USPS shakeup rattles employee unions and worries retirees, vets
- By Nathan Abse
- Aug 14, 2020
Postal Service management, under new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, is moving ahead with next steps in what it is fast-becoming a momentous reorganization -- and, in effect, pruning the level of service -- of the delivery giant.
The shakeup recently announced by DeJoy includes restructuring layers of management, consolidating regional divisions from seven down to four and ending overtime and otherwise limiting work hours in an already-downsized service.
DeJoy admited these moves will slow mail delivery in the middle of an ongoing national emergency. “One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that -- temporarily -- we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks (in Processing and Distribution Centers), which is not typical,” DeJoy stated in a memo.
DeJoy issued the memo last month, presenting his take on USPS’s widely-publicized financial issues and his plans for curing them. He is moving ahead with systemic changes when USPS is seeking $25 billion in emergency aid for revenue, much of it first-class mail, lost due to less use of that service in the pandemic. In short, in contrast to many outside experts and postal unions, DeJoy appears to believe that despite this ongoing financial emergency, operating costs can and must be cut while at the same time USPS can maintain reasonably good delivery services of packages and other mail in tough times.
While DeJoy and other management have said that so far they have implemented mere “test” moves, union officials and other stakeholders from various parts of the country, already are sounding the alarm over mail delays on a sustained and significant scale.
Indeed, other than DeJoy and a Trump White House foursquare behind him, few other voices have advocated that test-driving a more stripped-down USPS is a good idea during the pandemic and ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
Labor, lawmakers and advocates for retired persons and veterans in recent weeks have opposed the plans -- warning of delivery delays of mail-order pharmaceuticals to millions of veterans and seniors hunkered down at home for safety -- as well as potential problems to a smooth mail-in vote this fall.
“It’s just pitiful what these changes already are doing to my members -- and to the public,” said Kevin Tabarus, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 300 in greater New York City. “We are an essential service, and we are not supposed to do this. This shouldn’t be run like a bus schedule. There are big fluctuations in volumes of mail.… We are essential. Everyone needs our service: We deliver medicine, we deliver stimulus checks, and we deliver ballots,” he said.
“As for how busy we are? It’s like Christmastime every day,” he added. “God help us if they try to keep running things like this over actual Christmas.”
Local 300 covers more than 5,200 USPS employees, while nationally, NPMHU represents more than 47,000.
Another major postal union -- the National Association of Letter Carriers -- told FedSoup its leadership is pushing back against DeJoy’s early moves, while members continue working to provide good service.
“Regardless of the operational structure of the Postal Service, NALC will continue to prioritize safe and efficient work methods, good service to our customers, dignity and respect in the workplace, and contractual compliance,” the union told FedSoup in an Aug. 15 email. “We are in the process of engaging those within the new operational structure to rescind several operational initiatives that are clearly inconsistent with these objectives.”
“Rather than fostering the unilateral implementation of reckless initiatives,” NALC added, “the Postal Service must work with the NALC in our joint task forces to accomplish our common goals.”
Meanwhile, postal unions are also pushing Congress and the White House to come to terms with providing the cash-strapped USPS with billions of dollars in emergency aid. The president also weighed in.
On Fox Business, President Donald Trump this week said of the USPS funding in the COVID relief bill that “they need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots … [and] that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it."
However, the Postal Service’s own top operations managers point out that although USPS needs more money longer term, the Postal Service can handle existing demands plus the added work of delivering ballots this fall, despite Trump’s claims to the contrary.
“The U.S. Postal Service is well prepared and has ample capacity to deliver America’s election mail for the upcoming general election in November. On any given day, the Postal Service delivers more than 425 million pieces of mail, and our best estimates are that election mail will account for less than 2% of all mail volume from mid-September until Election Day. Given our available processing capacity, we can easily handle the anticipated increase in election mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, without impact to on-time performance,” two top USPS officials --David Williams, the chief logistics and processing operations officer and executive vice president of the U.S. Postal Service, and Thomas Marshall, USPS general counsel and executive vice president -- stated in USA Today this week.
This article was updated Aug. 14.