The beleaguered Chicago Postal Service has a plan to become fully staffed by June, according to a letter Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent to Postmaster Wanda Prater after the two met earlier this week.
"As mentioned, the City of Chicago stands ready to support you and all post office employees through continued COVID-19 vaccination services," Lightfoot wrote in a March 18 letter. "In addition, as your hiring and training plan evolves my team can work with you to identify additional public facilities that may be suitable for new hire trainings."
Prater’s job performance has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, as a majority of aldermen and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) are calling for her removal in light of profoundly delayed deliveries at post offices and routes.
Last month, Rush summarized damning findings from an audit of four South Side post offices, including the much-maligned Henry McGee, 4601 S. Cottage Grove Ave., that found 62,800 pieces of delayed mail in September 2020.
Average employee availability at Henry McGee from last April through September was 70.3%, the lowest of the four post offices surveyed. Managers told investigators that inactive substitute workers were not removed from employee rolls, preventing them from hiring replacements.
Lightfoot said she and Prater discussed the complaints Chicagoans have registered about habitually slow mail delivery and problems at branches, including "access, long lines and discourteous staff."
"As you and I both know, slow or infrequent mail services can have devastating impacts on residents, especially those who rely on the Postal Service for government assistance, medications or to pay their bills," Lightfoot wrote. "And while I understand the social distancing challenges arising from small customer queues in your locations, I challenge you and your team to think creatively about how to address these in-station issues."
Twice Lightfoot referenced the ongoing pandemic and urged the Chicago Postal Service to adapt. She additionally urged Prater to hold a press conference to address the issues.
Reached for comment, Timothy Norman with the Postal Service Chicago District said there have been some staff shortages at some locations due to the pandemic but that 200 more letter carriers have been hired and trained.
"Mail delivery is ongoing and up to date from all locations in Chicago," he said. "We have no comment on the mayor's letter and do not have any plans at this time to participate in a press conference with her office."
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has called for Chicago Postmaster Wanda Prater to resign. Durbin has instead called on U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to resign. The Herald regrets the error.