CAMBRIDGE — Letter carrier Bob Tremarche, a 38-year veteran of the US Postal Service, said he’s recently found himself trying to reassure people on his route through East Cambridge.
They’ve been worried, he said. Will their mail-in ballots get to the city on time? Will their medication be delivered quickly?
And amid a national conversation about the postal service, Tremarche said he and other letter carriers have their own concerns about the funding and support of their agency. So on Sunday morning, a few dozen letter carriers, union officials, and supporters stood in front of the ornate Post Office building near Central Square in Cambridge to rally for postal workers.
“We thought we need our voices to be heard,” Tremarche said. “We appreciate all the protests and rallies that have gone on around the country. But most of us here are postal employees who are working here in Cambridge, and around the Boston area. We’re here to rally for the Postal Service, and for us.”
The US Postal Service, traditionally an apolitical institution, has been swept into a partisan fight since more Americans have considered voting by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, announced and then temporarily rescinded a series of cost-cutting measures, including banning overtime pay and allowing some mail to be held in USPS facilities overnight instead of delivered immediately. Some of the changes, like removing mail sorting machines and blue mailboxes, have triggered a national outcry.
“This is a hell of a way to repay 600,000 dedicated letter carriers and postal workers,” US Representative Ayanna Pressley said on the House floor Saturday. Those workers, she said, “have put themselves in harm’s way in the midst of this pandemic, who find dignity in their work and are worried about the impact on services, and fear for their very livelihood in retribution for the calls that they have made to all of our offices.”
While the Trump administration and its allies continue to gaslight the American people, we actually listen to our constituents and their lived experiences and how the changes at the @USPS have disrupted their lives. pic.twitter.com/OY9Px77mrC
— Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) August 22, 2020
The US House of Representatives on Saturday approved a bill that would send the US Postal Service $25 billion, legislation the White House said President Trump would veto if it came to his desk, according to the Associated Press.
Last week Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin urged Massachusetts residents who have not yet mailed their Sept. 1 primary election ballots back to hand-deliver them to early voting sites instead.
Jerry McCarthy, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers’ local branch, came to the rally Sunday with navy blue T-shirts bearing the words “delivering for America,” which he handed out to supporters.
Local letter carriers are working long days, he said, making up for both colleagues still out because of the coronavirus and those who are taking time off. McCarthy said he would like to see Congress support those carriers by removing a 2006 requirement for the agency to prefund future benefits for its retirees, which other government agencies are not required to do.
“The [union] members are pretty resilient,” McCarthy said. “If they get us the mail, we’ll get it delivered. Just get it to us. Stop playing the games.”
Passersby on Massachusetts Avenue honked their car horns or rang their bicycle bells in support.
“The immediate problem is obviously the election,” said Gail O’Hare of Somerville, a retired archivist who came to the protest with a homemade “Save our post office” sign. “They have to count every vote. The long-term problem is the Republican effort to privatize mail for everyone in the country. I mean, they’re arguing that it’s a business — it’s a service. Are they investigating the Defense Department to see if their budget is balanced?”
Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-929-2043.