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'A Major Problem': Tulsa Postal Union Boss Says Mail Being Intentionally Delayed

Chris Polansky
A collection box outside the U.S. Postal Service Donaldson Station in Tulsa, Okla.

Updated on Sat., Aug. 15th, at 6:50 a.m. to include a statement from Sen. James Lankford received after publication.

With interruptions, delays and difficulties being reported by postal workers and customers nationwide, the head of a local union said Friday that he believes the complications are both intentional and actively harmful to Tulsans.

"Postmaster General [Louis] DeJoy is delaying the mail," said Jeff Bradley, president of the Tulsa Area American Postal Workers Union Local 1348, who represents about 600 U.S. Postal Service employees. "That's hurting the American public."

Bradley said policies implemented since DeJoy's appointment by President Donald Trump in May, such as a reduction or elimination of overtime pay, understaffing, and the removal of mail-sorting machines from postal facilities, have made employees' jobs much harder, and have resulted in delays in delivery.

Bradley confirmed that Tulsa is one of the many cities around the country where machines that assist in sorting mail have been removed.

"Taking machines out that process mail and get it out faster to the customer makes no sense," Bradley said. "I don't understand."

"If you delay mail on purpose in the United States Postal Service as an employee, you can be disciplined up to removal," Bradley said. "So why are they not being held accountable for delaying mail?"

Bradley said that some of the parcels being delayed are extremely crucial for people to receive in a timely matter.

"For example: I get my medication; it comes out of Muskogee and it takes one day to get it. It now takes three days," Bradley said. "That is a major problem. We do a lot of delivery of mail-in prescriptions for people. They rely on their prescriptions."

The president openly admitted on Thursday that he's attempting to withhold funding for the Postal Service in order to hinder mail-in voting. Trump has repeatedly lied about voting by mail, claiming without evidence that it leads to widespread fraud. 

"I believe what the president is saying on TV is wrong," Bradley said. "The chances of it not being done correctly with the ballots and everything? I don't see it."

Bradley said he encourages frustrated postal customers to contact their senators and members of Congress.

"Tell them you're not going to put up with this," he said. "This is the United States Postal Service. We are a service to the American public, and we are here to do this. It's in the Constitution. And why we're having someone trying to undermine our efforts is beyond my understanding." 

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), whose district includes Tulsa, said he agrees that postal service "is an absolutely essential public service in our world that is guaranteed by our Constitution."

"Unfortunately, the USPS has operated under bad principles for decades, leading to massive debts," Hern said. "It was not meant to operate at the losses that we have seen over the past ten years. In order to get back on the right track, the USPS needs to adopt practical and responsible fiscally sound operations. After decades of mismanagement, some commonsense reforms are necessary.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) also provided a statement through a spokesperson Friday, after this story originally published.

“The USPS is a cornerstone of our modern-day mail system, especially in rural areas," Lankford said. "I spoke to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin today, and he assured me that the Postal Service has the funds needed through the end of 2020 with additional funds available if needed to meet the needs of all Americans, especially during the upcoming election season. In the longer term, the USPS faces significant funding shortfalls and management challenges. The USPS Board of Governors has begun to implement reforms to address some of the financial challenges of the USPS. As a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the Senate, I look forward to continuing to seek long-term solutions, including the retirement pre-funding, for our vital USPS.”

The office of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) did not provide comment.

In an address to the USPS Board of Governors on Aug. 7th, DeJoy said, "We are at the beginning of a transformative process. Our goal is to change and improve the Postal Service to better serve the American public, and I am excited about the opportunities ahead."

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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