At today’s hearing of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce, Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12) asked the Postmaster General some excellent questions about the Postal Service’s plan to consolidate carriers into Sorting and Delivery Centers. Lee observed that the plan “will certainly have major effects on local communities,” and she questioned whether postal leadership is hearing the concerns being raised by communities and postal workers.
Lee asked the Postmaster General why the Postal Service did not consult with the public before releasing the Delivering for America plan, particularly the part about restructuring the delivery network. DeJoy replied that the Postal Service has complied with the laws regarding community engagement during the rollout of the 10-year plan. “I can’t tell you,” he said, “how much communications we’ve had with Congress and the stakeholders.”
Lee noted that the Postal Regulatory Commission recently opened a formal public inquiry “to get more transparency and learn more about the impact on the postal community, yet the Postal Service recently filed an objection and asked that the inquiry be withdrawn.”
“Why,” asked the Congresswoman, “is the Postal Service objecting to this inquiry meant to ensure that you actually engage with stakeholders?”
The Postmaster General replied that “it’s our position that the Postal Regulatory Commission has overstepped its authority” — which, in a nutshell, is the argument put forth in the Postal Service’s motion opposing the public inquiry (more on that here and here). The PMG went on to make this comment:
“We’re an independent organization, and we are charged with the mission of saving the organization, not the Postal Regulatory Commission. The Postal Regulatory Commission sat over and watched the destruction of the organization over the last fifteen years and actively participated in the destruction of the organization over the last fifteen years. What we’re trying to do is save the organization. What goes on and why they do the things they do I am yet to figure out, and I’m a pretty smart guy.”
The Congresswoman followed up with this question: “If your objection is dismissed, will you commit to participating in stakeholder forums and pledge not to take any further steps to block or delay such a forum?”
DeJoy did not respond directly, and he did not make such a commitment. Instead, he went on about how management has communicated extensively with all stakeholders with a reasonable amount of description for the massive changes he’s making. “At the end of the day,” he said, “we’re not affecting service… Service is better now because of the things we have done within the plan… We just have to fix the chaos that has been established over the past fifteen years.”
DeJoy then went on to stress the importance of moving forward with his plan, “and that’s why interference from the Postal Regulatory Commission is not helpful. It is going to put this whole plan in jeopardy.”
DeJoy’s repeated references to what’s gone on over the past fifteen years are about the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which limited the Postal Service’s ability to raise prices (the price cap regime), turned the Postal Rate Commission into the Postal Regulatory Commission, and greatly expanded the oversight role of the Commission. In his opening statement at the hearing, DeJoy criticized PAEA for its “defective pricing model,” and added that the PRC “exacerbated” the problem with its interpretation of PAEA when the Postal Service asked for an exigent rate increase during the recession. DeJoy believes PAEA and the PRC have thus helped create the “chaos” that he must now fix in order to save the post office.
Sometime over the next few days, the Commission will issue a ruling on the Postal Service’s motion to reconsider its order creating a public inquiry on the DFA plan. DeJoy’s comments today probably won’t help the Postal Service’s case. And his refusal to commit not to take further steps to block the inquiry can only mean one thing. Rather than cooperating, the Postal Service is planning to take the Commission to court.
— Steve Hutkins