Uproar over DeJoy’s Postal Service cuts
Activist holds a sign while rallying with others during a Save the Post Office Rally in Whitehall, Ohio. | Joshua A. Bickel / The Columbus Dispatch via AP

WASHINGTON—Trumpite Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s U.S. Postal Service delivery cuts are producing more formal protests—and more citizen uproar.

Without even bothering to consult the USPS Board of Governors, which under the law may be powerless to stop him, Republican-donor-cum-mail-boss DeJoy imposed new and lower service standards on the agency. His standards, 21 state Attorneys General said in protest, slow first-class mail significantly, even within 36 of the 48 continental United States.

The board, however, could halt DeJoy’s schemes by firing him and ousting his so-called management team. A cascade of e-mails—782 and counting in response just to one newspaper investigation of the practical impact of DeJoy’s cuts—demands the board do that.

Some writers, remembering right-wing corporate executive DeJoy is now under federal investigation for violating campaign finance contribution laws, want him jailed, too.

DeJoy, whom Trump forced the old USPS board to install a year ago, is also shuttering 18 big postal distribution centers and planning to transfer tens of thousands of workers or force them into retirement.

For instance, the sorting center in southeast Missouri, at Cape Girardeau, will be closed. Its mail will instead be sorted in St. Louis, 120 miles north. Workers have a choice: Move, or quit.

And in a major investigation, using Chicago as the hub, The Washington Post found that under DeJoy’s new “service standards,” first-class mail from the Windy City that now is supposed to take no longer than three days to get to Miami, Los Angeles, or Seattle will now supposedly take five days.

Mail from Chicago is now supposed to take no more than two days to reach all of Illinois, plus western Michigan and all but far southern Indiana and far western Wisconsin. Under DeJoy’s plan, the two-day target would shrink to the Milwaukee-Madison, Wis., area and southwards, the northern two-thirds of Illinois and most of northwestern Indiana.

DeJoy has started imposing his plan to, he claims, cut the USPS’s red ink—84% of which was imposed by a GOP-run Congress in 2006 postal “reform.” That’s when lawmakers ordered USPS to prepay $5 billion yearly to cover future retirees’ health care costs.

Despite turning a profit on first-class mail—even as its volume declined due to the Internet—and packages, the USPS has run in the red ever since. DeJoy’s “service standards” are a big part of his response to the deficits.

All of DeJoy’s destructive delays led the Letter Carriers, the Postal Workers, and 21 state Attorneys General, marshaled by Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, to formally protest to the postal board. Other groups, including the Alliance for Retired Americans, took to Twitter to raise hell. “We are excited for the mail to come on time, but Postmaster General Louis DeJoy seems to disagree. Not on our watch,” the Alliance said.

“We are not in favor” of DeJoy’s delays “for three reasons,” Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando told the board in a formal letter June 18, just before its latest meeting, where DeJoy’s plans were on the agenda.

  • The first reason, Rolando pointed out, is “high public opposition” to DeJoy’s cuts and slowdowns.
  • “Second, the damage to the Postal Service’s brand of quality by reducing service” while raising first-class mail prices—another part of DeJoy’s plan—“could trigger greater volume losses” than USPS forecast. “The Postal Service’s high favorability rating with the public” of more than 90% “is one of its greatest assets. It should not be squandered.”
  • Finally, Rolando said, DeJoy’s closures and slowdowns will save the USPS $169 million yearly, “a fraction of 1% of its current operating costs.

“As a matter of operating strategy, these paltry savings do not justify the long-term damage to the agency’s brand,” Rolando wrote.

And the Mail Handlers, a Laborers sector, are urging people to sign a petition to the White House, “to save the Postal Service.”

“This is in support of Rep. Peter DeFazio’s bill, HR630, the ‘Postal Service Protection Act,’ and the companion Senate bill, S316, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders,” it said.

The bills “will prevent post offices from shutting down, preserve overnight delivery standards, stop the unnecessary pre-funding mandate” and return to the USPS past federal pension overpayments.

All that will “save decent middle-class jobs,” NPMHU said.

The Postal Workers also protested DeJoy’s designs, though their letter to the board was not immediately available. In the past, APWU President Mark Dimondstein has said DeJoy’s cuts cover the Postmaster General’s true agenda, privatization.

DeJoy, Dimondstein says, shares that goal with former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump’s right-wing ideologues on the White House staff: Trash the USPS, fire the workers—most of whom are people of color, women, veterans or combinations of those characteristics—and let private industry grab the profitable sections, leaving the rest of the U.S. hung out to dry.

That was the concern of the AGs, too, according to Shapiro’s letter. He noted rural customers would be particularly hard hit by DeJoy’s destruction, slowing service of vital medicines, Social Security checks and bills and payments, and election mail.

But everyone, not just rural residents, will get hit, the AGs—including those from D.C., Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois, California, and Oregon—said in their letter. They urged the postal board to dump DeJoy’s plan.

Besides slowing first-class mail in most of the continental United States, between 34% and 96% of first-class letters between states would slow down, their analysis found. That high figure hits Nevada, its Democratic lawmakers told the Post. Its GOP lawmakers were silent.

“The worst impact would occur in the western states, with significantly increased delays in the Mountain, Southwest, and Plains states, as well as parts of Florida, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin,” the AGs’ analysis, by the Project for Economic Solutions, reported.

“It appears the Postal Service is poised to repeat many of these mistakes” DeJoy made when he started cutting service as soon as he took over a year ago, the AGs wrote. “As part of its strategic plan, it seeks to further degrade service standards” so “more than 30% of first-class mail would be subject to a delivery standard of four or five days as opposed to the current standard of two to three days.

“It proposes these changes to further a flawed philosophy that would prioritize services it offers in competitive markets over those it alone provides and on which countless Americans depend. And it seeks to implement these changes, despite never having restored service to its prior levels following the disastrous July 2020 initiatives and while the country still recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn.

“There is a different approach. The commission should urge the Postal Service to abandon this misguided effort and instead focus its attention on improving its performance in delivering first-class mail and other market-dominant products. It must examine the events of the past year to identify what went wrong…to ensure similar failures do not recur. Only once the Postal Service has shown it can reliably meet its performance targets should it consider standard changes. “

In plain English, what the AGs told the board was to force DeJoy to prove he could do the job he’s supposed to do before letting him try to change the rules covering it.

The USPS website’s communications section—under the control of DeJoy’s hand-picked PR director—is silent on the outcome of the latest postal board meeting.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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