Nearly everything the Trump administration does is cause for alarm, but nothing has stoked widespread worry quite like the President’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
DeJoy, a former trucking logistics head, sparked outrage within and outside of the Post Office after he began to put into place measures designed to enhance its efficiency. He had sorting machines scrapped and ordered trucks to stick to strict schedules among a number of other moves.
With a general election looming that promises to rely more heavily than ever on mail-in balloting due to the still-quite-raging Covid-19 pandemic, the Post Office’s ability to meet that demand was called into question. Pennsylvania postal officials told state lawmakers they didn’t think they could adequately meet schedule requirements.
Two weeks ago, I spoke with several mail carriers. They’ve all been told not to speak about DeJoy’s changes, particularly to the press. Despite that order, they were eager to speak as long as I maintained their anonymity.
The carriers I spoke to had almost five decades of combined service. Each said they have never seen things as bad and disorganized as they do today.
The trouble, they agreed, however, did not begin with DeJoy but earlier this year when Covid-19 concerns resulted in many carriers to call in sick. Those postal routes had to be picked up by those mail carriers who did come to work. It put a strain on carriers who all said they took very seriously the oath each takes to get everyone their mail as soon as they possibly can, even if it means overtime hours that keep carriers on delivery until 8 p.m. at night.
And then DeJoy was appointed and swiftly introduced his reforms.
“He made things a lot worse,” a carrier told me, “What he’s done is like blatant sabotage.”
The moves that have made things worse, the carriers tell me, all come down to forcing postal employees to keep to strict schedules, which routinely leave mail behind. Trucks from the city’s regional hub are ordered to leave at 6 a.m. whether they have all the mail that’s come in or not. Carriers are given half the time to sort their own routes before they are ordered to leave. They do not return to the post office at lunch time to collect late arrivals. And they’ve all been tasked to prioritize packages. The first-class mail – personal letters, cards, important financial correspondence and utility bills – all have taken a back seat.
Those practices have exacerbated delays that were already mounting due to pandemic strains. It’s clear speaking to mail carriers that these changes are unfair, particularly for an institution that has consistently been the public’s favorite federal agency, with more than 90% favorable ratings according to Pew Research Center. Congress, which has struggled to remain reach 30% approval has not been asked to make the same sacrifices. Or to turn a profit.
The US Post Office is one of a few Federal services that works. It needs our support, not a mandate to turn a profit.