Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's sweeping and destructive effort to slash operating costs at the U.S. Postal Service has made an already difficult time of the year even more chaotic for the beloved agency, threatening the prompt delivery of millions of Christmas-time packages as strained postal employees tirelessly work their way through mounting backlogs.
The Washington Post reported late Monday that a "perfect storm of crises" — the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented level of online orders, and DeJoy's operational changes — is wreaking havoc on the agency, which has seen drastic performance fall-offs since the postmaster general began implementing his agenda over the summer.
"Mail performance has plummeted: Only 75.3 percent of first-class mail, such as letters and bills, arrived within the standard one- to three-day delivery window the week of December 5, according to the most recent agency data available," the Post reported. "This time last year, the mail service's on-time score was closer to 95 percent."
"Adding to the slowdowns," the Post noted, "is on-the-ground confusion over the cost-cutting initiatives that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implemented during the summer and then paused at the direction of five federal courts. The Postal Service has appealed several of those rulings."
A Michigan postal worker told the Post that "as bad as you think it is, it's worse."
"No parcels are moving at all," said the unnamed worker.
Mark Dimondstein, national president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union (APWU) stressed that postal employees are doing their absolute best to ensure that Christmas gifts and other packages — including prescription medications and benefit checks — are delivered as quickly as possible. As the Post reported, mail carriers in busy areas are "working upward of 80 hours a week, including some who have worked every day since Thanksgiving without a weekend."
"This is a long, hard struggle," said Dimondstein. "We're asking for your patience, and no delayed gift should take away from the valuable family time and the reason people come together and celebrate. Hopefully everything will make it there on time. But if it doesn't, it'll still get there."
In the wake of the presidential election, DeJoy — a Republican megadonor to President Donald Trump — swiftly resumed his push for a major operational overhaul at the Postal Service, brushing aside evidence that his original effort caused massive mail delays across the nation before it was temporarily suspended by DeJoy himself and federal judges.
DeJoy, who took charge of the Postal Service in the middle of June, "left his initiative seeking to eliminate late and extra mail transportation trips in place, but courts subsequently ordered USPS to walk it back," Government Executive reported last month. "USPS will now likely seek to resume those efforts, with DeJoy saying. . . USPS can 'operate with much greater precision.'"
Given that the postmaster general serves at the pleasure of the USPS Board of Governors — which is currently dominated by 4-2 by Trump appointees — it is unclear how much the incoming Biden administration will be able to do to stop DeJoy from taking a sledgehammer to postal operations.
As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Biden vowed during the presidential campaign to fill the three vacancies on the nine-member Board of Governors with the hopes of forestalling DeJoy's agenda and potentially removing him from office. Last week, Trump moved to fill one of the board's three vacancies by nominating Roy Bernardi, who must be confirmed by the Senate.
"Like much else in Washington, DeJoy's fate may be linked to the outcome of the Georgia runoffs for U.S. Senate," the Journal noted. "Democrats on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the USPS, are eager to fill the vacant seats on the board and move away from the 'cost cutting mentality' among Postal Service leadership that has contributed to declines in service."