Leaked email: US Postal Service instructs workers “not to reconnect” sorting machines

USPS tells maintenance managers to ignore any other "direction they are getting from their plant manager"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published August 21, 2020 1:17PM (EDT)

An election worker handles vote-by-mail ballots coming out of a sorting machine  (JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
An election worker handles vote-by-mail ballots coming out of a sorting machine (JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) official warned maintenance managers not to reconnect any mail sorting machines and to disregard any orders to do so from their superiors, according to an internal email obtained by CNN.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a top donor to President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, announced this week that the USPS would suspend operational changes which have led to a mail slowdown until after the election "to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail."

But hours after DeJoy's announcement, postal workers were warned not to reconnect any mail sorting machines which had been disconnected in recent weeks.

"Please message out to your respective Maintenance Managers tonight," Kevin Couch, a director of maintenance operations, said in an internal email. "They are not to reconnect/reinstall machines that have been previously disconnected without approval from HQ Maintenance, no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager."

DeJoy, who has said the changes were aimed at cutting costs at the cash-strapped agency, testified Friday before the Senate that there are no plans to reconnect any of the machines.

"They're not needed," he claimed. 

Kimberly Karol, a postal clerk who serves as the president of the Iowa Postal Workers Union, told Salon that the machines are important because "they are the workhorse for processing letter mail."

"That's a lot of mail," she told Salon. "Without these machines, we're not able to get that mail sorted efficiently and reliably."

Except for two facilities in Texas and Washington, most USPS facilities have not attempted to reconnect machines, according to CNN. Yared Wonde, the president of the Dallas Postal Workers Union, told the outlet that the machines made up the "bulk of mail sorting operation," but they could not be put back into service because they were missing pieces.

Karol told Salon that some machines had been "left out in the open, where the weather is going to impact the ability of the machine to be able to continue to operate."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that the decision not to roll back any of the changes already implemented at the USPS makes DeJoy's announcement "misleading."

"The postmaster general's alleged pause is wholly insufficient and does not reverse damage already wreaked," she said in a statement after meeting with DeJoy this week. "All of these changes directly jeopardize the election and disproportionately threaten to disenfranchise voters in communities of color. At the same time, we are highly concerned that the slowdown of the delivery of medicines to veterans is not being sufficiently addressed."

While DeJoy's announcement paused some changes through the election, he plans "far more sweeping changes" to the agency after November than previously reported, according to The Washington Post.

DeJoy, who has no experience at the USPS, plans moves which could further slow mail delivery and increase prices on certain mail services, according to the report. It remains unclear how much of these plans he can enact unilaterally, since such changes require the review of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

"They go directly to the heart of what Democrats have been saying this postmaster general wants to do to the Postal Service," a source familiar with the plan told the outlet. "This is going to get very hot very fast."

Democratic attorneys general, who have already filed a 20-state lawsuit seeking to block changes made under DeJoy, vowed to fight any further changes, as well.

"This administration has a nasty habit of saying one thing in public and doing the complete opposite behind closed doors," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said. "I'm going to fight these changes every step of the way and make sure they never go into effect."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

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Donald Trump Furthering Louis Dejoy Nancy Pelosi Politics Republicans Usps