New documents show Postal Service leadership forced changes that upended service
The top executives at the United States Postal Service were instrumental in pushing strategies that delayed mail delivery—strategies they claimed originated from lower-level managers, documents released in one of the court challenges to the USPS changes prove. The operational changes, including stopping extra and late trips by carriers to get all the mail out, were included in a PowerPoint presentation David E. Williams, the agency’s chief of logistics and processing operations, gave to officials across the country in July.
Other senior executives, The Washington Post reports, sat in on the meeting including "Robert Cintron, vice president of logistics; Angela Curtis, vice president of retail and post office operations; and vice presidents from the agency’s seven geographic areas." Agency chiefs, including Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, have insisted that those changes were demanded by lower-tier managers on a regional level. DeJoy told a House committee last month that he encouraged all post offices and carriers to meet schedules, but didn't issue a ban on extra or late deliveries. He might not have been lying—that could have come not from his mouth, but Williams’. Williams told the Post that the directive in his presentation was mean to be "motivational."
Here's how they tried to "motivate" the agency: "One of his slides dubbed the plan, 'OUR FIRST TEST.' Another said, 'NO EXTRA TRANSPORTATION,' and, 'NO LATE TRANSPORTATION.'" The presentation also said that late or extra trips would be designated "unauthorized contractual commitments" within days, which hardly sounds like the changes were optional. And they told participants to "surrender our resistance" to the plans and overcome their "fear of failure," "fear of repercussions and personal impacts," "fear of making the wrong decision," "fear of the unknown," and "fear that the new way may not be better." The only thing to fear, apparently, was what could happen to them if they didn't implement the changes.
"These documents clearly show USPS leadership actions interrupted and delayed the flow of mail by requiring Postal Service employees to stop extra and late trips to deliver the mail back in July," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. The presentation was among documents turned over in response to a lawsuit he brought against DeJoy and the USPS along with California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, and North Carolina. "While Postmaster DeJoy has created confusion, it’s clear this mandate came from the top—in black and white. We're in court right now to protect the Postal Service from this illegal attack on a critical public service," he told the Post. This case, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, argues that these are unlawful changes in delivery service standards that should have been approved by the agency's board of governors and required an opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission before being implemented.
What this presentation demonstrates is that the mail delays and backlogs that occurred this summer are directly tied to the top leadership at the USPS. That leadership has tried to pass the buck to their underlings, and has also tried to blame it on staffing problems stemming from coronavirus. One of those underlings, Shaun Mossman, vice president of the agency’s southern area (which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia) didn't take the presentation as a pep talk. He told his staff that same day, July 10, that late and extra trips were now prohibited with an announcement read to employees on workroom floors. "All trips will depart on time (Network, Plant and Delivery); late trips are no longer authorized or accepted,” his "stand-up talk" to the workrooms read. "Extra trips are no longer authorized or accepted."
Three days later, "rural carriers in Buckeye, Ariz., part of USPS's western region, were required to sign an 'Individual Training Record,' that said, 'We cannot have ANY late trips or extras from delivery into the plant.' It also said trucks could not be held back and that extra trips could not be requested 'under any circumstances,'" the Post reports. That doesn't sound like a pep talk. But here's what DeJoy told Congress about that: "This was not a hard direct, 'Everything must leave on time.' We still have thousands of trucks a day that leave late within a certain time frame, and there are still hundreds of extra trips." He said that "The intention was to put the mail on the trucks and have the trucks leave on time. That should not have impacted anybody." That's not exactly lying to Congress, technically, but it's certainly not full transparency.