Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ordered cuts to overtime for USPS workers last summer, according to a memo sent to Republican Senate staff and obtained by CREW in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. DeJoy denied under oath that he was the one who ordered the cuts during congressional testimony last August.
The memo—which was attached to an August 18, 2020 email from Republican Senate staff to a top aide in the Treasury Department—includes a section titled “USPS Operational ‘Shift’ to Reduce Exorbitant Overtime.” The section discusses “the recent plan put forth by the Postmaster General (PMG) to reduce overtime.” This statement appears to directly contradict DeJoy’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee on August 24, 2020, in which he insisted “I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime.”
DeJoy’s denial was puzzling given the widespread understanding at the time that he personally ordered the overtime cuts. Senator Ron Johnson gave DeJoy credit for the cuts during an August 21 Senate hearing. And as CNN reported last year, a July 2020 USPS directive issued during DeJoy’s tenure “directly led to a significant majority of overtime opportunities being eliminated and prevented.” It’s unclear how this directive “could have been implemented without [DeJoy’s] knowledge or approval” given his role as “chief executive over the entire USPS,” CNN noted. The newly-disclosed memo shows that Republican Senate staff understood that DeJoy had in fact ordered the overtime reduction.
Under DeJoy’s overtime reduction plan, “letter carriers will start their route on time and leave behind any mail that has not yet been processed,” the memo says. To justify the plan, the memo cites a USPS Inspector General blog post from June 2019, which relied on USPS data from 2018 that long predated the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican’s memo also optimistically projected that DeJoy’s plan would result in “some mail” being “delayed by one day.” This was likely an extreme underestimate. During the spring and early summer of 2020, before DeJoy was appointed, on-time rates for USPS packages averaged around 92%. After he became postmaster general and implemented his cuts, on-time rates plunged by around 10%. Even in late January 2021, DeJoy’s changes were still causing mail backlogs from the holiday rush.
The memo blamed USPS’s “operational challenges” and “service delays” in the spring and summer of 2020 on “postal workers taking the paid leave granted in the COVID Phase 2 bill.” It insisted, without evidence, that these challenges and delays were “separate from” DeJoy’s overtime reduction plan.
DeJoy’s push to reduce frontline workers’ overtime came during a time of surging revenues and consumer demand at USPS. Citing a “substantial increase in package volume” due to the pandemic, the memo notes that USPS revenues from March through August 2020 reached $28.5 billion, a nearly $1.4 billion increase over the same period in 2019. “This is reflected in USPS’s $15 billion ‘cash on hand,’” the “highest in the history of USPS,” the memo adds.
DeJoy’s plot to overhaul USPS remains ongoing. Despite the agency reporting its first quarterly profit in years earlier this month, DeJoy’s outlook continues to be bleak. “While our positive financial results this quarter are certainly welcome, we continue to face systemic imbalances that make our current operating model unsustainable,” DeJoy said in a statement. In a February 17, 2021 letter to DeJoy, 34 senators questioned whether his “decisions and directives continue to hinder mail delivery,” and noted continued reports of “concerning practices” including “management rejecting most overtime requests.”
Given his substantial financial conflicts relating to USPS, DeJoy’s apparent sabotage of the agency deserves close scrutiny. And his potential lack of candor in testimony before Congress gives further cause for concern. If DeJoy is pushing for more cuts at USPS, he should have no problem saying so to Congress and the American people.