PORTLAND, Ore. — Seven mail sorting machines have been dismantled at the United States Postal Service's Portland processing and distribution facility, according to multiple USPS employees.
The machines were disconnected following a meeting with management and postal service employees on Friday, Aug. 14.
Six of those machines help sort letters, and another is a "flat" sorter, meaning it sorts items like magazines and booklets.
Mail carriers KGW spoke with Wednesday say they are gravely concerned about the impact that removing these machines can have on mail delivery in the coming months.
The volume of letters USPS handles in the Portland area year-over-year is on par for the summer months, and has been manageable during the pandemic and recent changes at USPS, the employees said.
However, a significant increase in letters and other mail is expected in the coming months through the holiday season.
"Going forward, we know the volume's going to pick up. We have election mail, we're going to have the Christmas stuff, we're going to have the advertisements for the holidays. There's going to be a significant amount of mail increase in the future," Willie Groshell, president of the Oregon State Association of Letter Carriers said.
The sorting machines were dismantled around the same time four blue mailboxes were removed from Portland streets, and 27 others were removed in Eugene. A spokesperson for the postal service said they were only removing mailboxes that are next to several other mailboxes.
The postal service has been removing blue mail collection boxes and dismantling mail sorting machines nationwide during the past week or so. Six sorting machines were dismantled in Michigan, and several others were reported dismantled in Montgomery County, Maryland.
In a letter earlier this week, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy pledged the USPS would halt further changes -- like the removal of blue mailboxes or the dismantling of machines -- until after the election.
However, the letter carriers KGW spoke with say they're concerned the damage has already been done. They say even if DeJoy doesn't order more changes, the machines that have been dismantled will remain dismantled, and mailboxes that have been removed won't be replaced.
Additionally, they say they were given no heads up from USPS leadership about these changes, which deviates from standard procedures.
"It's discouraging. The main reason it's discouraging, we as letter carriers, we weren't made aware of it happening until after it came out in the news," Groshell said.
Last week, President Donald Trump admitted he wants to block money from the U.S. Postal Service, in an effort to make it harder to process mail-in ballots during the November 2020 election.
The USPS warned election officials in Oregon, Washington and many other states of potential mail-in ballot delays.
When asked about these possible delays in Oregon specifically, Sen. Ron Wyden said he has spoken with Gov. Kate Brown.
"She is going to look into the policies and see how they affect us," Sen. Wyden said. "[Pres. Trump] is obviously going to take every opportunity to argue vote by mail has rampant fraud, which is completely untrue."
In a letter sent to Oregon’s Secretary of State in July, the general counsel for the postal service suggested the agency may not be able to meet deadlines for delivering last-minute mail-in ballots.
"We as letter carriers are going to do everything in our power to make sure that we get everything to you as quickly and efficiently and accurately as we can, that's what we pride ourselves in trying to do. That's not going to change," Groshell said.
KGW reached out to a local USPS spokesperson for comment on this story. As of Wednesday evening, we have not heard back.