In the lead-up to the presidential election, many progressive groups and politicians were hyper-focused on defending the US Postal Service (USPS), as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy slowed service (and thus potentially delayed ballots). Now that the election has passed, there’s been less attention both on the institution and the man at its helm. But the problems inside the USPS are still mounting, as details of DeJoy’s new ten-year plan — “the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation,” according to the Washington Post — become public.
The only way to begin to defend the post office is to fire DeJoy.
The USPS is a national treasure, one of the few institutions we can be unequivocally proud of. It reaches and serves everyone in the United States, regardless of race, age, gender, or geography. Whether someone lives in New York City or an unincorporated town, the mail gets delivered to them every day, just the same. There’s even a post office in almost every zip code. And the people doing the delivering, sorting, and selling of stamps have been able to depend on these jobs, with good union wages and benefits, to provide for themselves and their families.
But if left up to DeJoy, all of this will change. His ten-year reorganization plan, released earlier this week, would close certain post offices, reduce hours in others, impose longer delivery times for some first-class mail, and hike stamp prices.
The post office has been under attack for decades, with Republicans and centrist Democrats repeatedly trying to make the public service function like a private business. But DeJoy’s leadership could be the nail in the coffin, if Joe Biden doesn’t act swiftly.
DeJoy, a businessman with no previous ties to the postal service, was appointed by former president Donald Trump (to whom DeJoy donated over half a million dollars). Last summer, millions of postal customers dealt with delays in mail delivery, thanks to DeJoy’s new cost-cutting policies. He dismantled sorting machines, slashed overtime and hours at post offices, and prohibited delivery trucks from waiting for late mail or making multiple trips. Now, he hopes to further gut the post office under the guise of shoring up its finances.
Biden can’t directly dump DeJoy. The postmaster general serves at the behest of the nine-member Board of Governors, which are presidentially appointed. The board must be bipartisan, with no more than five board members belonging to the same political party; generally the president’s party has a one-seat majority on the board.
Biden just nominated three new board members to join the current six, all of whom were nominated by former president Trump. All three of Biden’s nominees are postal experts: Amber McReynolds leads the nonprofit National Vote at Home Institute, Anton Hajjar formerly served as general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union, and Ron Stroman is a former deputy postmaster general.
If these three new board members are confirmed, they may be able to put pressure on the rest of the board to sack DeJoy. Most members have full-time jobs elsewhere, and view their role on the board as an honor, so they may be wary of enabling turmoil surrounding the postmaster general — potentially making them more likely to fire him.
But Biden has a role to play here as well. Although he can’t boot DeJoy himself, he can terminate board members “for cause.” New Jersey representative Bill Pascrell has publicly stated that Biden already has that cause, as the current board’s “refusal to oppose the worst destruction ever inflicted on the Postal Service was a betrayal of their duties and unquestionably constitutes good cause for their removal.” Whether this argument would hold up legally is unknown, but it could create enough of a disturbance to force board members themselves to resign, allowing Biden to appoint new members who would fire DeJoy. Biden should also use his bully pulpit to denounce DeJoy and his new ten-year plan, and to put pressure on the board to fire him.
The postal service is too important of an institution to give up. Its reach goes far beyond allowing people to vote safely in elections — it connects us to each other, no matter where in the country we live. That, on its own, is worth defending — and Biden must take a stand to defend it.