© 2020 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis-Area Postal Workers Call On Blunt, Hawley To Support Postal Relief Bill

0825_drake_bush
Kayla Drake
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Cori Bush, Democratic nominee for the 1st Congressional District, calls on Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt to support the Delivering for America Act at a downtown rally in front of the main post office on Tuesday.

Postal workers in the St. Louis region rallied in front of the main post office downtown on Tuesday, to urge Missouri's two U.S. senators to support a bill that would provide $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service.

The House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, passed the Delivering for America Act over the weekend. Now the legislation heads to the Republican-controlled Senate. If passed, the relief package would prevent the postal service from reducing overtime or curtailing hours.

St. Louis postal workers are concerned that if the bill does not pass, mail delays will persist or worsen by the time thousands of people vote by mail in November’s general election. On Tuesday, postal workers nationwide held rallies and press conferences for the #SaveThePostOffice campaign to persuade politicians and gain public support for the bill.

Members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the St. Louis Labor Council joined Democratic politicians in urging Republicans Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley to support the bill.

“We’re asking you to use some political courage and stand with the people, the folks who do the regular, everyday work,” said Cori Bush, Democratic congressional nominee for the 1st District, “the folks who make sure you get your mail.”

Democrats in Congress proposed the bill after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy approved removing mail sorting machines and public collection boxes and restricted overtime and mail deliveries this month. DeJoy has said he aimed to cut costs. But Democrats and voting rights activists said DeJoy's actions led to mail delays and could keep ballots from reaching election officials on time in November.

Members of the American Postal Workers Union in St. Louis said Tuesday that those current restrictions are preventing postal workers from doing their jobs and that they are worried people will start to mistrust the postal service.

0825_drake_postoffice
Kayla Drake
St. Louis Treasurer Tishuara Jones campaigns, along with union members and postal workers, for the U.S. Senate to pass a relief package for the postal service.

“We pride ourselves on that we’re 91% approval ratings in the country, the highest-ranked agency of the trust we have,” said Rebecca Livingston, president of the St. Louis union. “We plan on keeping it.”

Members of the union say they are determined to deliver ballots on time, despite a busy season ahead. A surge of mail-in ballots is expected in November for the general election due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Election officials for the City of St. Louis and St. Louis, St. Charles and Franklin counties already counted a record number of absentee and mail-in ballots for the midterm elections. More than 130,000 voters in the region requested a mail-in or absentee ballot for the midterms.

Missouri is one of 27 states that expanded voter access to mail ballots for elections during the coronavirus pandemic.

Livingston, who has worked at the postal service for 34 years, said ballots and campaign literature will still be treated as first-class mail, just like in any other election.

No mail sorting machines have been removed in the St. Louis area, Livingston said.

Postal service officials have warned that mailed ballots in most of the nation, including Missouri, could be delayed.

Missouri law allows voters to request a vote-by-mail ballot two weeks before the general election.

But Livingston said voters should not cut it close to the deadline this year. She urged voters to mail their ballots in as soon as they receive them.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

Our priority is you. Support coverage that’s reliable, trustworthy and more essential than ever. Donate today.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.