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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Death of 1000 cuts: How Trump’s Appointees Continue to kill the Postal Service

But the Big Postal Unions Won’t Join the Effort to Force Trump hold-outs from Their Posts


The men Donald Trump handpicked to run the U.S. Postal Service into the ground continue to do The Don’s dirty work, intentionally slowing the mail and outsourcing vital services to private delivery companies. But the heads of the nation’s four postal service unions are too spellbound to react.

That’s the view of postal workers across the country who are seeing service standards deteriorate and privatization expanded under the watch of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Postal Service Board of Governors Chair Ron A. Bloom. And the postal workers want to give both men the boot. 

Last month, 77 public interest groups comprising the Save The Post Office Coalition signed a letter urging President Joe Biden not to extend Bloom’s term after it expires in December.

Notably absent from the appeal, however, were any of the four postal worker unions — American Postal Workers Union (APWU), National Association of Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU), National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) or the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA). 

In March, 50 House Democrats called on Biden to can the entire board  — including Bloom — but NALC reportedly stepped in to throw cold water on the irate legislators. 

NPMHU spokesperson Katie Maddocks — the union representing more than 50,000 postal employees — concedes that her union’s priority is moving the Postal Reform bill forward and that the NPMHU, at least, wants to make sure that “if Mr. DeJoy is ousted, that won’t mess up our bill.”

The bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act of 2021 is vitally important to the USPS and all four of the unions representing its more than 495,000 employees. It seeks to eliminate a requirement under a 2006 law that the USPS pre-fund more than $120 billion in retiree healthcare and pension liabilities. It is an onerous requirement imposed by a Republican-controlled Congress that costs the service more than $5 billion a year and contributes to its chronic financial woes.

But frontline workers critical of DeJoy and Bloom say that there will be little left of the USPS by the time the stalled reform act ever makes it out of the House Ways and Means Committee. 

“It is my fervent belief that if we do not stop the destructive policies that are being implemented in the Postal Service, that we’re not gonna have a Postal Service to negotiate with for a contract — or a need for any kind of legislative relief,” Iowa Postal Workers Union President Kimberly Karol says. 

“These policies are so bad and so detrimental to the future of the Postal Service, that I think it is very important that we get the public informed and speak out, and get DeJoy and Bloom replaced for advocating for these very destructive policies.”

Other reasons not to rock the boat and pitch both DeJoy and Bloom into the drink have to do with outstanding contracts that still haven’t been hammered out and a dubious 10-year plan. Dubbed “Delivering for America,” the blueprint went into effect Oct. 1. It includes twice-yearly postal rate increases, shorter post office hours, the elimination of airplane service to transport mail and the closing of mail processing plants.  

New Labor Contracts Stalled

Neither the APWU nor the NRLCA signed new labor agreements with the USPS. The NPMHU’s current contract expires next fall, while NALC’s current contract runs out in 2023.

“We understand that a good contract is very important — but there’s no need for a contract if you don’t have a Postal Service,” APWU Detroit Area Local 295 President Keith Combs says. I really believe we must act now — Postmaster DeJoy is dismantling machines, but he’s also dismantling the Postal Service. We cannot just stand by and watch this happening.”

Postal workers in Michigan, according to Combs, have seen their on-time delivery rating plummet nearly 30% over the last year alone. 

“Michigan, in 2020, went from a 93.11 percentile rating to a 64.15 percentile rating — something we’re just not used to seeing here in Detroit,” the 32-year postal veteran adds. “I’ve been around long enough to see Detroit number one in the whole country — twice. So, it’s alarming when I see us drop 29 {percentage points) in one year in on-time delivery. That’s just something we’re not used to seeing.”

Postal workers who want to send DeJoy and Bloom packing insist those kinds of delays are deliberate features of the 10-year plan which DeJoy rolled out back on March 23, and opponents immediately assailed as guaranteeing the “death spiral” of the venerable USPS. 

“Everything is true about the decline in Postal service — but it was the intent of DeJoy and Bloom to make it happen from the beginning — so get used to it,” New York Metro Postal Union President Jonathan Smith told protesters rallying outside the Manhattan offices of Brookfield Assets Management in September. 

Conflicts of Interest

Postal workers critical of DeJoy and Bloom insist that, in addition to dismantling the USPS as we know it, both men are guilty of scandalous conflicts of interests, which alone should be reason for their ousters. 

New York Metro Area Postal Union members chose to hold their September 23, rally outside the offices of Brookfield Assets Management on Vesey Street because both DeJoy and Bloom are deeply enmeshed in the $50 Billion private equity group. Bloom is actually the company’s vice chairman and managing partner and has been since 2016. DeJoy, meanwhile, is a millionaire Trump campaign donor who reportedly owns $305,000 of Brookfield Assets Management bonds.

“There is too much money going around that they don’t want to talk about; there are too many investments going around that they don’t want to talk about,” Smith said in response. 

As alarming as the “Delivering for America” plan is to its opponents, those seeking DeJoy and Bloom’s ouster point out that the 10-year plan maintains six- and seven-day delivery — something vital to both the NALC and APWU. 

Bloom also advised the NALC on postal issues earlier in his career when he was vice-chair, U.S. investment banking and managing director at Lazard — the largest independent investment bank in the world. 

“It’s a little sad to know that Bloom personally worked with the carriers union and to my understanding, they like Bloom — and they like DeJoy,” Diane Erlanger, director of organizing for the N.Y. Metro Area Postal Union,” said in September.

Securing good contracts, doing what you can to save mail delivery jobs over the next decade and finally scrapping the requirement to pre-fund retiree healthcare and pension liabilities might all be valid reasons for the hands off approach to DeJoy and Bloom — but Karol thinks it’s all a mirage. 

“It’s like the [postal union] leadership has been mesmerized by this carrot that’s being dangled in front of them by Congress and leaders in Washington, D.C.,” she says. “They’re mesmerized. They can’t see beyond the carrot. But there’s no way of attaining that carrot. In the meantime, those of us that are out there in the trenches are suffering the consequences of these detrimental changes.”

Outsourcing the Mail

Most troubling to Karol is the introduction of numerous Surface Transfer Centers that the USPS has started opening across the country. 

The USPS confirms that it has awarded contracts to outsource Surface Transfer Centers in Atlanta, the Washington, D.C., area, and Springfield, Mass., as well as others in Northern California and Southern California. 

David Partenheimer, the spokesperson for the USPS, calls the outsourced Surface Transfer Centers, “a key strategy in our Delivery for America 10-year plan and core to our surface transportation network.” 

“The outsourced locations will have Postal Service oversight of non-postal staffing. We are moving the STC operations out of space-constrained postal plants to larger off-site facilities,” Partenheimer said in an email. “The STC’s are monitored by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, a law enforcement arm of the Postal Service, charged with maintaining the sanctity of the mail. In addition, the Postal Service has 24/7 management leadership at every site.”

Karol says the outsourced Surface Transfer Centers are responsible for the significant service delays her customers in Iowa are now experiencing — and even the disappearance of the mail itself. 

“These Surface Transfer Centers are not part of the postal network,” she says. “These are private companies that have been contracted to sort, distribute, consolidate and transport the [US] mail. All of this was being done inside the postal network by postal employees.”

Postal workers used to be able to provide customers with comprehensive tracking throughout the delivery process, but that’s no longer the case, according to Karol. 

“Now, because we have to relinquish custody of postal products — we give it to a Surface Transfer Center company that doesn’t have the same obligations as postal employees or the Postal Service in regards to transparency and our service obligations — it essentially disappears,” she says.

Mail Sits for Days

According to Karol, mail can now sit for days waiting to be delivered because the private companies contracting with the USPS are trying to maximize their efficiency by making sure all of their containers and trucks are fully loaded before they are actually dispatched. 

“Because I am in the middle of the country, anything that I want to send to California has to wait at that Surface Transfer Center until people from Illinois or Missouri or other parts of this central area of the country are sending things to California,” Karol says. “And, likewise, when it’s coming back, we have to wait until there are lots of things coming to Iowa.”

Karol also notes other reorganizational changes to regional deliveries routes that have increased traditional one- and two-day delivery service to three- and four-day service. 

“We don’t send mail to Cedar Rapids anymore,” Karol explains. “It now has to go to Des Moines — and then gets dispatched to Cedar Rapids. Likewise, mail that is coming to us has to come through Des Moines. It’s no longer a direct route to us. It’s building extra time into the delivery. Which is why it was essential for delivery service standards to be changed — because we no longer have a direct route. The network is still in place, but the way that it’s being transported has changed.”

The Iowa Postal Workers Union president says the USPS has not provided her with a complete list of outsourced Surface Transfer Centers already in the network, nor those coming onto the network. 

Partenheimer, too, did not identify the company or companies holding Surface Transfer Center contracts with the USPS. But this past April, the agency awarded XPO Logistics with a $120 million, five-year contract to oversee two sorting and distribution facilities in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. 

Those calling to ax both DeJoy and Bloom have long cited their heavy interests in XPO Logistics. Brookfield Assets Management — Bloom’s outfit — reportedly holds at least $2.6 million in XPO stock. DeJoy was an XPO executive from 2014 to 2015 and has divested up to $155.3 million shares of XPO since becoming postmaster general. 

Says Smith, “If you’re not going to speak out on DeJoy and Blume — tell me why.” 

Joe Maniscalco is a journalist and freelance writer based in New York City. His work has appeared in a variety of news outlets ranging from the to He's spent the last decade covering workplace justice issues, the American Labor Movement and steadfastly avoiding well-paid corporate media gigs.