What the USPS 10-year plan may have to say about future rate increases March 24, 2021 READ MORE The 10-year plan did not reveal the size of the rate increase but it left a few clues. "Save the Post Office" launches new Service Performance Dashboard March 7, 2021 READ MORE The Dashboard provides easy access to the recent performance reports and lots of charts too. The Postal Service wants to slow down the mail, Congress says not so fast February 22, 2021 READ MORE The PMG wants to change service standards; the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wants to change the law. Back to the Future: The USPS, PRC and Mailers revisit the meaning of PAEA February 19, 2021 READ MORE The rate case is now in the DC Circuit, where the parties are arguing about what Congress meant when it gave the PRC authority to establish a new rate system. The 2020 Mail Delays: Stats & Charts February 14, 2021 READ MORE The PRC has been scrutinizing on-time service performance and requesting data about the scope and causes of mail delays
mankatofreepress.com: It was May of 2014 when the U.S. Postal Service announced it would sell its historic downtown Mankato home and move postal boxes and retail services to a smaller leased space.
Nearly 6½ years later, the relocation happened.
“It’s a shame they moved,” an elderly woman said Tuesday as she prepared to walk into the new “Main Post Office” near the intersection of Main and Broad streets. “I liked the old building. Kind of a landmark here.”
The two-story 1896 Kasota stone building at 401 South Second St. served as a federal courthouse and the base of most Mankato postal services for more than a century. In recent years, though, most postal operations moved to a distribution center on the north end of town, leaving only a fraction of the downtown building still in use.
In 2014, the expectation was the sale and move might take only a year or so. But the sale dragged on, with the Postal Service asking for $1.6 million for the 1.5-acre property. Even now, a year after the real estate listing was taken down amid reports of a sale, the buyer remains unnamed and the redevelopment plan undisclosed.
With the apparent sale in October of last year, the Postal Service announced in November that it would be leasing space in the renovated office building, about three blocks to the northeast, that formerly housed Carlson-Tillisch Eye Clinic. Read more.
The Fall 2020 newsletter from Community & Postal Workers United contains articles on “Outcry Halts New Postmaster General’s Attacks on Service…for Now,” “Target the Postal Board of Governors ! Dump PMG DeJoy!,” “Postal Service workers quietly resist DeJoy’s changes,” and “Postmaster General eyes aggressive changes at Postal Service after election.” Read the newsletter here.
The following timeline shows how the plan was shared inside the Postal Service while it was kept secret from everyone else. Most of the details come from the “Determination of Fact” section in Judge Gerald A. McHugh’s ruling in Pennsylvania v DeJoy (Sept. 28, 2020) and Senator Gary Peter’s Failure to Deliver: Harm Caused by U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy’s Changes to Postal Service Mail Delivery, prepared by the HSGAC Minority Staff.
On May 6, 2020, the USPS Board of Governors selected Louis DeJoy to be the next Postmaster General, and on June 15, he began his tenure as the 75th Postmaster General of the United States.
On June 26, David E. Williams, Executive Vice President and the Chief Logistics & Processing Operations Officer, presided over a conference call that included other members of Headquarters and the Area Vice Presidents (AVPs). At the meeting, Williams gave a slide presentation that covered workhour reductions in mail processing, delivery, and retail services. One slide read: “Work Hour Reduction Target, Do It Now.”
The presentation said that the Postal Service would be reducing work hours by requiring letter carriers to adhere to start times and leave on time. Letter carrier supervisors would be required to get higher-level approval for carriers to exceed 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. The presentation also said leadership sought to “zero out penalty overtime” and “minimize use of pre-tour OT” and standby OT for employees involved in mail processing of letters and flats.
The presentation indicated that changes with respect to penalty overtime would be implemented as of July 4, 2020. Control of overtime for mail processing supervisors would be implemented in the period from July 11, 2020 to July 17, 2020.
On July 7, Williams led another teleconference with the AVPs, and leadership reiterated the messages of the June 26th meeting: Letter carriers should leave on time, rural carrier should return on time, and so on. One presentation included a topline message: “64 Million Work Hours” and “T-86. Days.”
While the message may have been going around for days or weeks before, this is the first known indication that Headquarters had a goal to eliminate 64 million work hours, The “T-86” refers to the 86 days between July 7 and October 1, the first day of Fiscal Year 2021 — the target date for accomplishing the work hour reductions. (That would be today.) (Correction: An OIG report, released on Oct. 20, 2020, says the plan was “designed to save an estimated 64 million workhours in FY 2021. Executives noted that these strategies needed to be started in FY 2020 to achieve the FY 2021 targets.”)
One of the members of Headquarters at the meeting was Robert Cintron, Vice President of Logistics. In his testimony in Pennsylvania v DeJoy, Cintron said Postmaster DeJoy attended the July 7 teleconference to deliver general remarks for 15 minutes. It’s not clear if the PMG remained on the call while the workhour reduction plan was presented. (It’s difficult to say much about DeJoy’s whereabouts during this timeline because he won’t turn over his calendars; Government Oversight is suing for them.)
Also at this July 7 teleconference, Angela Curtis, who then served as Acting Vice President for Eastern Area Operations and is now Vice President of Retail and Post Office Operations, gave a presentation on new, reduced overtime targets regarding the manual distribution of mail to carrier routes. The Plan would cut city carrier hours by having carriers leave for their routes with mail left behind and limiting them to 8-hour days without higher approval.
Curtis also noted that overtime in post offices would be limited. The overtime utilization rate for clerks would be cut from 16 percent to 12 percent, and pre-tour overtime would be eliminated. The Plan, as we soon saw, would also eliminate work hours in post offices by reducing window hours by closing for lunch, earlier in the day, and on Saturdays, as well as closing many post offices completely. And these are just the parts of the plan we know about.
On July 9, postal executive Otis Smith emailed Cintron to say that Postmaster DeJoy “was requesting a draft of the business plan for review.” Smith directed Cintron to provide preliminary financial estimates for “elimination of extra trips and change service standards to enable use of the most efficient transportation.”
On July 10, another teleconference took place with members of Headquarters and the AVPs. At this meeting, Williams gave another version of the work hour reduction presentation.
In his order on Jones v USPS, Judge Victor Marrero says that DeJoy participated in this July 10 teleconference. I can’t find anything in the published documents on PACER to support that, but there may be additional courtroom documents not available online.
This July 10 meeting was later the subject of a report by the Washington Post, which also published Williams’ PowerPoint presentation. It was among the documents turned over to the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro as part of Pennsylvania v DeJoy.
In a statement to the The Post, Williams said the July 10th presentation was meant to be “motivational” and encourage greater efficiency and accountability — not set new policy. Indeed, 10 of the 14 slides say things like “Belief that it is achievable and we can make it so,” “all in vs opt in,” “be purpose driven instead of fear driven,” and “overcome our resistance.” These slides suggest that the new Work Hour Reduction plan represented a big ask for management.
The Post focused on three other slides in the presentation, which were about changes in transportation policy. One slide said, “No Extra Transportation / No Late Transportation.” Another directed management to have an AVP ratify any extra or late trips, and the AVPs were directed to notify Williams about such trips on a daily basis. The directives, wrote The Post, stood “in contrast with agency accounts that lower-tier leaders outside USPS headquarters were mainly responsible for the controversial protocols.”
The Post doesn’t say anything about the first slide, but it’s the most important one in the presentation:
This slide makes it abundantly clear that the goal was to reduce 64 million work hours. As of July 10, the target date for reaching this goal, October 1, 2020, was now just 83 days away. (Note the correction: The plan was “designed to save an estimated 64 million workhours in FY 2021. Executives noted that these strategies needed to be started in FY 2020 to achieve the FY 2021 targets.”)
To reach the goal, postal leaders initiated the Work Hour Reduction plan by focusing on transportation. This is “The First Test” in Williams’ presentation. It involved cutting mail processing work hours by mandating no late trips and no extra trips. (Work hour reductions in the plants would also be facilitated by the removal of over 700 sorting machines.)
This post was written in 2016 and slightly updated on Oct. 31, 2018, exactly two years ago today. The update started like this:
According to this AP report today, alarms are already being raised about the rejection of many mail-in ballots in next week’s elections. Several of these elections are likely to be very close, and in some cases, votes cast by mail may make the difference. As the AP article notes, “nearly one of every four ballots cast in 2016 came through the mail or was handed in at a drop-off location, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.” With more and more people choosing to vote by mail, controversies involving mail ballots are likely. Back in 2016, just before the November election, we ran this article about the potential for an election “meltdown” arising from voting-by-mail issues.
Following is the 2018 update, with no further revisions for 2020. Some of the details are out-of-date and incorrect, but much of the post is more relevant now than it was then.
In the November midterms, about one out of four votes will be cast by mail. With control of the House and Senate in the balance, any election that is close is likely to be contested. Arcane postal matters, like USPS postmark policies and service standards, could take center stage in a bitter fight to the finish.
In most elections, the margin of victory is large enough to avoid questions about how the votes were cast and counted, but when elections are close and contested, things like how the voting machines function and what constitutes a valid ballot can become very significant.
With voting by mail becoming increasingly common — according to a recent study by PEW Trusts, more than 20 percent of votes are now cast by mail nationwide — the possibility of a major controversy involving mail ballots is also increasing.
Like other voting methods, voting by mail is not perfect. Sometimes ballots are lost in the mail, sometimes they arrive at election centers after the deadline. Mail voting is susceptible to fraud, there can be disagreements over whether a ballot is valid due to a postmark issue, and it may take days or weeks to count all the ballots, which can mean long delays without a clear victor.
A report issued by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) entitled “The New Realities of Voting by Mail in 2016” discusses several key issues, such as the challenges facing the Postal Service in delivering and tracking ballots and ensuring that voters know the deadlines for requesting and casting a ballot. The report also makes a number of recommendations that would help avoid some of the problems with voting by mail, but implementing them will take time, perhaps more time than we have before the next election.
If the coming election is close in even just a few Congressional contests, the results may hinge on votes cast by mail and how they get counted. Topics like the Postal Service’s service standards for on-time delivery and its postmarking practices may end up in the news the same way the hanging chads did in Florida in 2000. Problems with the count could lead to an election meltdown similar to Gore-Bush in 2000. It could get ugly. Read More
The Postal Service has shared some weekly on-time service performance data with the plaintiffs in the Jones v. USPS case.
The data set provided by the Postal Service provides the most complete picture of on-time performance that we’ve seen since the mail delays became an issue earlier this summer. The exhibit includes the average on-time performance for First Class Mail, Marketing Mail, and Periodicals, on a week-by-week basis, on a national, area, and district level, from the beginning of 2020 through the week of August 29.
Unfortunately, the Postal Service has not broken out the numbers in the same way that it does when it publishes the quarterly reports. In the Jones exhibit, the Postal Service has merged the numbers for Single-Piece First Class and Pre-Sort First Class, as well as mail with a 2-day standard and mail with a 3-5 day standard. This makes it impossible to compare the new data with the historical data. The new data report also does not contain the variance data the Postal Service includes with the quarterly reports; they show how much mail was late by one day, two days, and three.
Still, the performance scores in the Jones exhibit do give us some idea of how things have been going.
As the Postal Service reported in a recent press release, there’s been an “uptick” in performance as of August 29th: 88.04 percent on-time for First-Class Mail, 89.56 percent for Marketing Mail and 78.24 percent for Periodicals.
Those numbers are better than earlier in the summer but still well below targets. For Single-Piece First Class mail with a 2-day standard, the target is 96.5 percent and for 3-5 day mail, 95.25 percent. The numbers, however, are not far from what the Postal Service typically posts for First Class: about 92 percent for 2-day single-piece and 81 percent for 3-5 day, as seen in this PRC report, p. 4.
In any case, service performance is still not back to the baseline of where it was earlier this year, before the operational changes implemented by the Postal Service in early July started slowing the mail. Here’s a chart showing First Class mail since June. The improvement begins in mid-August, when the Postmaster General put a “pause” on the changes.
Most of the areas and districts show a similar drop and partial recovery. Here’s a table showing the average score for First Class mail, by area, of the baseline period before the operational changes went into effect and the period after the changes. The table also shows the week of August 8, which in almost every case was the low point for service performance, and the week of August 29, the most recent week for which the Postal Service has provided data.
As the table shows, during the baseline period before the operational changes went into effect (January to July), scores were about 6 or 7 percent higher than they were after the changes, and about ten percent higher than the low point in mid-July. As of the week of August 29th, the scores were still 2 to 5 percent below where they were before the operational changes. On a national level, the score of 88.04 during the week of August 29th was still 3.5 percent lower than in January 4 – July 1.
The data set for the districts shows similar numbers. As of the week of August 29, about 46 districts out of 67 were still scoring below 90 percent. The scores for two districts were especially low: the Capital District was on time only 78 percent of the time, and Baltimore had an on-time score of only 60 percent.
The Senate also requested weekly service reports, and it appears the Postal Service shared data similar to what it provided to the plaintiffs in Jones v USPS. The Minority Staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has prepared a detailed report about the weekly service reports, the internal USPS documents behind the delays, and the impacts of the delayed mail on small businesses and deliveries of medication. The Washington Post has an article today about the Senate report.
The Senate report contains a chart similar to the one above, but with the y-axis foreshortened, which makes the delays appear even worse. For some reason it identifies July 11 as the date when the Postmaster General ordered the operational changes, but it’s probable that this occurred earlier, and perhaps there were several orders behind the delay. Anyway, here’s the Senate graph:
We’re still waiting for the more complete performance reports that the Postal Regulator Commission requested on Sept. 3 in response to a request by yours truly. The Postal Service has asked the Commission to simplify the request or to provide more time. The Commission has yet to rule on that.
We’ve uploaded the original exhibit provided in Jones v. USPShere. The Postal Service provided the data in pdf format, so we’ve converted it to easier-to-use Excel sheets, which can be found on Google Drive here. The national data is here; the data broken out by area is here; the data for the districts is here; the district data for the week of August 29 is here.
First, a disclaimer. The following analysis is largely speculative. It’s not based on insider information. The evidence comes from news articles, government reports, legal filings, and a few leaked internal USPS documents that were published on postal news sites. The analysis could be totally wrong.
The hypothesis is simply this: The Postal Service has embarked on a plan to reduce labor costs by about 7 percent. That represents approximately 67 million workhours, or the equivalent of about 33,000 jobs.
The analysis will also suggest that all the things we saw earlier this summer — the removal of blue collection boxes, the decommissioning of over 700 sorting machines, trucks leaving plants partially loaded or empty, letter carriers heading out on their routes with mail left behind, a presentation saying that overtime was being eliminated, post offices closing for lunch or earlier in the day, rumors of post offices closing completely — were not, as the Postal Service claimed, isolated incidents, business as usual, or the result of miscommunication between headquarters and local managers.
Rather, they were part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate tens of millions of workhours and downsize the Postal Service in significant ways.
The Seven-Percent Solution
According to its 10-K financial report, in FY 2019 the Postal Service experienced a total “controllable” loss of $3.4 billion. That doesn’t include another $5 billion or so in losses related to pension and retiree health care costs that the Postal Service didn’t pay.
To balance the books, the Postal Service can increase revenues, raise prices or cut costs. Revenue increases are difficult, since First Class letter volumes are falling and Congress has limited what new forms of business the Postal Service can expand into.
The Postal Service has already introduced a temporary rate increase on commercial parcels through the holidays, and it will raise rates again next year. But price increases on letters and flats are limited by law and increases on parcels are constrained by competition in the marketplace. In the past, increasing rates has basically helped the Postal Service keep up with rising costs but done little to reduce the losses.
That leaves cutting costs as the only way to make significant inroads. Given that nearly 80 percent of the Postal Service’s expenses are related to labor, cost cutting means one thing, reducing workhours.
In FY 2019, compensation and benefits costs totaled $47.5 billion. To offset a loss of $3.4 billion, the Postal Service would need to reduce these costs by about 7 percent.
Back in July, District Managers and Plant Managers around the country began sharing Standup Talks in which they outlined the downsizing plan to employees. The talks identify exactly how many workhours need to be eliminated in each district in the three areas of postal operations: mail processing, delivery, and post offices.
The talks indicate that there is a comprehensive plan to reduce workhours across the board by about 7 percent. Even though it hasn’t been stated outright, that goal appears to be a key element of the Postmaster General’s transformative plan for the Postal Service. Read More
“Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Those were the stirring words of President Lincoln during his first inaugural address. The nation had come to a crossroads or perhaps it was a dead end, we could no longer go on without facing our original sin, what some euphemistically called “that peculiar institution.” After four years of the bloodletting, we finally put aside the evils of slavery, but rather than finish the job we stopped half way.
It took a century to bring the hope of healing to the next step with the Civil Rights laws of the 1960’s. And still we hid from our responsibilities and the hopeful destiny that could have been our course. Some clung to hate and privilege, resisting and rejecting the idea that all of us were created equal and had a role to play as citizens in this experiment of self-government.
Today we have the opportunity to starkly face and solidly put to rest the sins of our past. Even now when the chance to make amends is within our grasp there are those who choose anger and dissension, hate and separation, obfuscation and obstruction over opportunity.
There is no right more sacred than the right to vote, to exercise one’s choice in free and fair elections. Through the Civil War, World Wars, the 1919 flu pandemic and all matter of natural disasters, we have made it a point to hold elections. In these troubled times, faced with another pandemic, there are those who would obstruct our ability to vote for purely partisan reasons. There are those who are too cowardly to stand before the electorate and seek an honest count.
We can and must do better. Every citizen who wants to vote should be able to vote and there should be no question or impediment that prevents that or the counting of their ballot. Every voice must be heard.
The U.S. Postal Service is a treasured institution. It has been around in one form or another since before our country was founded. The mandate of Title 39 gives the Postal Service a mission — binding the nation together. Those words are reminiscent of Mr. Lincoln’s mystic chords. The idea of binding the nation together also implies a healing and a connection. For our entire history the Postal Service has bound this nation together.
Today there are at least ten lawsuits seeking to ensure that the Postal Service does not become another casualty in our age where our most cherished norms and even basic truth itself are rejected for fear mongering, conspiracy theories, financial advantage, and the exposition of ugly hate that tarnishes any notion of our better angels.
I had the privilege of testifying in one of those suits.
I, MARK JAMISON, being duly sworn, depose and say:
I am a natural person, residing in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and I make this Declaration based on my personal knowledge and where applicable, on matters within my experience, training, and professional knowledge.
I have written this declaration at request of plaintiff’s counsel regarding changes in the United State Postal Service (USPS) that may impact the delivery of ballots in November and to offer remedies on how to avoid those slowdowns based on my personal experience. Read More
USPS OIG: Our objective was to evaluate the Postal Service’s readiness for timely processing of Election and Political Mail for the 2020 general elections.
Election Mail is any mailpiece that an authorized election official creates for voters participating in the election process and includes ballots and voter registration materials. Political Mail is any mailpiece created by a registered political candidate, a campaign committee, or a committee of a political party for political campaign purposes.
Election and Political Mail can be sent as either First-Class Mail, which takes 2 to 5 days to be delivered, or Marketing Mail, which takes 3 to 10 days to be delivered, depending on the preference of the customer. However, ballots returned by voters are required to be sent as First-Class Mail. While Marketing Mail has longer processing and delivery timeframes, it costs less than First‑Class Mail.
The Postal Service plays a vital role in the American democratic process and this role continues to grow as the volume of Election and Political Mail increases. In addition to the next general election, which will be held November 3, 2020, there will be federal elections for all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate. There will also be 13 state and territorial elections for governor and numerous other state and local elections. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an expected increase in the number of Americans who will choose to vote by mail and avoid in-person voting.
Our prior audits related to the Postal Service’s processing of Election and Political mail include: Processing Readiness for Election and Political Mail for the 2018 Midterm Elections (Report Number NO-AR-18-007; June 5, 2018), Service Performance of Election and Political Mail During the 2018 Midterm and Special Elections (Report Number 19XG010NO000-R20; November 4, 2019), and Timeliness of Ballot Mail in the Milwaukee Processing and Distribution Center Service Area (Report Number 20-235-R20; July 7, 2020).
In the prior audits, we found the Postal Service needed to improve communication between headquarters, mail processing facilities, and election officials; train staff on Election and Political Mail processes; keep internal Election and Political Mail websites up-to-date; and appropriately align resources to process peak Election and Political Mail volume.
This audit was conducted during special and primary elections held in May and June 2020 and included reviewing operations at Processing and Distribution Centers (P&DC) that were processing mail for a special or primary election in each of the seven Postal Service areas. The facilities reviewed were Santa Clarita, Portland, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Charleston, Brooklyn, and Oklahoma City P&DCs.
We did not evaluate recent operational changes made by the Postal Service or the significant increases in delayed mail at delivery units experienced this summer. In response to a congressional request received on August 7, 2020, we have an ongoing project which will evaluate these operational changes and their impact on mail service. On August 18, 2020, the Postmaster General announced he was suspending initiatives regarding Postal Service operational changes until after the general election is concluded. Read More
After years of being a journalistic backwater the Postal Service is all over the news. From the usual contextually vacant reports about financial losses, we shifted to meaty and sometimes sensational coverage about the removal of Blue collections boxes and mail processing equipment at plants. There’s also the entrance of a new villain on the scene, Louis DeJoy, a wealthy Trump and Republican contributor with business interests and investments that coincide with the Postal Service.
Mr. DeJoy began his tenure as Postmaster General in June of this year after being named to the post by the Postal Board of Governors, which oversees postal operations. The Board is populated by a former RNC chair, a couple of investment bankers, the CEO of a public affairs and corporate advocacy consultancy, and a former CEO of various logistics and transportation companies that also specialized in mail consolidation, a form of outsourcing of mail processing.
Mr. DeJoy’s first couple of months have been eventful to say the least. His comments to the BOG at his first open session of the board on August 7th make clear that his intentions are to transform the Postal Service. Early in his remarks he says, “We are at the beginning of a transformative process. Our goal is to change and improve the Postal Service to better serve the American public, and I am excited about the opportunities ahead.” He proceeds to offer the usual professions of fealty to the ethic of service to the American, followed by the even more usual assertions about the dire straits the institution finds itself in.
Whatever he may say, it’s clear that Mr. DeJoy has entered the scene like a bull in a china shop. Within weeks of his taking office, there have been widespread reports of delays and service failures (which are backed up by internal USPS documents), news stories about Blue box removals, reports of mail processing equipment being removed, employee reports of mail left on docks or at carrier cases, and actions that seem to violate basic contractual provisions with the unions, causing the initiation of grievances as well as the breakdown of normal lines of communication between the APWU and L’Enfant Plaza. Mr. DeJoy seems to be moving full steam ahead at executing the expressed desires of the president for dismantling the USPS.
It’s fair to say that under DeJoy the Postal Service has lost any sense of urgency with respect to delivery of the mails. DeJoy seems to be taking his cue from the Wall Street manipulators who populate the BOG and hired DeJoy. He is in paring mode, sacrificing service and performance for operational reductions with questionable or at least unproven financial payoffs. This is especially damning during a pandemic and economic slowdown and certainly before an election, times when the postal network is more necessary and important than ever.
An article earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal suggests that DeJoy is actually doing the right things “to make the U.S. Postal Service’s operations more efficient,” but he may have picked the wrong time to get started on them.
But the problem is bigger than the timing. It’s always the wrong time for any plan that sacrifices service for “efficiency.” DeJoy’s plan is the wrong plan for saving the post office, and DeJoy is simply the wrong man for the job. Read More
That’s about it. The Postal Service is a massive infrastructure delivered on an intimate scale. It brings us prescriptions, news, checks, condolence notes and birthday cards from Aunt Marge. It is our original information superhighway, dating back to dirt roads and the Pony Express.
Our mail system has a 91 percent approval rating, according to a Pew Research Center poll released in April. In these fractious times, nothing has a 91 percent approval rating. Trump might as well have attacked kittens or pie. Read more.