The public learned last fall of one particularly controversial element of United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s 10-year plan for the U.S. Postal Service that would be rolling out soon. Essentially, the function of sorting and delivering mail would be consolidated into regional centers, leaving empty former sorting space in the back of post offices. No layoffs were announced.
At first glance, this sounds innocuous, but seasoned postal observers suspect that with less activity happening at smaller or rural post offices, they become vulnerable to a reduction in hours or closure. This leads to the kind of job losses that initially present as don’t worry, we’ll relocate you to the regional center but are experienced by postal workers as if I don’t commute two hours there and back each day or more, I lose my job.
In response, The Save the Post Office Coalition, which I coordinate, wrote to the secretary of the USPS Board of Governors to ensure the board was made aware of emails from 160,000 postal customers across the country urging them to stop the disastrous elements of DeJoy’s plan before it’s too late.
Among the several thousands of personalized messages, we highlighted a handful in our note:
“The USPS provides a service to the public. It was never intended to be a profit-making business. I’m disappointed & ashamed at where politics seem to be taking us.”— David B. (veteran) Seattle, Washington.
“As a former United States Postal Service employee and as someone who regularly uses the [USPS], I ask you to do something about DeJoy, who continues to degrade everything about the postal service — especially the service part of it.”— Kristin F. in Cottonwood, Indiana.
“It is important for seniors like me to be able to count on a dependable means of getting medications without having a further drain on our resources.”— Peter L. in Los Angeles, California.
“I believe that a well supported and functioning post office is a hallmark of a healthy, advanced nation. Stop DeJoy’s undemocratic plan now before it’s too late.”— Janet M. in Downers Grove, Illinois.
“We senior citizens depend on USPS. Please help keep it viable.”—Joanne L. in Akron, Ohio.
“Our postal service should be about serving us rather than serving businesses that give it money.”— Douglas L. in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
We have yet to hear a response or acknowledgement that the messages from the public were received, and DeJoy continues to make it clear that he doesn’t want anyone asking questions about his 10-year plan.
On the same day that USPS leadership received our coalition’s messages, the Postal Regulatory Commission issued a public inquiry order to DeJoy asking that USPS provide details on the sorting and delivery changes under his plan. In the order, the Commission said it “notes that stakeholders have expressed concerns regarding a lack of a forum to explore the impacts of these proposed changes.”
DeJoy responded with an objection to the Commission’s inquiry. On May 17, DeJoy delivered congressional testimony for the first time in nearly two years at a hearing of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations. Rep. Summer Lee asked him why USPS is objecting. In his response, DeJoy was openly hostile toward the postal regulator, accusing them of actively participating “in the destruction of [USPS].”
Just last month, DeJoy sat down with the press for a 90-minute interview where he once again doubled down with an adversarial attitude toward postal regulators who seek details for the public on his 10-year plan, calling the Commission’s inquiry “nonsense,” saying, “We don’t need to be babysat.”
On May 22, DeJoy delivered the keynote address at the 2023 National Postal Forum where he spoke at length touting his efforts to implement “dramatic changes” and increase the pace of his 10-year plan. The postmaster general told the audience that “dramatic changes must be done at a pace, and with a tenacity that is rarely seen.” However, these changes are a mystery to many, and for a public institution, this mystery is dangerous.
If the past is any guide, the effects of potential post office closings and reduced hours will be devastating, particularly to rural and Indigenous communities. The Save the Post Office Coalition organized a petition to the Postal Regulatory Commission and the USPS Office of Inspector General urging them to stop DeJoy’s “dramatic changes” and demand public input, and so far has received over 131,000 signatures from the public who regularly use the postal service.
The bottom line is that the public has a right to more transparency and input in the decision-making process at a public institution. This requires engagement with said public — which DeJoy is actively resisting. When you put a rich, white, private-sector executive who isn’t used to public accountability and cooperation in charge of a treasured public institution, such a clash might be inevitable. It’s plain DeJoy doesn’t have the temperament for public service.
Communities across the nation want dramatic change at the post office too, but that dramatic change is not to be secretive or a surprise; it must be a shift toward protecting and expanding the public footprint and services available at the post office to meet new needs and change with the times. The People’s Postal Agenda outlines a framework for an expanded USPS that includes things like postal banking, expanded nonbank financial services like bill payment and ATMs, WiFi in parking lots, and public electric vehicle charging.
We still remember former President Donald Trump’s plan to privatize the post office, right before he put his thumb on the scale to have his donor DeJoy appointed as postmaster general. We also remember DeJoy’s role in sowing public fear and uncertainty in the vote-by-mail process by slowing down the mail and then sending out mailers to voters that meeting their state’s deadline would not ensure their vote would arrive in time to be counted, causing him to be sued by the NAACP and Public Citizen, as well as secretaries of state.
There is nothing to suggest that DeJoy has abandoned the privatization vision of the people who got him the job. So it’s our job as citizens to make absolutely sure any upcoming “dramatic changes” to the post office don’t shrink and privatize the institution but protect and expand it for generations to come.
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