acknowledged his opposition to providing additional funding for the postal service would influence the service’s ability to handle millions of ballots.
Following the state lawsuits, including the one initiated by Tong for Connecticut, DeJoy said he would suspend several initiatives — such as the removal of processing machines and collection boxes — until after the federal election in November.
Joan Levy, president of the Greater Connecticut Area Local affiliate of the American Postal Workers Union AFL-CIO, said two high-speed sorting machines in Wallingford have been dismantled for two months, now sitting on the floor in pieces. In Hartford, four machines were dismantled and are “sitting like garbage in the parking lot.”
Vince Mase, head of National Letter Carriers Association Branch 19, contradicted Trump’s assertion about the potential for fraud. He said the USPS has two internal police agencies.
“If anybody tampers with the mail, those two agencies would be knocking on your door to figure out what’s going on,” he said.
The postal act, which DeLauro will support on Saturday, includes $25 billion in additional USPS funding, would treat any election-related mail as first-class mail and prohibits any changes to impede service. DeLauro said the bill is expected to pick up bipartisan support.
However, she said she will not take serious DeJoy’s promise to relent on his initiatives to dismantle sorting machines and remove collection boxes until it’s in writing.
“It’s not enough to just say it. I really do believe it’s a smokescreen,” she said.
DeLauro noted that the postal service also provides a service beyond elections, such as delivering medications to seniors and reaching people in rural areas.
She promised to support the USPS “through rain or shine, sleet or Donald Trump.”
Tong said removing funding from the USPS also jeopardizes small businesses that are not large enough to qualify for direct deposit, as his office had heard from local business owners in recent weeks.
“It’s not a good day when you have to sue the President of the United States,” he said, yet he promised accountability for the USPS.