What Changes Were Made to the US Postal Service?

Table of Contents:

  1. Political Motivation Behind Recent Changes
  2. A Fundamental Shift in Philosophy Under the New Postmaster General

Recent overhauls within the United States Postal Service have sparked controversy over the past few weeks. These changes, while sweeping and seemingly abrupt, are the culmination of a years-long feud between President Trump and the USPS. The president has publicly derided the agency, stating in 2018 that he would like to see the organization privatized, and even going so far as to call the agency “a joke” earlier this year.

If not for the timing of these changes and certain explicit statements made by Trump, this operational overhaul could be seen simply as an example of the president running the country like a business. Being that the USPS is technically a money-losing endeavor, it would appear to be perfectly logical to reconfigure the agency in such a way that it might turn a profit.

Political Motivation Behind Recent Changes

On August 13, 2020, speaking about the allocation of federal funds to cover election costs and mail-in ballots, President Trump stated, “Now, they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.” The timing of this statement and fundamental changes to the USPS, mere weeks before mail-in ballots will arrive in American mailboxes, is difficult to ignore.

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A Fundamental Shift in Philosophy Under the New Postmaster General

Since assuming office on June 16, 2020, America’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has made significant changes to the United States Postal Service. These adjustments are all reflective of a fundamental shift in philosophy concerning the purpose of the USPS. To date, the USPS has existed as a government agency whose top priority has been the timely and reliable delivery of mail to the American public. While DeJoy has stated plainly that this remains a priority, the reforms made this summer show that cutting costs and improving the bottom line of the agency are the new top priority. In other words, the prospect of making the agency profitable will, at least for the short-term, supersede the prospect of keeping it fully functional and reliable.

The major changes made to the USPS over the past month include:

  • The removal or reassignment of 23 executives, sewing temporary disorder in the midst of a pandemic and leading up to the presidential election.
  • The cutting of overtime hours for postal workers, which, per the USPS Office of Investigator General, inhibits carriers’ ability to complete their workload (carriers returned late from daily deliveries nearly 18% of the time).
  • Implementation of the ESAS program (Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation), which prohibits mail carriers from sorting mail in their offices before heading to their postal routes. This has traditionally been the method that allows mail carriers to stay organized and work efficiently while making deliveries.
  • The removal of mail sorting machines (no explanation was offered by DeJoy for this action).

These sweeping changes raised suspicion and upset politicians on both sides of the aisle. As a result of the backlash, on August 18, 2020, DeJoy announced he would be suspending all additional changes to the USPS until after the election. The changes already made will be upheld, however, so the USPS will continue to operate with the altered modus operandi previously put in place.

For information about the ramifications of these changes and how they affect the average American, click here.