‘This has never happened before:’ Postal workers cry foul as sorting machines removed from USPS facilities in San Antonio

USPS says they are cutting costs, some workers claim mail is being sabotaged for political reasons

FILE - In this July 31, 2020, file photo, letter carriers load mail trucks for deliveries at a U.S. Postal Service facility in McLean, Va. The success of the 2020 presidential election could come down to a most unlikely government agency: the U.S. Postal Service. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (J. Scott Applewhite, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

SAN ANTONIO – Four sorting machines that process 35,000 pieces of letter-type mail per hour have been removed from United States Postal Service distribution facilities in San Antonio, the local union president says.

“There there’s nothing wrong with these machines, they work perfectly fine,” said Chris Rincon, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 195, the San Antonio chapter, in an interview with KSAT on Monday.

David Walton, a spokesperson for the USPS, declined to comment on the machines but sent a written statement dated July 27 that in part said that the postal service is facing more than a decade of financial losses “with no end in sight.” The postal service said Tuesday that further cost-cutting measures would be put on hold until after the November election.

Before the four machines were removed in recent weeks, there were 32 total sorting machines in the San Antonio area. The changes have led to delays by days or weeks in mail delivery, including medicine or other time-sensitive material, according to other postal employees who spoke to the San Antonio Express-News, which first reported the removals on Monday.

“It’s directed from the new postmaster general,” Tony Boyd, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 421, told the newspaper. “He believes that we need to streamline operations and cut the costs of overtime and late deliveries and this will get things in order, apparently. That’s his vision.”

San Antonio isn’t alone: hundreds of other sorting machines have been removed throughout the country in recent weeks. CNN reported that number could be as high as nearly 700, citing records they obtained from the postal service.

A USPS spokesperson told Business Insider that: “The Postal Service routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary to match changing mail and package volumes. Package volume is up, but mail volume continues to decline. Adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes will ensure more efficient, cost effective operations and better service for our customers.”

The postal service warned Texas and 39 other states on July 30 that there is a risk that mailed-in ballots may not reach elections offices under current deadlines, rendering those votes useless.

Rincon, the local postal service union president, said he believes that’s the basis for the machine removals in the first place: “That is what they’re trying to do sabotage the elections.”

The USPS spokesperson said that the notion the machines were being removed to sabotage the election is “erroneous.”

On Tuesday, the recently appointed Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, released a written statement that said the USPS “is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall. Even with the challenges of keeping our employees and customers safe and healthy as they operate amid a pandemic, we will deliver the nation’s election mail on time and within our well-established service standards.”

DeJoy said that he is suspending some cost-cutting “operational initiatives” that were in place ahead of his tenure and that “have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election” to “avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail.” DeJoy says no mail processing facilities will be closed, store hours will remain unchanged, overtime will be approved and “mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are.”

But Rincon worries about the timing of the cost-cutting measures.

“[The federal government] is trying to delay the mail for the upcoming election,” Rincon told KSAT. “[They’re] trying to instill in the general public that the Postal Service cannot handle the election... We processed 80-90 percent of the [Department of Veteran’s Affairs] mail that is sent to the veterans throughout the country. We processed all the stimulus checks that went out from the IRS. So we have shown time and time again, the United States postal service can handle any kind of mail coming through.”

President Trump told Fox Business Network in an interview last week that if two funding provisions that are currently stalled in a Congressional coronavirus relief package don’t pass, then the Postal Service won’t have the resources to handle the mail-in ballots for the November election.

“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo. “That means [the Democrats] can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”

Seven states currently use universal mail-in ballots. Texas is among the vast majority of states that do not allow universal mail-in ballot. Here, mail-in ballots are only allowed for voters over age 64, those who have a disability or illness, people out of the county during the election or people who are eligible to vote but are incarcerated.

READ MORE: Here’s how to vote by mail in Bexar County and where to deliver your absentee ballot in person

There is no evidence that shows mail-in voting is used to defraud elections in Texas or other states, and instances are extremely rare. Still, Trump, who himself uses mail-in voting, has called the practice “cheating.” Trump voted by mail in March in the Florida primaries and requested a mail-in ballot for Florida’s statewide primary next week, ABC reported.

“It was a federal offense to delay the mail. Now we’ve got a postmaster general and a White House administration that is telling us to deliberately delay the mail. This has never happened before.”

Watch an episode of KSAT Explains below on the controversy over mail-in voting:

About the Authors

Kolten Parker is Manager of Content and Coverage at KSAT. He moved into the role in 2024, after five years of leading the digital team. Kolten is an award-winning journalist and a proud Texas State Bobcat. He's a triathlete who loves the outdoors and sports. When not working, he likes to hang out with his wife and travel.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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