Controversial changes ordered by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy caused an estimated 85 million more packages to arrive late in one week and, in some districts, nearly a 20 percent drop in on-time deliveries, a new Senate report finds.
The report, prepared by Democratic staff on the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, describes a significant decline in the percentage of mail delivered on time in each of the postal service’s 67 districts. “Widespread delays have continued over the two months since the changes began,” the report states, finding that while service has improved since DeJoy promised Congress he would halt his operational changes, on-time delivery has yet to fully rebound.
Democrats said on-time deliveries in Detroit, Michigan, for example, dropped by 19.1 percent in August; only 67.7 percent of mail was delivered on time.
The report goes on to state that DeJoy “failed to consider the likely service impacts of the transportation changes he ordered in July 2020,” and that he “did not conduct any analysis of the service disruptions and delays his directives could cause.”
DeJoy has come under intense scrutiny since ordering the removal of nearly 700 mail sorting machines in July and instituting drastic changes that forced mail carriers to begin their routes each day before all of the mail had been loaded onto delivery trucks. Internal documents, apparently released to Congress by a whistleblower, showed steep declines in the agency’s performance just after DeJoy took office in June.
The disruptions gave rise to concerns by lawmakers that the delivery of November election ballots might be hampered by the changes—concerns that DeJoy dismissed in multiple congressional hearings last month.
“Delays and mail backups have sparked fears that the Postal Service may not be able to handle unprecedented high volumes of election mail in the 2020 general election,” the report states. “During the acute drop in on-time delivery in July, some Americans reported delays in their election mail.”
The report states that postal workers, in conversations with congressional staff, reported finding absentee ballots postmarked for primary elections that had already taken place in mail stacked up due to delays at processing plants.
“The results of my investigation clearly show that Postmaster General DeJoy’s carelessly instituted operational changes to the Postal Service resulted in severe service impacts that harmed the lives and livelihoods of Michiganders and Americans,” said Sen. Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report, which was ordered by Peters, accuses DeJoy of failing to be “transparent about his actions and their impacts on the mail service” and says he has repeatedly given “misleading and incomplete responses” when asked about the changes.
While under oath, DeJoy denied instituting any changes that would affect overtime policies at USPS. (A dozen postal workers told Gizmodo last month this is untrue.) The report says the postal service has not attempted to explain why employees from across the country say overtime hours have been cut and why internal documents specifically state that “overtime will be eliminated.”
Postal workers say the overtime is necessary due to the sharp increase in packages being mailed during the coronavirus pandemic. It otherwise saves money, they say, as the agency doesn’t have to pay the benefits or pensions of additional staff.
USPS is the only federal agency under a congressional requirement to pre-fund its employees’ pensions. Pre-funding pensions accounts for roughly $5 billion worth of the agency’s annual operating loss.
Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee are investigating whether DeJoy mislead Congress last month during his testimony with regard to his overtime claims. Lying to Congress under oath is considered perjury, which is punishable by imprisonment. (Misleading Congress while not under oath is also a crime.)
Investigations into DeJoy’s hiring and his past as CEO of New Breed Logistics have surfaced additional allegations of wrongdoing. The Washington Post reported last week that five former employees of DeJoy, a GOP mega-donor, have accused him of refunding them for making financial contributions to GOP candidates, which is a felony.
David Young, DeJoy’s director of human resources at the time, who is said to have had access to the company’s payroll records, told the Post, “We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses.” Added Young: “When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations—and that covered the tax and everything else.”
Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the House Oversight Committee, said in a phone interview that he pressed DeJoy about the payments during a committee hearing after he was tipped off about the alleged reimbursements by a friend in North Carolina. (Cooper’s third-year paper at Harvard Law School was on the subject of corporate employees being coerced into making political contributions, he said.)
“I thought he was very likely, as a mega-donor, to have coerced his employees,” Cooper said. “That’s not illegal. The illegal part is to reimburse them. And as his HR manager said, he even paid the taxes on the reimbursement. So, he put a bow on his crime.”
“Most new managers, especially if they have no experience in the postal service, would take a little while to learn the operation before they disrupted it,” he continued. “But he trashed 680 mail sorting machines, forced trucks to travel empty, because he was fixated on arrival and departure time as opposed to getting the mail delivered. So he was a very disruptive influence very early on, during a crucial time in American history.”
“The first rule of medicine is ‘do no harm,’” Cooper said. “I think that’s a good rule for postmasters general, too.”