The ongoing battle over recent changes in service, equipment and policy at the U.S. Postal Service is heating up. This comes as states, including Massachusetts, look to prevent the Trump administration from hampering the post office's operations, and millions of voters prepare to rely heavily on mail-in ballots this November.
We check in with John Flattery, president of the Central Massachusetts American Postal Workers Union, Local 4553. We also hear from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and get a wider perspective from Aaron Gordon, a senior writer at Motherboard, VICE's tech and science publication.
Interview Highlights: AG Healey Wants You To Be Confident Your Vote Will Count
On President Trump’s attacks against the post office as a mail-heavy election nears
Healey: "Massachusetts and other states are going to be voting by mail in numbers never seen before and making sure that our postal workers are supported, that our postal operations are supported, is absolutely imperative. Because there should be no question about ensuring a fair and safe election. And anything that undermines that, frankly, is a real problem. I'm also hearing some calls from constituents who are really concerned about getting their prescription drug medication, getting their Social Security checks, and the like. And, you know, we just should not be in this place. And so what we've seen by way of Donald Trump's statements about this, I think he's playing this game, this effort to try to sow chaos and undermine people's confidence in the postal service."
"There should be no question about ensuring a fair and safe election. And anything that undermines that, frankly, is a real problem."
On whether Mass. will join with other states to sue the Trump administration
Healey: "We're going to explore all legal tools available to protect the people in our states, including through litigation. But, you know, this is really an approach that has to be multifaceted. Yes, going to court to stop Donald Trump from further undermining our democracy and messing with the way that the vast majority of voting is going to occur in this country this fall; and number two, supporting the actions by Congress to call for accountability and oversight, as well as actions from Congress and the legislatures to make sure that our postal service workers are funded, operations are funded, you know, clerks are funded as well, because, again, this is going to be an election where we're going to be voting in ways and in numbers that we haven't done before. And it's absolutely imperative that everyone who votes knows, regardless of who they're voting for, that their vote is going to be counted."
On how the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the post office might be illegal
Healey: "I think this gets down to looking at specifically what would actually happen within the operations of the postal office… I think that when we are talking about voting, you're talking about a few things. First of all, there's a fundamental right, a constitutional right to vote. And so this raises issues, constitutional issues. There's also certain regulatory processes that the Postal Service should follow if it's going to be either reducing its force or eliminating overtime and making changes with respect to machines. And, you know, to what extent were those processes and those policies, those rules, were they followed. That also raises issues of legality. So we're pursuing all of this. But again, there's just no need for the American public to have to worry. We've been through enough, you know, and we continue to live through this COVID pandemic. The idea that this president would put into play the operation of something as basic and fundamental and as essential as the U.S. Postal Service is really shameful."
"The idea that this president would put into play the operation of something as basic and fundamental and as essential as the U.S. Postal Service is really shameful."
On the argument that the post office requires scaling back
Healey: "The fact is the Postal Service hasn't had adequate funding for years. And what President Trump has done, particularly by appointing De Joy, appointing him and then letting him go about this purported effort to make the postal office more lean and mean, is just a joke. I mean, the timing is directly intentional and tied to this election where Donald Trump knows the fact that so many people are going to be voting by mail. And see, you have to be careful here. On the one hand, Donald Trump wants to create a lot of chaos and undermine people's confidence in the mail-in voting so they don't go to the polls, or don’t go mail them. And again, I'm not here to say people shouldn’t be confident in our postal service. I know they're under strain, John just mentioned that. But still, you know, the secretary of state's offices are working hard here... At the same time, we do want to make sure that we are exploring everything we need to, legally, to hold the postal service and the administration accountable. Now is not the time to cut overtime and defund things even further so that there are further delays or problems with the operation of something that is so essential to people's lives, not just for voting, but the day-to-day existence of people's lives. We depend so much on our postal system, and the way the president has made this into a political football is just really outrageous."
This segment aired on August 17, 2020.