Attacks on Postal Service are attack on democracy

Trump efforts to undermine voting should be affront to all

FOR OVER two and a half centuries, the United States Postal Service has, in one form or another, served an essential function: to facilitate the exchange of goods, services, and information—the lifeblood of a free society—even during times of war, disease, or economic upheaval. Generations of postal workers have ensured the continued existence of our democracy as we know it, delivering not only our notes and packages to loved ones, but essentials of our democracy, including town notices and voter ballots. Efficient, reliable, and trusted: The fundamental mission of the Postal Service has never wavered.

Until now. The Trump administration is threatening one of the nation’s oldest and most beloved public institutions. In just a few short months, senior officials, including recently appointed postmaster general and prominent Trump donor Louis DeJoy, have succeeded in degrading the Postal Service at an alarming rate, handing down sudden, sweeping edicts that have sown chaos among rank-and-file postal workers and created unnecessary delays across the nation. As a result, people have gone without prescribed medication, businesses have suffered, and fears about election integrity have grown.

After a massive outcry from workers and the public alike, DeJoy has announced that he will suspend any further changes to the Postal Service until after the election, “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” But if we know anything about the Trump administration, it’s that, even when caught, they will keep trying shameful, even illegal tactics until something sticks.

As leaders of a century-old civil rights organization and a major postal workers union, we have been sounding the alarm about attacks on voting rights and the Postal Service for years. Now, we’re sending up a red flare.

These fresh threats are not coincidental, and neither is their timing. President Trump has long sought to discredit the Postal Service—and mail-in voting in particular—despite being an avid mail-in voter himself, including as recently as last week. Most damning of all, Trump admitted, on national television, that he wants to defund the Postal Service as a way to prevent voters from having universal access to absentee ballots.

Any degradation of the Postal Service degrades our democracy, and Trump knows it. It is alarming, but not surprising, that Trump appears willing to destroy a pillar of our democracy in an attempt to secure a more favorable political outcome for himself; that, during a global pandemic, he would strip families, workers, retirees, and veterans of a safe way to vote. But Trump is also a useful tool for a larger, equally insidious agenda.

The Postal Service has for years faced threats of privatization from those who are ideologically opposed to its mission and would love nothing more than to see it fail. In fact, some lawmakers have repeatedly set out to create conditions that would bring about its failure.

Meanwhile, DeJoy, a businessman and Trump acolyte without prior postal experience—but with apparent conflicts of interest aplenty—is seemingly determined to prevent workers at USPS from doing their jobs. Not a single statute, official rule, or union contract has changed. Yet, without warning, workers have faced cuts in overtime, longstanding delivery practices have been scrapped, and high-capacity sorting machines have been whisked away by the dozens. Here in Boston, postal workers have been put in the absurd position of sending virtually empty mail trucks on out to meet strict deadlines, rather than wait for a short time in loading bays for sorting to conclude.

Although he has halted further changes, DeJoy has flatly refused to reverse his earlier directives and attempt to undo any of the damage already done. Congress must see that he does, and lawmakers must do everything in their power to make sure USPS remains strong. In the meantime, voters should request and return ballots as early as possible. Vote-by-mail remains safe and secure—as it has always been—but the ACLU is also actively working to protect everyone’s right to vote in person. The key is for voters to have options that are as safe and convenient as possible.

In a sense, we should be thankful. Trump and his cronies have launched a worrisome attack, but they have chosen their target poorly. They have provoked one of the few federal institutions with high public approval and a strong union movement; they have attempted to politicize an agency filled with a diverse, dedicated workforce committed, above all else, to doing their jobs.

Meet the Author

Carol Rose

Guest Contributor

About Carol Rose

Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts

About Carol Rose

Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts

Meet the Author
If not for postal workers and their unshakeable sense of civic duty, we’d never know the full extent of malfeasance at work here.

We are confident that Trump’s attacks will fail, and that our democracy, despite everything, will endure. After all, the mail always goes through.

Carol Rose is the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. Scott Hoffman is the president of the American Postal Service Workers Union Boston Local 100.