Take on Wall Street leader takes on Louis DeJoy and the Crisis at USPS

Steve HutkinsNews

Corporate Crime Reporter: Postmaster Louis DeJoy’s ten year plan for United States Postal Service (USPS) has resulted in slower mail, higher prices, and fewer hours at rural post offices.

To help us understand what’s happening at the post office, we dialed up Porter McConnell of the Save the Post Office Coalition, which is hosted by Take on Wall Street.

The Save the Post Office Coalition includes about 300 organizations that run the gamut from unions, faith groups, to retired postal workers, Indivisible chapters, MoveOn, Color of Change –  pretty much every group that cares about the post office and wants to see it protected and expanded.

Did DeJoy come in with an explicit privatization campaign?

“He was smart to not mention the p word,” McConnell told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last month. “But the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) put out a report about the broader state of government in which they explicitly called for the privatization of the postal service. That was a year and some change before DeJoy was appointed in 2020. Steven Mnuchin headed a task force. There was so much push back to the call for privatization in that prior report that the task force didn’t use the p word when they came down with their recommendations for the postal service.”

“However, if you have the same policies that lead to a market exodus and you get a smaller, weaker postal service, then it becomes ripe for selling off. You can make the case that the private sector would do a better job. And then you contract it out. It was everything but the punch line.”

How specifically was DeJoy paving the road to privatization?

“Fast forward to when he came. If you are not a postal insider, it wouldn’t necessarily raise the alarm except that the results were immediate. He came in in June 2020. By July 2020, he had a policy stating that the postal trucks were going to leave on time no matter how full they were. The previous mandate was that the letters were the most important thing. And you would wait around until the truck was full and then you would go. It was a thing where they were sending half empty trucks and mail wasn’t getting on the trucks. It was a false efficiency. And the result was that the mail was delayed for a long time.”

“There were also ill conceived cost saving measures like no more overtime. Overtime had become integral to the USPS. It was part of the work culture that delivering the mail was the thing. If you needed to pay over time you paid overtime to meet the performance standards.”

“He had those kinds of policies that slowed down the mail. They were false efficiencies. If you build unreliability into the system, people are going to exit the system — especially consumers of more lucrative mail. Packages will start exiting the system.”

“By making delivery times worse and by charging higher prices, you create this death spiral. And the most aggressive and fastest price hikes have occurred since DeJoy came on. Much of that is incredibly poorly timed. You lower the quality of the product and you raise the price, there will predictably be an exit from the market.”

“And DeJoy recognizes this and says it publicly. He says – we are just speeding up the inevitable. Snail mail is dead. And that’s not the transition that you want as a leader of public service. And try telling that to places that are not being served by private carriers. Or people like seniors and veterans and people living with disabilities who rely on the mail for their medicines – obviously we are headed to a new future and you are not part of it.”

He’s also consolidating sorting facilities to the detriment of on time delivery.

“In two cities where it has been most implemented – around Atlanta, Georgia and around Richmond, Virginia – the mail standards have dropped off a cliff. During one week this March in Georgia, just 25% of first class mail was on time. That’s unheard of for the postal service.”

“It’s akin to the decline in service if there is a natural disaster. The immediate impact of this restructuring has been catastrophic which is why members of Congress really gave it to him last week.”

“The idea is that if you make sorting a regional function and take it away from individual post offices, you are going to get efficiency somehow. But what it has resulted in is mail will go from Nevada to a sorting facility in California and then back to Nevada.”

“They are consolidating sorting and distribution into regional centers. There is a question of jobs and real estate. DeJoy has said – nobody is losing their jobs. However, if you offer someone a choice of a two hour commute each way, for many it’s not practical. So yes, you might have a job two hours away. But that commute is expensive and impractical – all of the reasons why humans would not want to commute four hours a day to get back and forth to their jobs. It’s inevitable that you will have attrition.”

“The other thing that is going on is that you have freed up all of this space in the back of post offices around the country where sorting used to take place. And then the question becomes – maybe we should close this post office? Maybe it’s less necessary. Already, many post offices have turned from being owned by USPS to being rented in a strip mall. It’s an additional chipping away at the physical plant.”

Read more: Porter McConnell on Louis DeJoy and the Crisis at USPS