The battle to save the United States Postal Service made its way to downtown St. Petersburg Tuesday Morning.
Congress members Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, two democrats who represent the Tampa Bay area, announced they’d be co-sponsoring a bill to prevent the Trump administration from removing mailboxes and sorting machines during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide $25 billion in emergency funds for the agency.
“We have a fight on our hands. All across the Tampa Bay area in this country Americans are alarmed,” Castor said. “That (the bill) will prohibit them from removing mailboxes during this global health crisis. Prevent them from removing the sorting machines. It will ensure that we guarantee the current postal standards that are premier.”
Hundreds of sorting machines capable of processing more than 600 million pieces of mail a day have already been removed from post offices across the country. Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and President Trump himself have been accused of attempting to disenfranchise voters in the upcoming presidential election by limiting mail service during a time when the pandemic shows a spike in vote-by-mail requests.
Trump has made no secret of his unfounded claims that voting by mail could lead to fraudulent election results. Castor said that’s just a ploy from someone scared to lose.
“He’s scared,” she said. “He’s behind.”
If the bill were to pass in the House, it would need to pass the Senate, then get signed into law by Trump, which doesn’t seem likely. Crist, however, said he expects enough votes to override a presidential veto.
Standing in the shadow of St. Pete’s historic, Mediterranean-Revival downtown post office, the representatives were joined by local letter carriers and union representatives who expressed support for the bill.
Natasha Patterson, president of the Florida Rural Letter Carriers Association said keeping mail going is far more than a political issue. In rural areas, she said, letter carriers operate as de facto mobile post offices and are often the only ones people in those areas have seen in months. Additionally, many rely on timely mail service for delivery of income and medicines essential to survival.
“There’s definitely some politicizing going on right now,” she said. “However, the way the rural letter carriers look at it, it’s not a political issue. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where you live, what party you are, what race you are, what your income is. It’s a universal service obligation throughout this country. And that’s really the beauty of it.
Al Friedman, president of the Letter Carriers of Florida and a disabled veteran said he, and many other veterans, rely on the post office for delivery medication from the department of Veteran Affairs. Postal workers, he said, are among the most essential of essential workers.
“Twenty-percent of our employees are out under quarantine or out having the virus,” he said. “We deliver every day. We are essential.”
Amid the post office controversy, on Monday, Trump tweeted in all caps “SAVE THE POST OFFICE.”
With their new bill, Crist and Castor hope to see if he’ll put his pen where his keyboard is.
Listen to the 5:30 p.m. WMNF News headlines for 18 August 2020:
Listen to the 4:30 p.m. WMNF News headlines for 18 August 2020:
Listen to the 3:30 p.m. WMNF News headlines for 18 August 2020: