‘Like Armageddon’: Rotting food, dead animals and chaos at postal facilities amid cutbacks
Six weeks ago, U.S. Postal Service workers in the high desert town of Tehachapi, Calif., began to notice crates of mail sitting in the post office in the early morning that should have been shipped out for delivery the night before.
At a mail processing facility in Santa Clarita in July, workers discovered that their automated sorting machines had been disabled and padlocked.
And inside a massive mail-sorting facility in South Los Angeles, workers fell so far behind processing packages that by early August, gnats and rodents were swarming around containers of rotted fruit and meat, and baby chicks were dead inside their boxes.
Accounts of conditions from employees at California mail facilities provide a glimpse of what some say are the consequences of widespread cutbacks in staffing and equipment recently imposed by the postal service.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, responding to a national outcry over service disruptions and fears of voter disenfranchisement, said this week he would suspend many planned changes until after the election. But postal workers say significant damage has already been done, including the removal of mail-sorting machines, which may not be replaced.
While the long-term effect of the cuts on U.S. mail service is unclear, the evidence of serious disruptions appears to be mounting, according to postal employees interviewed by The Times as well as customers, lawmakers and union leaders.
Until this week, the postal service was implementing a sweeping plan to remove 671 mail-sorting machines, or about 10% of its total, from facilities across the U.S. — including 76 in California. Officials also slashed overtime pay and imposed a new policy that could delay outgoing mail.
The cuts have had a ripple effect in California, snarling the operation of one of the biggest mail-processing facilities in the country and delaying the delivery of prescriptions, rent payments and unemployment checks. Some people have complained of going days without receiving any mail at all.
At least five high-speed mail-sorting machines have been removed from a processing plant in Sacramento, said Omar Gonzalez, the Western regional coordinator for the American Postal Workers Union. Additionally, two of the machines have been removed in Santa Ana and six in San Diego, Gonzalez said.