Postmaster General DeJoy yields on replacement of polluting trucks
Trump holdover Louis DeJoy has been forced to back down on his plan to purchase only 10 percent electric vehicles to replace gas guzzling unsafe ones for mail delivery. He now says fully half of the new vehicles will be electric ones. | AP

WASHINGTON—Facing increasing flak over his decision to buy gas guzzlers, not electric vehicles, to replace the U.S. Postal Service’s elderly, unsafe fleet of delivery vehicles, Trumpite Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has backtracked somewhat. He now says at least half of the first batch of the newly built vehicles will be electric, not 10%.

Including vehicles the USPS is going to buy “off the shelf,” the agency expects 40% of all new vehicles it buys and builds to be electric, the agency’s Federal Register notice says. Its first order, for 50,000 of the total of 165,000 new vehicles, will include 10,019 electric ones. But it conditioned buying more electric vehicles on Congress coming up with the money.

The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of unions and green groups, called DeJoy’s decision positive, but the notice of the change, published July 21, shows it isn’t as positive as USPS paints it. And it says nothing about the new fleet being union-made. The alliance criticized DeJoy’s refusal to commit to that goal, too, which President Joe Biden set.

That’s important because Oshkosh Defense, a subsidiary of a Wisconsin-based firm in that city, received its first USPS vehicle contract to fund Oshkosh Defense’s new plant to churn them out—in anti-union South Carolina. The Oshkosh plant in its hometown of the same name, whose workers are members of Auto Workers Local 578,  is ready and outfitted to build the new USPS vehicles, gas or electric, there, the BlueGreen Alliance said.

The Auto Workers and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, which had criticized the state’s Republican senator, Ron Johnson, for supporting DeJoy’s gas guzzlers and its pro-South Carolina decision, had no immediate comment on that issue. The  BlueGreen Alliance did.

“We need even more electric delivery vehicles,” said alliance Policy Adviser Reem Rayef. “And we need them built by workers with good union jobs, reflecting” Biden’s “commitment to making federal investments that support workers and communities.

“That means building the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle in Oshkosh, where Oshkosh Defense’s United Auto Workers workforce is ready to build the delivery vehicles of the future.”

Though the official notice didn’t say so, DeJoy was under pressure to backtrack on his original decision for 90% gas-guzzlers for the new fleet, a multibillion-dollar multi-year deal.

The UAW and the Natural Resources Defense Council had sued in federal court to stop the South Carolina vehicle plant. And 16 states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania sued, too.

All said DeJoy didn’t follow the law and hold public hearings on his vehicle deal and that his minions crafted an inadequate environmental impact statement to justify a decision he had already made. USPS said it now has a supplemental environmental impact statement on the deal, and a public hearing would occur on August 8.

“We believe electric vehicles are going to be the wave of the future,” Michael Foster, motor vehicle services director for the Postal Workers, told National Public Radio after learning of the states’ suit. “The question is how soon will the Postal Service come into the future?”

And APWU President Mark Dimondstein pointed out another environmental benefit to the large purchase of electric vehicles: They will need charging stations, and post offices would be great places for them.

“This isn’t a small endeavor” for USPS, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, told NPR. “They’re working to replace the largest civilian fleet in the world. The scope of this is massive and will undeniably have a lasting impact on our environment. Which makes the fact the process was hastily and sloppily done all the worse.”

DeJoy’s initial pro-gas guzzler decision raised hackles in Congress also, though the chief foes of his dictate, such as Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., a longtime former Postal Worker whom DeJoy once snidely called “out of touch,” had no immediate comment.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.