Local criticism of the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been rampant recently, and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) hosted a virtual public meeting on July 21 where he and attendees voiced complaints.
Mack Julion, the president of the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers, also answered questions and explained his concerns.
Rush said residents of his district, which includes Morgan Park and parts of Beverly, have gone up to three weeks without receiving mail.
He called that “unacceptable” and said management is the problem.
“For this situation, I must say that I am totally, absolutely disappointed,” Rush said. “I think that it really gets down to a leadership problem.”
Attendees were able to call in to the virtual meeting or listen online. Listeners asked questions and completed polls about service. No USPS management representatives took part.
Rush said he met with USPS officials two weeks earlier and found their answers regarding service “woefully insufficient and in some ways inexcusable.”
He said leaders are in denial about problems.
Julion said he and fellow letter carriers are equally frustrated. He said problems have stemmed from a lack of staff and because carriers’ working hours are changing.
He said carriers don’t have “adequate resources” to do the job properly.
“For us, it’s more than just a job,” Julion said. “It’s our pride; it’s our passion to serve our communities and to deliver the U.S. mail.”
Rush and Julion agreed that morale is a problem among employees, and Julion noted the difficulties of working during a pandemic. If management makes changes, Julion said, service will improve.
He noted that carriers “are the face” of the USPS and take the brunt of criticism from customers.
“We’re thankful for your support and your fighting in making sure that services improve in Chicago,” Julion told the meeting, “and that we’re able to provide the service that our customers are accustomed to.”
One attendee said she is a letter carrier at the Morgan Park station, 1805 W. Monterey Ave., and feels “very disrespected by management” because carriers are beginning shifts at 9 a.m., and they should be starting two or three hours earlier. She also said social distancing is not being practiced.
“It’s very frustrating,” she said. “We need more bodies, more carriers at our station, to fill when we’re down 20 routes.”
Rush said he has visited stations that don’t have signage to advise visitors to maintain a distance of 6 feet. That falls on leadership, he said.
Another attendee, from Cottage Grove, said she doesn’t blame all carriers and contended that regarding problems, “It starts at the top.”
One attendee asked how poor service could affect mail-in ballots for the November general election, and Rush responded.
“Republicans are hell-bent on eliminating the U.S. Postal Service.”
He said he and others “are fighting to keep the U.S. Postal Service in tact,” and he demands “the best that it can and should deliver.”
Recently, other local elected officials voiced concerns with the USPS. U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), whose district includes Mt. Greenwood and parts of Beverly/Morgan Park, joined state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) and 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea in writing a letter to USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy regarding problems at the Mt. Greenwood station, 3349 W. 111th St.
They requested an answer by July 27. Tim Norman, who works for USPS Strategic Communications-Chicago District, said USPS officials would respond by that date; however, according to O’Shea, officials did not respond by July 27.
In response to the letter, Norman provided the following statement. He re-iterated his comments when asked about complaints voiced at the Rush meeting.
“The [USPS] is a responsible employer that matches our workforce to an evolving workload and adjusts staffing continuously to serve our customers with consistent, reliable service. That includes changing starting times in the last few weeks for some locations in Chicago.
“The Chicago District has a dedicated workforce that services nearly 1.3 million delivery points daily. We gladly work to address any specific issue reported from the community. As any service organization, one customer complaint is one too many.
“We encourage any customer that has a concern with their delivery of mail to contact their local postal station or our Consumer Affairs office at (312) 983-8403.”
According to O’Shea, the lack of response from USPS officials prompted him to partner with the Beverly Area Planning Association to distribute a survey via email and the19thward.com to gather feedback about local USPS service.
The survey will be available until Aug. 4 at 5 p.m., and results will be shared with the USPS officials. O’Shea said organizers will request an audit of the USPS stations in Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood.
Julion said service is “not far off” from improving. With mail delivery more important during the pandemic, he sees the importance of reliable service.
“I believe the American people can see now more than ever how vital the U.S. Postal Service is,” he said. “We bind this nation together more than any other entity.”
The motto of USPS letter carriers is “We deliver,” Julion said, and he believes service can improve.
“Just give us the resources we need,” he said, “and trust me, we will deliver.”