DeJoy and His Governors: Dissenters Not Welcome

Given the circumstances of their nomination and confirmation, it’s no surprise that the majority of the sitting USPS Governors exhibit a common philosophy, regardless of their partisan affiliation.  Moreover, the six governors who were in place before this summer, having chosen the current Postmaster General, also display a singular allegiance to him, and back any decisions that he makes; he’s their man.  As a result, Louis DeJoy apparently can run the USPS as he wants, knowing he’ll be supported fully by those who selected him.

Insulation

Of course, none of that half-dozen governors has any prior experience in the Postal Service, in the commercial printing and mailing industries that generate mail, or in any business that’s a major user of the mail (meaning a ratepayer).  Despite running a trucking company, DeJoy himself is equally a postal novice after barely fifteen months with the agency.

Insulated as they are in their role – most observers believe by choice – the governors rely on DeJoy and his senior staff to tell them what they need to know.  For his part, DeJoy is equally disinterested in engaging with, or learning from, the Postal Service’s customers - instead, relying on a cadre of loyal staff who follow his lead and tell him what they want him to know, or what he wants to hear.

From this cloister, DeJoy and the Board have generated a 10-year Plan and implemented elements of it, like an out-of-cycle price increase approaching 9% and a sharp decrease in service commitments.  Concurrently, the PR staff of the usually taciturn USPS has initiated a drumbeat of press releases alleging improved service, attributing it all to DeJoy’s actions and spinning each report into another plug for his Plan.

Disruption

The Board’s absence of diverse perspectives was disrupted earlier this year when the current president nominated, and the Senate later confirmed, three individuals clearly different from the six they joined.

Amber McReynolds is an election official from Colorado, Anton Hajjar is a former union lawyer, and Ron Stroman is the former USPS Deputy Postmaster General – who left after being passed over for PMG by DeJoy’s partisan clones.  These newest Board members have more postal knowledge and experience than the other six – and DeJoy – combined, and are viewed as unwelcome outsiders by the cozy clique that was in place beforehand.

In practicality, there are no likely changes ahead to the Postal Service’s general direction, to the brutish prosecution of DeJoy’s Plan, or to the monolithic support DeJoy has from his patrons; they remain the Board majority, and can easily ignore the recent arrivals, dismissing their concerns and outvoting any nonconforming measures they might advance.

Unplanned visibility

Though the Board of Governors has never been an example of transparency, there’s never been a sense that previous board members were as detached, or as single-minded, as the majority of the current group.  Similarly, there’s never been any indication that, previously, there was a bloc of governors driving an agenda or that whatever differences may have arisen among members in the course of business weren’t resolved through discussion and compromise.

With the current Board, transparency remains absent, but the collaborative nature of previous panels seems to be missing.  Now, rather than examining matters open-mindedly, DeJoy’s acolytes stand behind him dogmatically, and as a group rejects whatever diversity of opinion may be offered by the newbies or anyone else.

This led to an unprecedented public statement by one of the new governors, Ron Stroman, who was clearly frustrated that DeJoy and his bloc were pressing forward with elements of the PMG’s Plan indifferent to cautioning input about the risks they represent.  In prepared remarks delivered at the Board’s August 6 open meeting, Stroman stated:

“Mr. Chairman, as you know, the newest Governors did not have the opportunity to participate in the Board’s decision in May to change our service standards.  I appreciate your decision to have a full and robust discussion of this issue at yesterday’s closed Board meeting.  All Board members were given an opportunity to voice their points of view.  But in spite of that discussion, the Board decided to move forward with implementing slower delivery standards for some First-Class Mail and packages.  I would like to take a few minutes to explain why I disagree with that decision.

“I believe the Board of Governors should guide the transformation of the Postal Service into a world-class, 21st century delivery service, that meets the evolving needs of the American people.  By statute, we are required meet these needs by providing the nation with prompt, reliable and efficient delivery service, while financing the Postal Service without Congressional appropriations.  In my view, the decision by the Board to change our service standards, will likely hinder the Postal Service’s capacity to achieve either of these twin goals. 

“At this critical moment in America’s history, with our country only beginning toemerge from a global pandemic, struggling with the Delta variant, and with our delivery service below pre-pandemic levels, intentionally slowing First-Class Mail and package delivery by changing service standards, is strategically-ill conceived, creates dangerous risks that are not justified by the relatively low financial return, and doesn’t meet our responsibility as an essential part of America’s critical infrastructure.  This change also has the potential to disproportionately impact our seniors, middle- and low-income Americans, and small businesses, who are our most loyal customers, and most dependent on us.

“From a financial perspective, I have deep concerns about the consequences of degrading service for our premier product – First Class Mail.  A product that is the most profitable, and most associated with the Postal Service’s outstanding reputation.  Slowing the mail unnecessarily risks accelerating digital substitution out of the mail, especially when it is combined with one of the largest rate increases in the Postal Service’s history.  While mail will continue to decline regardless of this change, accelerating that decline, will erode the balanced network of mail and parcels needed to sustain our organization.

“There is no compelling financial reason to make this change.  The relatively minor savings associated with changing service standards, even if achieved, will have no significant impact on the Postal Service’s financial future.

“On the other hand, there was concerning evidence presented to the Postal Regulatory Commission that the proposed service standard changes will disproportionately impact certain areas of the country, including Florida, Texas, Maine, California and central regions of our country.

“Finally, I also see little support for these changes from our customers, and much opposition.  That opposition includes a wide-range of diverse organizations from parts of organized labor to the Lexington Institute; from the NAACP to The Association of Postal Commerce, from States and cities to small businesses.  Rarely, if ever, has such a diverse coalition come together to oppose a Postal Service policy change.

“Despite my opposition, the Board has decided to implement these changes as a part of the Delivering for America Plan.  I believe our goal now must be to achieve 95% on time delivery within these standards to all areas of the country as soon as possible.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on this, and other issues of importance to the Postal Service.”

Full speed ahead

Despite Stroman’s urgings, not to mention the opposition from commercial mailers and the unenthusiastic advice of the Postal Regulatory Commission, the Board and the PMG weren’t swayed from their pigheaded determination to proceed apace with the planned changes to service standards.

The most recent industry letter (below), authored by the Association for Postal Commerce and cosigned by seven other groups (including Mailers Hub) was sent just days before the Board meeting but, like every other message from outside the postal Kremlin, it had no effect on DeJoy’s politburo.

To some observers, continuing with a plan in the face of virtually unanimous negative feedback could be cast charitably as a mark of conviction, but pressing ahead despite a host of valid reasons for caution, and absent support from anyone outside a circle of sycophants, conviction morphs into something more like irrational willfulness.

Obdurate intransigence may have made Louis DeJoy a trucking mogul, but his trademark stubborn disdain for any difference of opinion may not be what’s best for the USPS.

 

 

 

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