DeJoy reverses course on controversial USPS changes

Moves to slash overtime, delay delivery and remove sorting machines had prompted widespread criticism.

The president’s pick at the Postal Service, newcomer Postmaster General Louis DeJoy—after receiving a firestorm of pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and good government organizations—announced a pause in his many cost-cutting and restructuring efforts.

DeJoy’s sudden reform orders issued last week had moved to slash overtime, delay mail on shop floors and in collection boxes, and—perhaps most ominously—hasten removal of letter-sorting machines that critics noted would have helped sort mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.

DeJoy’s abrupt orders came to an equally abrupt end with his statement, in which he effectively said he was stopping any such efforts at least until after Election Day.

Some postal union officials remained skeptical of the reversal. 

“There have been no assurances given about the rollback," Kevin Tabarus, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 300, told FederalSoup, speaking as of Aug. 18. “The mail trucks are still strictly following schedules—so mail is actually still being left behind, being delayed. And the sorting machines and mailboxes are not being put back."

“The members of the American Postal Workers Union applaud the efforts of postal customers who, along with civil rights and veterans organizations, other labor unions, community groups, and elected officials, pushed back against newly implemented policies instituted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy,” Mark Dimondstein, the president of the union said. “They fought against those measures that were designed to delay mail by canceling overtime, limiting mail transportation, eliminating sorting machines, and reducing Post Office hours.”

“We welcome the postmaster’s reversal of these policies,” he said, noting DeJoy’s announcement represented a mere pause—not a real reversal—in management’s plans “These rollbacks would not have happened without public outcry and civic action. The public would not have been aware of these regressive policies if postal workers around the country had not sounded the alarm.”

Attorneys general from multiple states this week announced investigations into the possible illegality of DeJoy’s moves. Reducing capacity in the midst of the COVID pandemic and with national elections soon to rely on millions of mail-in ballots to many political and legal experts had a naked political purpose: making voting more difficult and helping to re-elect his boss.

DeJoy promised specifics, including that “retail hours at Post Offices will not change, mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are, no mail processing facilities will be closed, and we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed.”

“The United States Postal Service will play a critical role this year in delivering election mail for millions of voters across the country,” DeJoy said. “There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether the Postal Service is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge.”

DeJoy offered further reassurances to try to snuff out concerns. He guaranteed that the USPS would “handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall.” He also announced a new “expansion of our current leadership taskforce on election mail to enhance our ongoing work and partnership with state and local election officials”—and said that unions would be participating in this mechanism. 

However, DeJoy did not say anything about whether or when he might take steps to repair the damage to capacity his reforms have already wrought: by re-installing recently removed sorting machines, for example.

The “fight for the public post office is far from over,” APWU’s Dimondstein said.

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