In the face of what some consider a postal catastrophe, a handful of Miami businesses are banding together to show solidarity with the United States Postal Service.
The USPS has been the subject of widespread national attention as sweeping changes and budget-cutting measures have severely slowed mail delivery in an election year and during a time when more people are having items delivered to their homes because of the pandemic.
Some local business owners have come to almost fully rely on USPS to keep their businesses afloat. Lolo Reskin, founder and co-owner of Sweat Records, says that in the last few weeks, shipping has slowed to a crawl, affecting a significant chunk of her sales.
"We're only open half [days], and foot traffic is so reduced. We've been able to close the gap by offering more and more things on our website," Reskin says. "All over Miami and around the country, people are ordering."
Sweat Records and Books & Books are organizing a demonstration this Saturday at 11 a.m., which they're calling"Heck Yes USPS." The two businesses started a Facebook event to invite people to join them outside the post office at 3246 N. Miami Ave. in Midtown to rally in support of postal workers.
"This is an appreciation demonstration. It's important to positively say that this [the USPS] is something we don't want messed with," Reskin tells New Times.
The delivery lags have been attributed in part to new rules from the recently appointed postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who has eliminated overtime and ordered that mail carriers must sort their own mail. DeJoy has explained that the new procedures are meant to cut costs, but many say they are causing a severe impediment in mail delivery.
With the recent slowdowns, some Miami business owners are concerned about losing customers, including vintage clothing seller Maria Barraco.
"There's hesitation now from buyers. They don't know when they're gonna get stuff or if they'll get it at all," Barraco tells New Times. "I'm really scared because this is my livelihood."
Barraco's business, Animal Vintage, which sells primarily through Etsy, offers free shipping to her local customers. Normally, Barraco uses priority shipping and her orders arrive in two to three days. Now, customers are waiting almost ten days to receive their purchases.
Barraco hesitates to use other services like FedEx or UPS because they're more expensive than USPS.
"I would consider other services if they offered price points that made sense for a small business like mine, but they're considerably more expensive," she says.
The other issue at the heart of Saturday's demonstration is what Reskin and others consider to be a major political crisis, as the postal service experiences these difficulties in the midst of a presidential election season.
"It's so basic to call it cheating, but it's cheating. They want to reduce people's capacity to vote," Reskin says.
President Donald Trump admitted last week that he wants to block USPS funding in order to hinder mail-in voting. The postal service is awaiting approval of a $25 billion relief package by Congress. The aid would relieve some of the shortfalls caused by the pandemic, including a sharp decline in foot traffic to post office retail locations.
Wanda Harris, president of the Miami chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, says the new postmaster general has not sat down with the union to discuss any of the changes he has instituted, despite their collective-bargaining agreement. She believes it has everything to do with the election.
"The election shows everyone that what's being done to the postal service has been done intentionally. We've never been in the news like this. Everyone knows it's not right," says Harris.
On Tuesday, DeJoy walked back some of his plans, saying he would defer them until after the election in order to "avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail." DeJoy has been called to testify before both houses of Congress over concerns about his handling of the USPS.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Despite DeJoy's deferral, Harris says the damage has already been done. She says five mail-sorting machines in the Miami postal facility were dismantled as part of an ostensible cost-cutting measure reported around the nation. Those machines help sort letters, including mail-in ballots.
"Our position as the union is we're sticking by asking for the relief fund. The mail is still being delayed — we just had a big backup in Opa-locka," Harris says.
Reskin says she hopes to see people come out to Saturday's demonstration. She adds that people who can't make it can get involved by signing a petition on the Facebook page and contacting their elected officials in Congress.
"We want to let our audiences know that we need to speak out about issues when it's important," she says. "This is a reliable, universal, affordable service. It's outrageous that they'd want to take capacity away from them when it's essential."