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Rats reported feeding on packages of rotted fruit and meat as postmaster general's cutbacks unleash chaos at California's mail centers

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/22/2020 sankel@businessinsider.com (Sophia Ankel)
Marianne Isaac works to help sort over 7000 pieces of mail on a small parcel sorter system machine during a behind the scenes tour at the USPS Distribution Center in the City of Industry, California on June 18, 2018. Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images) © Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images) Marianne Isaac works to help sort over 7000 pieces of mail on a small parcel sorter system machine during a behind the scenes tour at the USPS Distribution Center in the City of Industry, California on June 18, 2018. Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
  • Chaos has ensued at mail sorting facilities across California as employees struggle with the recent cutbacks in staffing and equipment.
  • At one mail-sorting facility in South Los Angeles, employees reported seeing gnats and rodents picking apart containers of fruit and meat that had been left to rot, according to the Los Angeles Times.
  • The reports come after recently-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy made a series of sweeping changes to the postal service.
  • Speaking to Congress this week, DeJoy promised that he would suspend many of the operational changes until after the election after facing criticism from Democratic congressional leaders.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Employees at mail sorting facilities across California are reporting padlocked sorting machines, mountains of untouched mail, and rodent-infested packages as they struggle with widespread cutbacks in staffing and equipment.

Postal workers and union leaders have told the Los Angeles Times that the recent cutbacks recently imposed by the postal service have caused major delays at facilities across the state.

At one facility in Santa Claris, employees discovered that their sorting machines had been padlocked or disabled.

Workers at another mail-sorting hub in South Los Angeles reported seeing gnats and rodents picking apart containers of fruit and meat that had been left to rot.

Mail handler Aukushan Scantlebury said cuts on overtime had triggered significant disruption to mail deliveries. He watched as rats dashed across the floor. At one point, the "whole building was filled with gnats," Scantlebury told the Los Angeles Times.

The reports provide a glimpse into the long-term consequences of the recent changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who took on the role earlier this summer.

DeJoy, an important donor to President Donald Trump, has been under intense scrutiny from Democratic congressional leaders after an investigation by Motherboard revealed that The United States Postal Service (USPS) is deactivating mail-sorting machines at processing centers across the country.

Mail-sorting machines can process 35,000 pieces of mail per hour and are crucial to the functioning of sorting facilities. 

Other changes implemented include controlling overtime and reducing extra trips, which has already caused massive delays, according to union representatives.


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In California, some people have complained of going days without receiving any mail at all, the Los Angeles Times reported.

a man wearing a suit and tie: US Postmaster General Louis Dejoy arrives at a meeting at the office of Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the U.S. Capitol August 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images © Alex Wong/Getty Images US Postmaster General Louis Dejoy arrives at a meeting at the office of Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the U.S. Capitol August 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

In a letter to DeJoy sent at the beginning of August, Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer wrote that the removal of the machines and the other changes "threaten the timely delivery of mail," including absentee ballots.

Elected officials and postal workers worry that the recent changes could have devastating effects on the election, where mail-in voting is expected to increase sharply because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Facing Congress this week, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced that he would suspend many of the operational changes until after the election.

DeJoy said that the delivery of the nation's election mail was a "sacred duty" and said the agency won't close any mail-sorting facilities.

"To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded," he said in a statement, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, postal workers are saying that significant damage has already been inflicted.

"A lot of the machinery has already been gutted. Some of it has been dismantled and relocated or trashed," Omar Gonzalez, the Western regional coordinator for the American Postal Workers Union, told the Los Angeles Times.

"Although we welcome the news of the suspension of these changes, it's just that — a suspension. The attacks and undermining of our operations will resume, maybe at the worst possible time, in December, our peak season."

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