Trumpite Postmaster DeJoy sued over huge gas guzzler buy
Gas guzzlers ordered by DeJoy. | Travis Wise/Flickr via National Resources Defense Council

NEW YORK—Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has caught flak ever since former Republican Oval Office occupant Donald Trump forced the U.S. Postal Service to accept the GOP big giver into its top job, has put his foot in it again.

DeJoy’s forced the United Auto Workers and a leading green group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, to sue him in federal court in Manhattan over his plan to buy new gas-guzzling—not electric—delivery vehicles for the Postal Service and its Letter Carriers.

There’s no question the USPS needs new delivery vehicles. Current vehicles are up to 30 years old, break down frequently, guzzle gas, aren’t air conditioned and lack standard safety features such as air bags and anti-lock brakes. Annual maintenance costs at least $5,000 per vehicle, the suit says. They also aren’t built to handle the new mix of mail, with more packages.

“This lawsuit claims the Postal Service failed to follow the law when evaluating and finalizing its contract for” the vehicles, “and that the contract is based on inaccurate environmental analysis,” the Letter Carriers told their members in the Postal Bulletin.

“NALC is closely monitoring this lawsuit. Secur­ing new vehicles for Letter Carriers is a top priority, and we will continue pushing for the prompt delivery of these vehicles, as well as the funding for them that has been proposed by the Biden administration.”

USPS plans to buy 180,000 new vehicles, one of the largest vehicle fleets in the U.S., spending $11.3 billion over ten years. Both lawmakers and Democratic President Joe Biden want them to be electric vehicles, to help convert the U.S. away from greenhouse gas-emitting gasoline and diesel fuel, to boost the EV industry through economies of scale, and because the USPS desperately needs to replace its current fleet.

But DeJoy went ahead and awarded the first contract to Oshkosh Defense for gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles, except 10% would be electric. Top USPS official Victoria Stephen admitted to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the first batch of vehicles would be built at a new non-union Oshkosh plant in anti-union South Carolina, not at the UAW-represented Oshkosh plant in Wisconsin. Non-union labor is contrary to what Biden wants, too.

“They were granted a $3 billion contract…And then after the ink was dry, it looks like [Oshkosh is] opening up a scab facility in South Carolina with no prior history of producing vehicles in that facility,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. The first pact to Oshkosh includes construction costs for the Carolina plant, the suit notes.

“How did we discover this? @UAW union workers, climate organizers, and anti-corruption activists came to us with critical information to sound the alarm. We proceeded to investigate, and when I asked a USPS official about it under oath, this happened: Wow, big admission from USPS official Stephen: Oshkosh Defense told USPS it would move its production from union shops in Wisconsin to non-union shops in South Carolina ‘shortly before the public announcement’ of the contract.” Left unsaid: Trump won South Carolina.

The lawsuit is devastatingly caustic about DeJoy’s decision. It says DeJoy rejected public comments and completely rejected UAW’s objections without saying why, or even opening them. It also says environmental law bars using environmental impact statements “to justify decisions already made,” which is what DeJoy did.

“The Postal Service signed a contract to purchase vehicles before undertaking environmental review,” the NRDC-UAW suit says. “It failed to evaluate reasonable alternatives. It made irrational assumptions about the future prices of gasoline”–$2 a gallon—“electricity, and electric vehicles,” declaring going all-electric would cost $2.3 billion-$3.3 billion more.

“It committed to buying a new fleet of gas-powered vehicles without considering greenhouse gas emissions,” the 49-page lawsuit adds.

When NRDC, UAW and others “pointed out these errors, the Postal Service doubled down in a flawed decision based on the woefully inadequate environmental impact statement.”

The suit said DeJoy ignored the environmental impact of gas fumes from the new vehicles on people living and working near postal routes, and the environmental impact of building a new Oshkosh Defense plant in South Carolina.

And the suit notes buying gas-powered vehicles not only adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—the leading greenhouse gas—but particulates, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants. The result: Smog.

But DeJoy awarded the contract to Oshkosh, then went ahead with an environmental impact statement—rather than the other way around, which is what the law requires. So NRDC marched into the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, since the green group is headquartered there. UAW, defending its members and their Local 578 in Oshkosh, joined in.

Meanwhile, 30 national union leaders, led by AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, also wrote to Biden, asking him to override DeJoy’s deal. Text of that letter was not immediately available.

“Oshkosh Defense was built by union workers in Wisconsin, and it’s only right that the company invest in our communities,” UAW Local 578 President Bob Lynk said. “But right now, the company is turning its back on the families and workers that have fueled its growth for more than 80 years, after spending the last decade cutting local jobs nearly in half.

“We can and should build the postal vehicle here in Wisconsin and create good-paying union jobs that our next generation needs. Oshkosh is more than ready to get to work: We have production facilities, our workers prepped the prototypes, and families and small businesses across 14 counties depend on these jobs. We’re going to keep fighting to restore jobs our community has lost.”

UAW elaborated on that in the lawsuit. UAW has an “interest in mitigating climate change through the production of electric vehicles,” it told the federal court in Manhattan.

“By signing and funding a contract that sends a large number of jobs to a new facility not covered by a collective bargaining agreement—and by refusing to disclose this decision, analyze its impacts, or analyze any alternatives with fewer socioeconomic impacts—the Postal Service harmed UAW’s interest in promoting good socioeconomic outcomes by ensuring that vehicles are produced at union shops.”

And going non-union “makes it more likely that the communities where UAW members live and work may experience adverse environmental and socioeconomic impacts associated with employers moving jobs to areas where workers earn less and endure worse working conditions,” the exact point of moving vehicle production from Oshkosh to South Carolina.

“If allowed to stand, it would lock in decades of fossil fuel consumption and pollution in communities across the United States, resulting in higher maintenance and fuel costs, worse air quality, and increased climate impacts,” the NRDC-UAW suit summarizes.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy | Tom Williams/AP

“If the Postal Service undertook a supplemental environmental analysis, it could reach a different conclusion and instead invest in much-needed EVs that would reduce air pollution, mitigate causes of climate change, provide union jobs, and save the Postal Service money.”

DeJoy’s vehicle deal isn’t the first time he’s driven USPS into the ditch. When he first entered the PMG’s office in mid-2020, the former CEO of XPO Logistics—a delivery firm and USPS competitor—ordered massive changes which slowed down the mail.

DeJoy lowered delivery standards for first-class letters and yanked ubiquitous blue mailboxes out of Democratic-run majority-minority central cities in the runup to the 2020 election. He ordered big machines that sort oversized letters—such as ballot envelopes—disassembled.

DeJoy banned overtime, even if Letter Carriers had to leave mail on garage floors rather than deliver it. Post-election, DeJoy started to implement a “modernization” plan to consolidate and close postal distribution centers, forcing workers to move hundreds of miles, or quit.

DeJoy supported the section of the Postal Reform Act Congress passed that abolished the $5 billion yearly Republican-imposed financial drain on the USPS to prepay future retirees’ health care benefits. But he opposed getting the USPS into other revenue-raising measures, notably restoring postal banking, which ended in 1967. Postal unions and their congressional champion, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., advocated those revenue-raisers for USPS.

In August, DeJoy awarded a big $120 million contract to his old firm, XPO. Then came the vehicle deal. NRDC, the union, the lawmakers and EPA hit the roof. Ocasio-Cortez, after Stephens’ admission, said DeJoy’s trucks “would guzzle TONS of gas.” (Her emphasis)

“Neither rain, nor sleet, nor financial good sense will stop the leaders of the U.S. Postal Service from trying to buy dirty, polluting delivery trucks,” NRDC Transportation Analyst Patricio Portillo said when the union and the green group sent in their court papers. “For the sake of clean air and cost savings, it’s time to return this plan to sender.”


CONTRIBUTOR

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). El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

Comments

comments