Change can’t come soon enough for USPS

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 4/8/21

As any print subscriber to this paper is probably painfully aware, there are big problems with the United States Postal Service.

Last year, as the country approached a general election in which an …

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Change can’t come soon enough for USPS

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As any print subscriber to this paper is probably painfully aware, there are big problems with the United States Postal Service.

Last year, as the country approached a general election in which an unprecedented number of people decided to vote by mail, there was a general furor over the actions of the current US Postmaster General, Louis Dejoy. Dejoy, who was appointed to the post by former President Donald Trump, was the CEO and founder of a delivery logistics firm, and citing that experience, promised to tackle the big deficits the postal service has accumulated in recent years.

Dejoy took a number of scheduling, organizational and cost-cutting measures that quickly threw the service into disarray. I spoke to a number of mail carriers last fall who told me that the biggest problem with Dejoy’s directives was in keeping carriers and sorters to strict schedules. In the past, carriers might wait a little longer for a delivery to come in or even head back at lunchtime. Under Dejoy, you left at the scheduled time and didn’t swing back.

Before the pandemic, the USPS was able to deliver more than 95% of its mail on time. That took a hit through the tough summer but the service was able to do a good job through the election. The holidays, however, sent the post office reeling. On-time delivery rates fall below 40%. Everything from holiday cards to prescription drugs got stuck in a postal purgatory – a backlog so great it took months to catch up. Today, things are better, but still poor, with on-time delivery only back up to 83% according to a recent report by NPR.

Last month, Dejoy unveiled a 10-year plan to “achieve financial stability and service excellence.” Part of that plan, as has been widely reported, requires lowering service standards, which Dejoy argues were never achievable to begin with. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has nominated new members of a governing board to which Dejoy answers, a move that is a first step in getting rid of the embattled postmaster general. It’s a move that I don’t think can come soon enough.

A good deal of the USPS’s fiscal losses is due to an onerous requirement that the service prepay the benefits and pensions of its anticipated retirees. A quick change in that retirement could go a long way to make the service financially sound.

Dejoy’s meddling clearly cost the US Post Office at least two of its most valuable assets – its reliability and its reputation. Before he took over, the service was one of the most favorably regarded divisions of the federal government. And for good reason. Until this year, no matter what I mailed or had mailed to me, it got where it was going and almost always on time, if not better.

While there are plenty of big problems facing the country right now, a reliable post office is an essential service for regular residential and business customers alike. We deserve a lot better than we’ve been getting. A postmaster general focused on restoring that service would be a step in the right direction.

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