(Seated) Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Pat Carmon, (standing l-r) Ray Robinson, American Postal Workers Union, Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Salim Adofo, Keith Hooks of National Association of Letter Carriers and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton at the Benjamin Franklin Post Office in Northwest on Aug.20. (Hamil Harris/The Washington Informer)

Even with a delay in Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s remodeling of the U.S. Postal Service and a bill to pump $25 billion into the mail agency, District leaders and residents, especially in Ward 8, remain frustrated by inconsistent mail service from a troubled, underfunded agency with a demoralized workforce.
DeJoy, facing allegations of crippling mail delivery on the verge of an expected avalanche of mail-in voting, suspended further changes in postal operations until after the Nov. 3 election.
DeJoy’s removal of some letter collection boxes and sorting machines has generated spirited discussion with critics saying his actions are designed to curtail mail-in voting. The recently named postmaster general refutes critics by saying he seeks to reorganize the postal service to become a more efficient agency.
The Democrat-controlled House approved $25 billion for the agency Aug. 22 but action on the measure is in doubt by the Republican-controlled Senate amid President Trump’s attack on mail-in voting.
The president says mail-in ballots can’t be trusted because of the potential of vote fraud but his assertion has been disputed by election experts and officials who say otherwise.
But user-friendly mail service, a problem the District for a few years, has reportedly become more acute in Southeast’s Ward 8. Tiara Holland, a Ward 8 resident, said she has experienced bad service for several months.
“The mail is late and it is slow,” Holland said standing outside of the post office located on Southern Avenue, S.E., the only postal facility in the ward. “I see letter carriers delivering mail late at night, even at 10 or 11 p.m. I think it is dangerous for postal employees to be out at that time of night doing that.”
Holland’s concerns are echoed by Salim Adofo, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for single-member district 8C07.
“It’s really makes no sense,” Adofo said. “You have one post office for 70,000 people. People talk about Ward 8 being a food desert but it is also a postal desert, too. I have to praise the work of those postal workers on Southern Avenue. They are short-handed and overworked and often what can go wrong does go wrong there.”
One of Adofo’s colleagues, Pat Carmon who represents 8D01, said mail delivery to her apartment has become a major problem.
“At one time I did not receive any mail for two weeks,” Carmon said. “I heard my constituents saying the same thing so I decided to see what was going on. I went to the post office and saw a long line of people waiting to get served but I only saw one postal worker at the window. People were complaining loudly and sometimes rudely and it got so bad, the postal worker closed the window, despite people waiting for service. I was able to get one of the postal workers to look for my mail and they found it. Packages that were sent to me were there waiting to be delivered. Something has to be done because people need their checks and their medications in order to survive.”
Keith Hooks, an officer of the local chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said he understands the concerns of Ward 8 residents. He said work at the postal service has backed up recently due to the coronavirus pandemic with employees becoming ill.
“What happens is when someone calls in sick, their route has to be covered plus the person doing that route has to do their own, too,” he said. “The postal service also delivers for Amazon, too, and that’s why you see postal trucks with employees working on Sunday. Basically, we have become a seven-day-a-week operation and we deliver 350 million parcels a day nationally but we are short-staffed and don’t get overtime.”
Ray Robinson, who works with the American Postal Workers Union, said taking away sorting machines from postal facilities has become problematic.
“In the Washington area, sorting machines have been taken out of post offices in Gaithersburg, D.C. and southern Maryland,” Robinson said. “Those machines process 35,000 pieces of mail per hour and without them they have to be done manually in many cases and that causes delays. We have been told by upper management in the agency the machines were taken out to cut costs but this is the worst time to do it.”
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that has jurisdiction over the postal system, knows about the postal woes of Ward 8 residents and blames DeJoy.
“DeJoy has admitted that the harm done so far will be left in place, no replacement of sorting machines or of blue mailboxes that have been removed and no promise of overtime,” she said. Norton said Congress should pass the Delivery for America Act sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). That bill would prohibit the postal service from making changes inhibiting the efficiency of mail delivery, including paying employees’ overtime. The delegate also supported a $25 billion bailout of the agency.
Theodore Mitchell, a Ward 8 resident, offers a solution to the ward’s postal service dilemma.
“What this post office needs are more employees to do the work,” he said. “If more people are here, the mail service will get better.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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