Union makes Letter Carriers Protection Act a top legislative priority

BALTIMORE—Slowing down the U.S. mail, especially first-class letters, Social Security checks, holiday and birthday cards, pension payments—and probably mail-in ballots this fall—is one offense laid at the feet of Trumpite Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, because it’s actually occurred.

But pulling U.S. Postal Service police away from pursuing thieves and protecting Letter Carriers from theft, injury, and even murder, and sending the cops to protect buildings instead, is quite another. And that action’s compounded because U.S. attorneys don’t treat thefts and injuries as a top priority.

The Letter Carriers (NALC) want to change that scenario. So they’ve put the bipartisan Protect Our Letter Carriers Act, HR7629, atop their legislative priority list for the rest of this Congress.

“We are here to send a very clear message: Enough is enough is enough,” new NALC President Brian Renfroe said in days before another “Enough is enough!” rally on April 30 in Baltimore. It featured local NALC and other union leaders and Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., one of the legislation’s 58 co-sponsors.

“The next step is critical, and that next step is federal legislation that will deter these attacks from happening, prosecute every criminal who attacks one of our members, and protect Letter Carriers while doing their jobs,” Renfroe said.

The big problem is thefts, often organized by gangs or pairs of thieves working together, of mailbox keys which Letter Carriers use to open banks of post boxes, the modern-day replacements for individual mailboxes at personal homes and apartments.

The thieves use the stolen keys to rob the businesses and homeowners of checks, including Social Security and pension payments. But they also shoot at, injure, and even kill carriers.

Whether the union’s message gets through to DeJoy, a GOP big giver whom Republican former President Donald Trump foisted on the Postal Service as Postmaster General, is another matter.

Has slowed down letters

DeJoy’s the corporate chieftain whose 10-year-plan to “reform” the USPS has slowed down first-class letters in favor of packages. The former CEO of XPO Logistics, a package delivery firm, has been credibly criticized for conflicts of interest—a common development in his class—while running USPS.

And during his reign, the USPS police have been shifted from protecting Letter Carriers and pursuing thieves to protecting buildings, the USPS Inspector General reports.

Armed thieves shot and wounded several Letter Carriers in Chicago last year. Carrier Jonte Davis of Warren, Ohio, was killed in a drive-by shooting there a month ago. Authorities in Warren link his murder to the thefts. And Daquan Wilson and a 17-year-old were arrested in the last full week of April in Camden, S.C., and charged with attempted armed robbery, possession of a stolen firearm, and criminal conspiracy in connection with a robbery try against a Letter Carrier there.

“Since 2020, there have been more than 2,000 crimes committed against Letter Carriers on the job,” an NALC summary of the legislation says. “Many of these attacks involve a gun or another weapon. This bipartisan legislation would address this problem by ‘devaluing the key infrastructure’” i.e. replacing regular mechanical post office box keys with electronic ones only the carriers could activate.

It would also order more prosecution and impose tougher sentences on convicted thieves.

The measure would establish special Assistant U.S. Attorneys in each of the nation’s 91 federal court districts specifically assigned, with a staff, to prosecute the thefts. “This bill would strengthen sentencing guidelines for these crimes, ensuring they are treated in the same manner as assaults on federal law enforcement officers,” which are felonies, the NALC fact sheet says.

“Due to workload and other priorities, these cases often sit on District Attorneys’ desks, are not federally prosecuted, and the alleged assailants are not held accountable.”

And HR7629 allots $7 million over five fiscal years, starting this October 1, to step up the pursuits and prosecutions of postal thieves.

Mail theft has skyrocketed since 2019, the U.S. Postal Service’s Inspector General reports. There were 300,000 mail theft complaints from March 2020 to February 2021. Thefts were up 161% then from the prior 12 months. And while 286,000 checks were stolen from the mail in 2019, that number has more than doubled since, to 742,000 last year.

The union is marshaling public support for HR7629 via its website, www.nalc.org. Besides opposition from DeJoy and the corporate cabal the former XPO Logistics CEO brought in to run the USPS, the legislation faces another roadblock: The Republican-run House.

When Rep. Mfume, lead sponsor Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and 56 other lawmakers dropped HR7629 in the hopper on March 12, it went to committees two of the most-rabid Trumpites in the U.S. House control: Judiciary and Oversight and Accountability.

Judiciary Chairman Jim Justice, R-Ohio, and Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Texas, are leading their Republican majorities in a joint fruitless hunt for evidence to impeach Democratic President Joe Biden—shoving aside almost everything else.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.