Postal Police union sues USPS management over order
- By FederalSoup Staff
- Sep 25, 2020
Postal employees and their unions have complained, grieved, sued and otherwise blasted USPS management recently over a string of controversial—and according to their protestations, lawbreaking—policies and actions pursued by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and his leadership team.
Now there’s a new wrinkle. There has been well-publicized pushback against DeJoy’s cutback on employee overtime and expansion of removing sorting machines—and the now-besieged leader and the courts appear to be curbing some of the moves.
He and his deputies now face resistance to further controversial orders.
The latest: The Postal Police Officers Association sued for an injunction, trying to reverse at least one order. The PPOA complains that on Aug. 25, USPS management issued a standing order for Postal Police to stop “all mail-protection and other law enforcement activity”—except on the massive delivery organization’s own property.
In effect, the union says, this order stood down the organization—and was tantamount to asking dedicated law enforcement personnel to stop enforcing laws. Postal Police suddenly have been commanded to refrain from investigating all but a few on-site incidents of mail theft, mail tampering and crimes against postal personnel.
Furthermore, the union argues that its collective bargaining agreement requires the Postal Service to give at least 60 days notice before it changes any wages, hours or other conditions of employment.
Management’s move is all the more controversial, as the presidential and other federal office elections are underway—with vote-by-mail likely to be used by millions more people than ever before.
The White House has actively disparaged all but the most limited uses of mail-in ballots, and to many experts and political observers the disparagement combines with DeJoy’s actions to undermine what would otherwise be an orderly, adaptive political process in the face of the COVID pandemic.
“There is no precedent for this,” Michael Leroy, a labor expert and professor at the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the Illinois College of Law, told FEND. “During national emergencies, essential workers are ordered to work their jobs, not to retreat.”
“After 9/11, New York City put its police and fire fighters at great risk by working near the toxic plumes,” Leroy continued, in contrast to the current push by management to stop this key USPS unit from protecting the mail and performing its crucial national security role. “The city did not order police away from Manhattan.”
Another expert—Philip F. Rubio, the leading historian of the U.S. Post Office and its half-century old successor the Postal Service—has also been flabbergasted by the moves.
“I know of no precedents for the USPS pulling Postal Police from their duties outside of postal property,” Rubio, who is also professor of history at North Carolina A&T State University and author of Undelivered: From the Great Postal Strike of 1970 to the Manufactured Crisis of the U.S. Postal Service, told FEND.
“The Postal Police have been around since the founding of the USPS in 1971,” Rubio said. “I never heard of any legal challenges to their performing those duties—[which] have been crucial to solving crimes involving the mails and protecting letter carriers.”
“I have no idea why the USPS began making those arguments in February, and then began implementing them as policy in August,” Rubio said. “It has every appearance of violating labor agreements and Title 39.”
“It also puts carriers’ lives more at risk, especially at a time of growing numbers of random attacks on carriers,” Rubio noted.
The association’s complaint also notes that, in general, the order runs counter to what had been an expanding, not shrinking, role for the Postal Police. For the last decade-and-a-half, the unit has been front and center in enforcement activities off postal property as well as on-site.
“Congress amended the jurisdictional authority of Postal Police Officers in 2006,” the PPOA wrote in its complaint. “Since that time, the Postal Service has increasingly used Postal Police Officers to investigate and prevent theft of U.S. mail and to protect USPS employees as they work in public.”
“The Postal Service’s sudden change is unwarranted, impermissible, and contrary to the language of the statute and also to collective bargaining promises it has made to the officers’ union,” the complaint states. It was filed in the D.C. federal District Court.