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US Postal Service stops unpopular changes – for now

The US Postal Service is temporarily freezing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan to dramatically change mail delivery processes, telling Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) that USPS will not close distribution centers at about 60 locations until next year consolidate.

Apparently his statement was in response to a letter from Peters and 25 other senators objecting to “Delivering for America,” a nationwide restructuring of the mail processing and delivery network.

DeJoy wrote: “In response to the concerns you and your colleagues have raised, I will commit to pausing the implementation of these measures until at least after January 1, 2025. Even then, we will not advance these efforts without notifying you of our intention to do so, and then only at a moderate pace of implementation.”

Critics from unions and management, plus customer advocates and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have said the cost-cutting “modernization proposal” was illogical because it would slow delivery times and might not only affect the timely arrival of medications and other important items , but also ballots by post.

As USPS has outlined in dozens of public hearings, the plan would have shifted mail processing to remote facilities. DeJoy had previously announced he would move from Peoria and Champaign to the Chicago suburbs, Springfield to St. Louis and Rockford and the Quad Cities to Des Moines.

Bad planning

“It’s good news (because) the plan isn’t going to work,” said Bud Toft, president of the Heart of Illinois Local 854 of the American Postal Workers Union. “It would consolidate everything and make everything last longer. Congress is right to have had enough.”

In a prepared statement released by U.S. Reps. Darin LaHood (R-16th) and Eric Sorensen (D-17th), they said: “The Peoria Processing and Distribution Center provides essential services to residents in the communities we serve, and every action would jeopardize local jobs or affect customer service is unacceptable. We are pleased that the USPS has committed to suspending any changes until 2024, but we will continue to work to protect jobs in Peoria and across the state of Illinois and ensure the smooth operation of postal services in Peoria and central Illinois. ”

Sorensen and LaHood criticized the plan in February, as did Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Illinois U.S. Reps. Mary Miller (R-15th) and Democratic Reps. Nikki Budzinski (13th), Sean Casten (6th) , Bill Foster (11th) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (8th).

It’s no wonder this caused a backlash. For centuries, the U.S. Post Office has not only delivered mail, but also provided a connection between Americans. Employees now go door to door to 41,704 zip codes across the country six days a week, which is almost unique in uniting the country. It’s an essential service and popular: According to Pew, 91% of Americans have a positive view of the agency.

Peters, 65, who was elected a decade ago, thanked DeJoy but said he wasn’t satisfied with the half-measure.

“I appreciate Postmaster General DeJoy’s efforts in working with me on this issue,” Peters said. “However, I urge postal services to pause and roll back local transportation changes in addition to facility changes until we have more information on their impacts. I will continue to push for a comprehensive investigation by the Postal Regulatory Commission to ensure that any changes made do not impact mail delivery. It is absolutely crucial that we understand the full scope of these changes, as well as their impact on services and communities, before we move forward.”

DeJoy is a major contributor to the Republican campaign and was appointed by President Trump to head the USPS in 2020. As the former CEO of XPO Delivery, a private, non-union package service that competes with the Postal Service, DeJoy reportedly wants the Postal Service’s stress package on delivery and less emphasis on its top moneymaker, first-class letters and cards.

Devils

Toft said the 10-year, $40 billion plan could have a motive beyond efficiency.

“DeJoy is basically trying to privatize the Postal Service,” he said. “He wants to influence public opinion. (Then) it would lose jobs and workers, not recognize unions and not pay the minimum wage,” Toft continued. ‘Meanwhile, he set up ‘cluster boxes’ in neighborhoods so you could get your own mail. People should be their own letter carriers.

“He has to destroy it to make people angry.”

The plan does indeed seem to fit a pattern.

During an appearance at the University of Toronto in 2011, political activist and author Noam Chomsky summarized the typical process of making public services private.

“There is a standard technique for privatization,” Chomsky said. “Namely, defund what you want to privatize, like when (British Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher wanted to close down the railways. The first thing we need to do is stop funding them, then they stop working and people get angry and want change. You say, ‘OK, privatize them’.”

Answering the question “Why now?” – after months of criticism – is just speculation. It can be political or transactional.

Enough opposition may have eventually built up to force DeJoy to reconsider. In April, Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, held a hearing that rejected the plan. Weeks later, DeJoy announced on May 7 that the work in Iron Mountain, Michigan (Peters State), would move 116 miles south to Green Bay, and Peters spoke with DeJoy the next day. The letter of opposition to DeJoy from 26 senators came on May 9.

Or it could be DeJoy’s way of giving Peters credit for something that would happen after Peters anyway
backed bipartisan postal reforms in 2022 that benefited USPS by saving the agency about $49 billion over the next decade.

Either way, Toft said, “Congress is going to have to make it stop.” Forever.”