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Postal Service Tests Changes To Mail Delivery System In 200 Cities

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

A new post office rule being tested in 200 cities may change the way your mail gets delivered. The new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and a former top fundraiser for the president's campaign, wants postal carriers to gather and deliver all the mail for their route at one time in the morning. Currently, many mail carriers return to the post office to sort and pick up mail that's come in for delivery in the afternoon. The USPS says this will cut down on transportation and overtime labor costs.

In Congress, some oversight committee members are challenging the thinking behind that rule. And postal workers like Lori Cash say it's disrupting the way her work has been done for decades. She's a sales and service distribution associate at the post office in Lancaster, N.Y., outside Buffalo.

Welcome to the program, Lori.

LORI CASH: Thank you.

MCCAMMON: First, just give us a sense, if you would, of your responsibilities at work. What's a typical day like for you?

CASH: I start out very early in the morning. I normally arrive at the office at 2:30 a.m. And when I arrive at that time, all the morning mail comes in, and we have to prepare it and distribute it, separate it out for the carriers by route so that they can take it out and deliver it to our customers. I then take over the customer service window and help customers that come in, have inquiries, are picking up their mail if they've been on vacation, if they're picking up mail that was unable to be delivered earlier in the week and just help customers with general inquiries.

MCCAMMON: And as I understand it, this new effort by the postmaster general tries to standardize delivery times. How does that affect the way mail gets out to people?

CASH: Well, unfortunately, all the mail doesn't always make it out every day now. When I was hired - I've been with the Postal Service for 22 years - the first thing you learned and the cardinal rule is all the mail that comes in the morning goes out with the carriers onto the street and gets delivered that same day.

And unfortunately, now with these new rules in place, that doesn't happen anymore. We're seeing more and more mail left behind because the carriers are being held to a very strict time standard. They have to only have a certain amount of time in the office. Then they have to leave for the street. Whatever is ready at that time, they take out. And if everything that comes in for the day isn't ready to go out, then unfortunately, the rest is left behind. And it has to be sorted for the following day.

MCCAMMON: So explain how this works. How does cutting down to one trip a day as they are in these locations - how does that actually cut costs?

CASH: Well, what it does is it definitely cuts down on their hours, and it cuts down on transportation as well because they're only going out on the route one time. So they're only taking their truck out one time, driving the route and coming back, where if there's mail left behind and they're coming back to get it during the day, it's costing more in transportation as they're coming back and forth.

MCCAMMON: And Lori, what are you hearing about this from other postal workers and especially the mail carriers that you work with?

CASH: The biggest issue we have is, you know, the effect on our customers. And most postal workers are like me. I love my job. And you'll hear that a lot. As much as we get pushback from the community, we love what we do. When we have customers come to us that are looking for their medication, when we have customers come to us that - they mail the card to their grandchild and it hasn't gotten to them yet, or they're waiting for a special gift for their child's birthday that hasn't arrived yet and it's delayed somewhere in the mail, we want our customers to be satisfied with the Postal Service and continue to come back and use us.

MCCAMMON: President Trump has been critical of the way the Postal Service operates, and his administration has been slow to deliver emergency coronavirus relief funds to the agency. What else would you like to see happen here?

CASH: Well, obviously, we would love to see the White House release the funds that would help the Postal Service and help them to remain solvent. But more than that, we would like the White House and all of our legislators to support the public Postal Service, support it as the service that was given to America and respect it for the service that was given to America. We'd like them to back us up and to support changes and not unrealistic changes.

I think that the board of governors, the Postal Service upper management and Congress, along with the White House - I think all should be working together to find real solutions to keep the Postal Service solvent. Unfortunately, we all need to get on the same page, and right now, we're just not. So I think if we could have some more support, I think that would definitely lift the Postal Service and help us to move forward.

MCCAMMON: That's Lori Cash, sales and service distribution associate at the post office in Lancaster, outside Buffalo, N.Y.

Thank you so much, Lori.

CASH: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.