Sen. Dick Durbin on Sunday urged U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to step down as the country grapples with a mail service crisis that’s created “serious problems” across the Chicago area.
During a news conference alongside Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and four women affected by the mail slowdown, Durbin hammered on the issues plaguing the U.S. Postal Service while railing against DeJoy, an appointee of former President Donald Trump who’s under intense scrutiny.
“It’s best that he step aside and somebody new with a better creative idea comes into the picture. But sadly we’re in a position where Mr. DeJoy won’t leave,” Durbin said while standing in front of the U.S. Post Office in Federal Plaza in the Loop.
Only the Postal Service’s board of governors can remove DeJoy. And while President Joe Biden announced three nominations last week to fill out the board, the current batch of Trump appointees have continued to support DeJoy despite opposition from Democrats.
Meanwhile, Durbin said Chicagoans are “running into serious problems” with undelivered mail, noting that many rely on the Postal Service for their bills, prescription medications and other necessities. He said his office previously sent a team out to four post offices in Chicago, where they identified 300 pieces of mail that hadn’t been delivered. But as it turned out, that was only the tip of the iceberg.
“When the official inspector showed up the next day it wasn’t 300, it was 19,000 pieces of mail that were sitting in those post offices undelivered,” said Durbin, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Spokespeople for the Postal Service didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hopkins said his relationship with local postal authorities deteriorated last May, when the staffers who previously helped track down lost mail stopped communicating with his office.
“At the same time, complaints about misdirected mail and lost mail and no mail at all skyrocketed,” he said.
Mary Lou Sydel, who lives in Hopkins’ ward and runs a business out of her home, said she hasn’t been able to find a reliable collection box to send mail. And Kit Barbaro, another 2nd Ward resident, noted that mail service at her condominium has been “very erratic over the last six months.”
“People are waiting for checks that they need to spend money on paying bills. They’re late and sometimes never arrive,” Barbaro said. “Bills are delayed and sometimes they’re never even received. People are charged interest on that. Medications are arriving late.”
Like Durbin, Hopkins believes the problem “starts at the top.” He claimed there was “an intentional decision to sandbag the U.S. postal office and to stop providing the types of service that people have come to rely on and expect.”
“The leadership of the U.S. Post Office must be held accountable for the fact that it continues a downward spiral into chaos, mismanagement and dysfunction,” Hopkins added.
While DeJoy is developing a 10-year reform plan to address issues at the Postal Service, Durbin described it as “a disaster” that would effectively raise mail costs and slow delivery.
Durbin previously wrote a letter to local Postal Service officials urging them to address the pervasive issues in the Chicago area. Now, Durbin said he and fellow Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth are “putting pressure on the Postal Service at every single level” to ensure there’s better service locally.
Durbin said the outrage over the service problems was directed back on him last week, when he attended a Zoom meeting with residents of Ald. Leslie Hairston’s 5th Ward.
Grovena Galbreath, a resident of that ward, told the Sun-Times she stopped receiving some mail starting in November. Galbreath, who described herself as an “avid online shopper,” currently has around 25 packages out for delivery that haven’t been dropped off.
But Galbreath said she’s especially concerned about the slowdown’s effects on the city’s “most vulnerable” residents, as well as small businesses attempting to use e-commerce to create new revenue during the pandemic. Ultimately, she believes the service problems could become “a voting issue.”
“I’m going to hold not only the Postal Service accountable, but my elected officials,” she said. “And if this is not brought to resolution after next election cycle, I will begin to work caucusing and canvassing within my community to bring redress to this issue.”