A group of about 100 supporters of the U.S. Postal Service demonstrated in front of the Benjamin Franklin Post Office on Saturday, calling for the resignation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after another week of alarm about changes to the Postal Service and their effect on mail voting.
The rally, part of a national action that began at 11 a.m., came the day after DeJoy told Congress that the Postal Service would be able to handle voting by mail in November despite policy changes he made that have led to mail delays and disruptions across the country.
But Democrats and other DeJoy critics pushed for emergency funding for the agency and raised concerns that his changes could impede the ability of Americans to have their votes counted amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Also on Friday, Pennsylvania led five other states and the District of Columbia in filing a lawsuit against DeJoy and the Postal Service.
The suit claims that the service delays could disenfranchise voters and that DeJoy’s suspension of policy changes until after the election only addressed some of the issues. DeJoy, a top Republican donor who was appointed by President Donald Trump in May, said Friday that the Postal Service would prioritize election mail — even as Trump continued to attack mail voting with conspiracy theories.
Standing outside the historic post office at Third and Market Streets, Gail Lopez-Henriquez, 65, held up a sign for oncoming traffic to see: “Fight to Save OUR Postal Service!” She said she got a thumbs-up from drivers and hoped it would urge passersby to call their lawmakers.
“My most immediate concern is about the election,” said Lopez-Henriquez, of Center City. “For this election especially, we’re going to be depending on the post office. ... I’m very concerned that, especially if the pandemic gets worse, people will be afraid to go and vote, and that would disenfranchise everybody, regardless of their political views.”
The rally was one of 450 scheduled nationwide as part of a day of action dubbed Save the Post Office Saturday. It was one of many in the Philadelphia area; people had pledged to show up at post offices in Chestnut Hill, Media, Germantown, Collingswood, Elkins Park, and elsewhere, according to the organization MoveOn.
The group encouraged people across the country to show up at their local post offices at 11 a.m. “to save the post office from Trump.”
“Together, we’re coming together to support a beloved system that every American relies on,” said Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, in a statement. “It’s how millions get our medicines, send holiday greetings and receive the resources we depend on. And, in this pandemic, the mail is how millions of us will deliver our democracy. We reject these attacks on the USPS. We demand full restoration of machines and personnel plus full funding for the post office.”
Some neighborhoods in Philadelphia have gone as long as three weeks without mail amid the service disruptions. Several of the area’s lawmakers earlier this month called the changes and lack of funding an “insidious attempt” to undermine mail delivery.
Last week, the Postal Service warned 46 states — including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware — that some mail ballots might not be delivered on time to meet the states’ deadlines for being counted.
The Pennsylvania Department of State has asked the state Supreme Court to extend mail ballot deadlines because of delivery concerns, and New Jersey has already allowed seven days after Election Day for mailed ballots to be counted.
Lopez-Henriquez, whose grandfather worked for the Postal Service, said she was concerned about funding for the Postal Service even before the coronavirus pandemic and the recent changes.
“I do think that, in general, the public is concerned about protecting the Postal Service, so I was glad to be there,” she said of the rally. “I was glad that people could see it. Whether they knew about it already or didn’t, it gave a feeling of urgency.”
Joe Piette, of Upper Darby, a retired mail carrier and member of the National Association for Letter Carriers, was one of four rally organizers at the Old City post office Saturday.
“DeJoy doesn’t understand that this is a service, made so in the Constitution. It’s not a business. It allows everyone to be able to afford to send mail, regardless of where they live in the United States,” said Piette, a 30-year veteran of the Postal Service who was a shop steward before he retired in 2011.
He added, “DeJoy has been talking about the mail as a business. The more they privatize, the higher the rates will be. It will be unaffordable. Compare the rates between the Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx, and the post office is much cheaper.”
Piette is active on a Facebook group called “Save Our Postal Service” and holds meetings every week.
“We also had rallies today in Media and King of Prussia, and it’s everyday people trying to defend the post offices in their neighborhoods,” he said.
Saturday’s rally point at 316 Market St. holds particular significance, he said.
“It’s the first post office ever, created by Ben Franklin, even before the writing of the Constitution,” Piette said. “It’s a museum, but it’s also a working post office. You can walk in, buy stamps, and mail a letter. As we were rallying, people were actually using the post office.”
Staff writer Erin Arvedlund contributed to this article.