Pressure from unions, senators forces DeJoy to pause postal closures
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy | Tom Brenner/AP

WASHINGTON—Pressure from postal unions, led by the Postal Workers, plus at least two dozen U.S. senators of both parties, forced Donald Trump-named and controversial Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to “pause” his postal sorting center closures.

But in correspondence with the lawmakers, DeJoy, a Republican big giver and former CEO of XPO Logistics—a package delivery firm that competes with USPS–still won’t commit to junking his scheme to shut down local sorting centers in favor of his consolidations. DeJoy still is a big XPO shareholder.

DeJoy called the changes “not…consequential” and “important elements to provide reliability in a cost-effective manner.” That means thousands of Letter Carriers (so far) must still drive hundreds of miles one way to pick up the mail they deliver before driving back and even starting their routes.

DeJoy’s 10-year “Delivering for America” plan for the Postal Service emphasizes packages and parcels and downgrades first-class mail, including medicines and checks. It also de-emphasizes mail-in ballots, senators and an Illinois Letter Carrier leader worry. DeJoy claims USPS will roll out ballot delivery plans in July.

The practical result of DeJoy’s controversial closures is to force thousands of Postal Workers to choose between keeping their jobs by picking up and moving, complete with forced sales of their homes, or quitting. And to drastically slow down first-class mail.

That’s produced a national uproar to Congress, over missing, late, or non-existent mail, notably in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Richmond, Va. It’s drawn the most ire from both the workers and the senators.

In a letter to lawmakers, the imperious DeJoy—who once sneeringly called a veteran postal worker-turned-congresswoman from Detroit “out of touch”—announced the pause, but wouldn’t go farther than that.

“In response to union, community, and political pressure, DeJoy…agreed to pause, at least until January, a number of the planned mail consolidations that are part of the ‘network modernization’ changes currently underway,” the Postal Workers reported. DeJoy did so only after 26 senators from both parties, led by Government Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., called him on the carpet in both a hearing and a letter about the postal problems.

“From the very beginning of these plans, APWU leadership has advocated that management needs to slow down to ensure the rights of the workers are upheld and respected and that planned changes must improve service,” union President Mark Dimondstein said as he released the written exchange between the Postmaster General and the lawmakers.

“While we acknowledge the need for change in light of changing technology, changes in the mailing habits of the people, and to the mail mix, the network changes have thus far been implemented in a chaotic and detrimental way. Slowing down the process, and commitments to improve service are welcome and needed steps,” Dimondstein said.

The senators aren’t convinced. They criticized the consolidations’ “effects on service” i.e. delays.

“We call on USPS to pause all changes, pending a full study of this plan by its regulator,” they wrote DeJoy. “While USPS claims these changes overall will improve service while reducing costs, there is evidence to the contrary in locations where USPS has implemented changes so far.

“USPS must stop implementation, restore service in those areas where changes were implemented, and fully understand the nationwide effects of its plan on service and communities” before it goes ahead, they said.

“DeJoy acknowledged issues in the plan’s rollout, especially in Atlanta, Ga., and Richmond, Va.,” the Letter Carriers reported in their website’s legislative section. NALC quoted DeJoy as saying “We apologize to the constituents that have received that service. But in the long term, if we don’t make these changes, that will be every day everywhere around the nation.”

DeJoy also claimed “significant progress” in postal efficiency under his Delivering for America plan, NALC said. The senators retorted there have been more problems than progress.

“Metro Atlanta area families and businesses continue to face lengthy delays,” an upset Ossoff wrote DeJoy on May 9, after continuing complaints about lost and late mail—and data showing only 36% on-time delivery ever since all local centers’ consolidation in Georgia’s capital. The senator wants answers, which DeJoy at the April 16 hearing had promised to deliver, and hasn’t.

“As we have discussed throughout the past few weeks, it is urgent that the performance of USPS delivery in Georgia improve immediately…Postal workers working diligently every day to deliver the mail on time deserve the infrastructure and the management competence to enable them to do so.”

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both D-Va., and one Virginian representative from each party raised similar customer screams about Richmond in a closed-door meeting with DeJoy. They called the conversation “productive,” which is often a D.C. euphemism for “disagreement.” The mail delays in Richmond are “severe,” the senators said.

The Postal Service’s own Inspector General backs the Virginians up. His office’s investigation of the Richmond regional sorting center, the first consolidated center DeJoy opened—while closing local sorting offices—found “an egregious lack of attention to detail” there, with “pieces of mail falling off conveyor belts and being lost.”

The Inspector General also reported “poor synchronizing between machines processing mail at the facility and the trucks transporting mail to and from the facility, and broader questions about whether the Regional Postal Distribution Center model is generating the promised cost savings and efficiency improvements.” DeJoy, in rolling out Delivery For America, made those promises.

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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.