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Postal Service Suspends Changes After Outcry Over Delivery Slowdown Postal Service Suspends Changes After Outcry Over Delivery Slowdown
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WASHINGTON — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, facing intense backlash over cost-cutting moves that Democrats, state attorneys general and civil rights groups warn could jeopardize mail-in voting, said on Tuesday that the Postal Service would suspend those operational changes until after the 2020 election.WASHINGTON — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, facing intense backlash over cost-cutting moves that Democrats, state attorneys general and civil rights groups warn could jeopardize mail-in voting, said on Tuesday that the Postal Service would suspend those operational changes until after the 2020 election.
The measures, which included eliminating overtime for mail carriers, reducing post office hours and removing postal boxes, have been faulted for slowing mail delivery and criticized as an attempt to disenfranchise voters seeking to vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic.The measures, which included eliminating overtime for mail carriers, reducing post office hours and removing postal boxes, have been faulted for slowing mail delivery and criticized as an attempt to disenfranchise voters seeking to vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump who was tapped in May to run the Postal Service, said in a statement that “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail” he was suspending changes “that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic.”Mr. DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump who was tapped in May to run the Postal Service, said in a statement that “to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail” he was suspending changes “that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic.”
Mr. DeJoy said retail hours at the post office would not change, no mail processing facilities would be closed, and overtime would continue to be approved “as needed.”Mr. DeJoy said retail hours at the post office would not change, no mail processing facilities would be closed, and overtime would continue to be approved “as needed.”
It was unclear, however, whether the agency would reverse measures already put in place across the country that union officials and workers say have inflicted deep damage to the Postal Service. That includes the removal of hundreds of mail-sorting machines, according to a June 17 letter sent from the Postal Service to the American Postal Workers Union. Some of those machines have already been destroyed, union officials and workers said.It was unclear, however, whether the agency would reverse measures already put in place across the country that union officials and workers say have inflicted deep damage to the Postal Service. That includes the removal of hundreds of mail-sorting machines, according to a June 17 letter sent from the Postal Service to the American Postal Workers Union. Some of those machines have already been destroyed, union officials and workers said.
The announcement came as lawmakers summoned Mr. DeJoy to testify before the House and the Senate in the coming days and as two coalitions of at least 20 state attorneys general said they would file lawsuits against the Trump administration over the postal changes. Those lawsuits, which are being led by Washington State and Pennsylvania, seek to reverse Mr. DeJoy’s changes, which they called “unlawful.”The announcement came as lawmakers summoned Mr. DeJoy to testify before the House and the Senate in the coming days and as two coalitions of at least 20 state attorneys general said they would file lawsuits against the Trump administration over the postal changes. Those lawsuits, which are being led by Washington State and Pennsylvania, seek to reverse Mr. DeJoy’s changes, which they called “unlawful.”
Lawmakers in both parties and voting rights advocates have accused Mr. DeJoy, a longtime transportation and logistics executive, of making policy changes that jeopardize not only voters’ ability to cast their ballots safely in the general election, but also the delivery of important medicines, paychecks and documents. Mr. DeJoy’s continuing financial ties to companies that stand to benefit from his work at the Postal Service have also prompted concerns from lawmakers.Lawmakers in both parties and voting rights advocates have accused Mr. DeJoy, a longtime transportation and logistics executive, of making policy changes that jeopardize not only voters’ ability to cast their ballots safely in the general election, but also the delivery of important medicines, paychecks and documents. Mr. DeJoy’s continuing financial ties to companies that stand to benefit from his work at the Postal Service have also prompted concerns from lawmakers.
Concern about Mr. DeJoy’s changes was so pronounced that Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California interrupted the House’s annual summer recess and scheduled a vote on Saturday on Democratic legislation that would revoke policy changes until Jan. 1, 2021, or the end of the pandemic. The bill would also include $25 billion in funding for the beleaguered agency. Mr. DeJoy’s announcement did not change those plans to return, a senior Democratic aide said on Tuesday, although text of the legislation had not yet been released.Concern about Mr. DeJoy’s changes was so pronounced that Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California interrupted the House’s annual summer recess and scheduled a vote on Saturday on Democratic legislation that would revoke policy changes until Jan. 1, 2021, or the end of the pandemic. The bill would also include $25 billion in funding for the beleaguered agency. Mr. DeJoy’s announcement did not change those plans to return, a senior Democratic aide said on Tuesday, although text of the legislation had not yet been released.
“They felt the heat,” Ms. Pelosi said at a Politico Playbook event moments after Mr. DeJoy released his statement. “And that’s what we were trying to do, make it too hot for them to handle.”“They felt the heat,” Ms. Pelosi said at a Politico Playbook event moments after Mr. DeJoy released his statement. “And that’s what we were trying to do, make it too hot for them to handle.”
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader and among dozens of Democrats who spent Tuesday denouncing the changes at in-person events outside postal facilities, said that while Mr. DeJoy had vowed to stop any changes, Democrats were “going to make sure in law that that is the case.”Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader and among dozens of Democrats who spent Tuesday denouncing the changes at in-person events outside postal facilities, said that while Mr. DeJoy had vowed to stop any changes, Democrats were “going to make sure in law that that is the case.”
While several Senate Republicans have condemned the changes enforced by Mr. DeJoy and signaled openness for more funding for the agency, top Senate Republicans have not yet coalesced around legislation to address the agency’s issues.While several Senate Republicans have condemned the changes enforced by Mr. DeJoy and signaled openness for more funding for the agency, top Senate Republicans have not yet coalesced around legislation to address the agency’s issues.
“I don’t think we’ll pass, in the Senate, a postal-only bill,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told The Courier Journal on Tuesday.“I don’t think we’ll pass, in the Senate, a postal-only bill,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told The Courier Journal on Tuesday.
Mr. DeJoy is scheduled to appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday and the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday, as lawmakers continue to push for answers. Robert M. Duncan, the chairman of the Postal Service board of governors, is also expected to testify before the House committee on Monday.Mr. DeJoy is scheduled to appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday and the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Monday, as lawmakers continue to push for answers. Robert M. Duncan, the chairman of the Postal Service board of governors, is also expected to testify before the House committee on Monday.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, spoke to Mr. DeJoy on Tuesday and asked for a written explanation of which policy changes were rescinded or kept and for an explicit promise that the agency would treat election mail as first-class priority.Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, spoke to Mr. DeJoy on Tuesday and asked for a written explanation of which policy changes were rescinded or kept and for an explicit promise that the agency would treat election mail as first-class priority.
“I told him there’s a lot of mistrust because of statements he and the president have made about cutbacks in mail delivery during Covid and about mail-in voting through Election Day,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement, adding, “We cannot allow two things as sacred to our country as the Post Office and our elections to be undermined.”“I told him there’s a lot of mistrust because of statements he and the president have made about cutbacks in mail delivery during Covid and about mail-in voting through Election Day,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement, adding, “We cannot allow two things as sacred to our country as the Post Office and our elections to be undermined.”
As criticism and public pressure mounted, the Postal Service’s board of governors held emergency meetings via conference call on Saturday and Monday, where the outcry was discussed, according to a person familiar with the meetings who asked for anonymity because they were closed to the public.As criticism and public pressure mounted, the Postal Service’s board of governors held emergency meetings via conference call on Saturday and Monday, where the outcry was discussed, according to a person familiar with the meetings who asked for anonymity because they were closed to the public.
According to a notice in the Federal Register, the Postal Service’s general counsel “certified that the meeting may be closed under the Government in the Sunshine Act.”According to a notice in the Federal Register, the Postal Service’s general counsel “certified that the meeting may be closed under the Government in the Sunshine Act.”
While the board oversees the strategic direction of the Postal Service and selects the postmaster general, who serves at the pleasure of the board members, it is not clear what role it played in approving the cost-cutting changes or suspending them until after the election.While the board oversees the strategic direction of the Postal Service and selects the postmaster general, who serves at the pleasure of the board members, it is not clear what role it played in approving the cost-cutting changes or suspending them until after the election.
Board members declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on Mr. DeJoy’s moves and what role, if any, they have played. A Postal Service spokesman declined to comment on the board’s role or the meetings, instead asking a reporter to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the agendas of the meetings.Board members declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on Mr. DeJoy’s moves and what role, if any, they have played. A Postal Service spokesman declined to comment on the board’s role or the meetings, instead asking a reporter to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the agendas of the meetings.
Mr. DeJoy and his administration allies have argued that the removal of underused mailboxes and replacing sorting equipment were policies first set into motion by Mr. DeJoy’s predecessors. But Mr. DeJoy has carried them out with a speed and vigor previous postmasters general had not, according to people familiar with their execution.Mr. DeJoy and his administration allies have argued that the removal of underused mailboxes and replacing sorting equipment were policies first set into motion by Mr. DeJoy’s predecessors. But Mr. DeJoy has carried them out with a speed and vigor previous postmasters general had not, according to people familiar with their execution.
“So, Postmaster General DeJoy, two weeks ago, and again, recently, has reiterated his commitment to pay overtime to postal workers and letter carriers if there’s an increase in volume that demands that in order to be able to get ballots or any other first-class mail to its destination as efficiently and as fast as possible,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters on Tuesday. “President Trump at no time has instructed or directed the post office to cut back on overtime or any other operational decision that would slow things down.”“So, Postmaster General DeJoy, two weeks ago, and again, recently, has reiterated his commitment to pay overtime to postal workers and letter carriers if there’s an increase in volume that demands that in order to be able to get ballots or any other first-class mail to its destination as efficiently and as fast as possible,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters on Tuesday. “President Trump at no time has instructed or directed the post office to cut back on overtime or any other operational decision that would slow things down.”
Union officials said that some very limited overtime requests had been fulfilled. The bigger concerns, they said, were the routing and transportation changes detailed in a memo in July that was widely circulated. Among the changes, mail carriers are supposed to avoid waiting for delayed trucks or taking multiple trips.Union officials said that some very limited overtime requests had been fulfilled. The bigger concerns, they said, were the routing and transportation changes detailed in a memo in July that was widely circulated. Among the changes, mail carriers are supposed to avoid waiting for delayed trucks or taking multiple trips.
The cost-cutting measures Mr. DeJoy carried out came after years of public criticism by Mr. Trump, who has accused the Postal Service of being poorly run and not charging high enough rates to private companies like Amazon and UPS.The cost-cutting measures Mr. DeJoy carried out came after years of public criticism by Mr. Trump, who has accused the Postal Service of being poorly run and not charging high enough rates to private companies like Amazon and UPS.
“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!” he tweeted in December 2017.“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!” he tweeted in December 2017.
The president reiterated that idea on Tuesday: “@Amazon and others in that business, should be charged (by the U.S. Postal System) much more per package, and the Post Office would be immediately brought back to ‘good health’, now vibrant, with ALL jobs saved,” he tweeted. “No pass on to customers. Get it done!”The president reiterated that idea on Tuesday: “@Amazon and others in that business, should be charged (by the U.S. Postal System) much more per package, and the Post Office would be immediately brought back to ‘good health’, now vibrant, with ALL jobs saved,” he tweeted. “No pass on to customers. Get it done!”
In April 2018, Mr. Trump tapped Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to lead a task force on updating the Postal Service, which culminated in a report that offered a broad critique of the agency’s business model and concluded that an antiquated mission — along with changing market forces — left it ripe for financial collapse.In April 2018, Mr. Trump tapped Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to lead a task force on updating the Postal Service, which culminated in a report that offered a broad critique of the agency’s business model and concluded that an antiquated mission — along with changing market forces — left it ripe for financial collapse.
The report suggested that postal workers were overpaid relative to other government employees and private-sector delivery services, and that compensation reductions along with other cost-cutting measures were needed.The report suggested that postal workers were overpaid relative to other government employees and private-sector delivery services, and that compensation reductions along with other cost-cutting measures were needed.
“Their wages and benefits should be aligned to comparable U.S. federal employee groups, including aligning their ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits with other federal employees,” the report said.“Their wages and benefits should be aligned to comparable U.S. federal employee groups, including aligning their ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits with other federal employees,” the report said.
There were also recommendations to cut services, such as scaling back delivery days and making it easier to close post offices and remove mailboxes. The task force said that to be more cost efficient, the Postal Service should exercise “discretion to lower service standards.”There were also recommendations to cut services, such as scaling back delivery days and making it easier to close post offices and remove mailboxes. The task force said that to be more cost efficient, the Postal Service should exercise “discretion to lower service standards.”
But those recommendations came before the pandemic, which has upended plans to vote in person this November and is likely to cause an influx of mail-in ballots.But those recommendations came before the pandemic, which has upended plans to vote in person this November and is likely to cause an influx of mail-in ballots.
Washington filed a lawsuit on Tuesday accusing the administration of unlawfully pushing through changes at the Postal Service, and Pennsylvania intends to file one as well. Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, said on Tuesday that she intended to file a separate lawsuit.Washington filed a lawsuit on Tuesday accusing the administration of unlawfully pushing through changes at the Postal Service, and Pennsylvania intends to file one as well. Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, said on Tuesday that she intended to file a separate lawsuit.
William Tong, Connecticut’s attorney general, said that his office had received complaints from across the state about slowdowns in mail delivery. Among them, medicine was not being delivered to sick seniors and child support payments were arriving late to financially insecure mothers. In August, some Connecticut voters were denied the right to vote when their absentee ballots arrived late, he added.William Tong, Connecticut’s attorney general, said that his office had received complaints from across the state about slowdowns in mail delivery. Among them, medicine was not being delivered to sick seniors and child support payments were arriving late to financially insecure mothers. In August, some Connecticut voters were denied the right to vote when their absentee ballots arrived late, he added.
“We will not allow Donald Trump to steal the election by sabotaging the United States Postal Service,” Mr. Tong said in a statement. “The president greatly misjudged the anger his unlawful policies would unleash across this country.”“We will not allow Donald Trump to steal the election by sabotaging the United States Postal Service,” Mr. Tong said in a statement. “The president greatly misjudged the anger his unlawful policies would unleash across this country.”
The states plan to pursue their lawsuit despite Mr. DeJoy’s announcement on Tuesday. James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine and a professor at Harvard Law School, said the lawsuit provided assurance to the attorneys general that the postmaster general would follow through on his promise.The states plan to pursue their lawsuit despite Mr. DeJoy’s announcement on Tuesday. James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine and a professor at Harvard Law School, said the lawsuit provided assurance to the attorneys general that the postmaster general would follow through on his promise.
“The attorneys general don’t trust the word of the Postal Service,” Mr. Tierney said. “They feel more comfortable having this done in open court.”“The attorneys general don’t trust the word of the Postal Service,” Mr. Tierney said. “They feel more comfortable having this done in open court.”
Alan Rappeport, Luke Broadwater, Catie Edmondson and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.Alan Rappeport, Luke Broadwater, Catie Edmondson and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.