Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took charge of the United States Postal Service less than a year ago and began a process of running it into the ground. Now, he wants to accelerate that process.
If President Biden does not take the necessary steps to begin the process of removing DeJoy from his position, the postmaster general’s austerity agenda threatens to ruin the USPS at a point in its 246-year history when the service is every bit as essential as it has ever been.
The urgency of presidential action was illustrated Tuesday when DeJoy announced a 10-year “reorganization” plan for the Postal Service that would slow down delivery times for first-class mail, hike postage rates, and reduce hours for post offices. The postmaster general and his cronies tried to portray the proposed changes as a streamlining project, but The Washington Post correctly characterized it as a strategic initiative “that diminishes delivery standards and raises prices.” The effect of those changes makes this, in the words of Chuck Zlatkin, the legislative and political director for the New York Metro Area Postal Union, “DeJoy’s 10-year plan for the de facto privatization of the post office.”
Even if DeJoy’s slashing and burning do not immediately lead to the dismantlement of the agency, it will do severe harm to the Postal Service, and to the communities that most rely on it. “Cuts to service standards for first-class mail, limiting hours at local post offices, and making it more difficult for people to access postal products would adversely impact USPS customers across the nation, including in rural and underserved communities,” explains Senator Gary Peters, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the committee with oversight responsibilities for the Postal Service.
Save the Post Office, a coalition of labor and progressive groups, offered a blunter response: “Asking Louis DeJoy to make a ten year plan for the post office is like asking the fox to build a better henhouse. After his record of destruction, incompetence and self-dealing over the last nine months, the only plans he’s qualified to make at this point are his own retirement plans.”
Unfortunately, DeJoy, an ally of Donald Trump whose efforts to dismantle the Postal Service during last year’s debate over voting by mail sparked national outrage, is not showing any inclination to retire on his own. Asked recently about how long he intends to remain at the head of the USPS, DeJoy recently told the House Oversight and Reform Committee, “A long time. Get used to me.” DeJoy’s hubris is rooted in the fact that he is not directly accountable to President Biden or Congress. He serves at the behest of the nine-member Postal Board of Governors, a bipartisan board that is still dominated by Trump appointees.
But that does not mean DeJoy can’t be fired.
Biden can and should use his authority to reorganize the Postal Board of Governors and to appoint members who are committed not just to saving the Postal Service but also to remaking it in ways that expand and strengthen it—by setting up a postal banking system and by freeing it to compete with private carriers. In addition to making appointments when positions come open, Biden has the power to remove Trump appointees “for cause.”
Members of Congress are now urging Biden to act decisively.
Last week, more than 50 members of the House wrote to the president with a message: “The entirely Trump-appointed Postal Service BOG has politicized the most beloved agency in the federal government and allowed its service standards to tank.” To address “the Postal Service’s continued failure to meet its own standards of service, the repeated failure of the current Postmaster General (PMG) to effectively and appropriately engage Congress and other stakeholders, and the gross negligence of the current Board of Governors (BOG) in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities to run an effective Postal Service,” the members urged the president to consider “removing the six current Board members and replacing them with nominees of the caliber of your recent nominees for the three vacant board seats.”
One key signer of the letter, Oregon Democrat Representative Earl Blumenauer, declared, “The USPS Board of Governors is complicit in Louis DeJoy’s gross mismanagement of the postal system, which has caused real harm to people across the country. In the fight to #SaveUSPS, we need a clean slate. Today, I’m calling on [Biden] to fire and replace the entire USPS Board.”
Biden has already taken several steps in the right direction. He has submitted the names of three nominees for the Board of Governors: Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general who resigned during Trump’s presidency; Anton Hajjar, a former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union; and Amber McReynolds, the head of the National Vote at Home Institute.
“The Senate must move to immediately confirm three new appointees to the board, and President Biden must nominate two additional members later this year, to begin to restore the Board of Governors’ leadership in setting the Postal Service’s future direction and hiring postmasters general,” says Porter McConnell of Save the Post Office.
If the Senate confirms Biden’s nominees, the board could in short order have a majority, perhaps even a supermajority, that is committed to saving the Postal Service.
No one doubts that acting decisively will spark Republican backlash. But the Postal Service is too precious to be left in the hands of DeJoy and a Board of Governors that, Blumenauer and the other signers of the congressional letter to Biden warn, has “remained silent in the face of catastrophic and unacceptable failures at a moment when the American people are relying on the Postal Service the most.”