GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The day after the postmaster general said he would hit pause on massive changes within the U.S. Postal Service, News 8 learned a sorting machine was being dismantled in the downtown Grand Rapids post office.
The tip came into Target 8 Wednesday morning. Our crew was able to confirm through internal sources that work was being done at the facility.
The president of the American Postal Workers Union, Western Michigan Area Local #281, Amy Puhalski, said she was unaware of any work being done Wednesday. She says it was possible that maintenance employees could have continued the work from the day before, unaware of the directive from the postmaster general to stop.
As of 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, the union president confirmed all work to dismantle the machines stopped.
The changes implemented by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, which have led to some slowdowns in delivery, have been sharply criticized as the nation nears a presidential election expected to see huge numbers of absentee ballots.
“I think that some of the damage has already been done and caused some distress to the American people and to the mail system,” Puhalski said.
She told News 8 there are 35 mail sorting machines in the Grand Rapids area. Of those, six have been dismantled, including four from the downtown post office. Some were facer cancelers, which are used to sort mail during peak times.
Additionally, a seventh sorting machine at the downtown office was also in the process of being dismantled on Wednesday, workers inside the facility confirmed.
Separately, News 8 spotted parking spaces along with a dumpster filled with stripped pieces of machines outside a USPS facility off Patterson Avenue near Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Employees in the area said the dumpster has been filled three times since last week. The union president said that machine was used only for “flats,” a classification that does not include mail-in ballots.
Whether the destruction of the other sorting machines will have a negative impact remains to be seen. But Puhalski said she has faith in the postal workers.
“We have been taught and trained over the years to identify political mail, whether it’s campaign material request for ballots or ballots in itself,” she said. “We have been programmed to identify that and prioritize that nothing has changed in regards to them informing us what our responsibilities to ensure that political mail gets out.”
The Grand Rapids postmaster declined to speak to News 8 Wednesday to comment on whether the post office would be able to handle absentee ballots come November.