New Postmaster General Met With Tepid Response From Mailers, Employees
Outsider appointment comes just days after postal board’s most experienced member resigned in protest.
The U.S. Postal Service will have a new leader next month, with its governing board selecting an ally of President Trump outside the postal system but with decades of experience in the logistics sector.
Louis DeJoy will serve as the 75th postmaster general beginning June 15, replacing Megan Brennan. DeJoy has previously worked with the Postal Service as CEO of New Breed Logistics, a company that handles supply chain issues and transportation support. He also is a significant donor to Trump and the Republican Party. Unlike Brennan and her two predecessors dating back to 2001, DeJoy is not a career postal employee.
DeJoy will take over the Postal Service at a tumultuous time for the agency, which has seen more than a decade of declining mail volume and profits. Its financial problems have been exacerbated by a steep drop off in revenue due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The USPS board of governors recently voted to request from Congress $75 billion in financing to help make up for the shortfall. More than 2,000 postal employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and 46 have died from related symptoms.
The announcement also comes just days after one of the governors, David Williams, resigned from his post. Williams stepped down in large part due to the Treasury Department and its Secretary Steve Mnuchin influencing the board’s decision making, according to a congressional aide familiar with Williams’ thinking, especially as it related to its access to a $10 billion loan recently approved by Congress. While USPS said the vote to approve DeJoy was unanimous, a spokesman declined to say exactly when the board voted and it is therefore unclear if it was before or after Williams’ resignation.
Williams was appointed to the position by Trump, as were all four of the remaining governors. He was seen as a valuable member of the board, due to his experience as a former inspector general for USPS and several other agencies.
“One of the challenges the postal management will have is lack of institutional knowledge with the new board members and an outside postmaster general,” said Mike Plunkett, a former USPS executive and current president of PostCom, an association representing large-scale private sector mailers such as UPS, FedEx and Amazon. Typically, he said, the postmaster general and USPS board members would collectively represent several decades of postal experience. Now, they cumulatively have less than four. “There is a little bit of worry,” Plunkett said.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who oversees the Postal Service as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, accused Trump of choosing DeJoy for political reasons.
“President Trump rewards a partisan donor by installing him at the U.S. Postal Service,” Connolly said. “The Postal Service is in crisis and needs real leadership and someone with knowledge of the issues. This crony doesn’t cut it.”
Trump has feuded with the Postal Service throughout his presidency and in recent weeks has blamed the agency’s financial woes on the rates it charges its largest customers. At a press conference last month he repeated a debunked claim that USPS is improperly taking a loss on its shipping agreement with Amazon and said he would not approve of any additional funding for the agency, or the disbursement of the already authorized $10 billion loan, unless USPS raised its rates.
The Postal Service has sought more autonomy in setting its rates, though its regulatory body has mandated that some caps remain in place. Other stakeholders have cautioned that raising prices too dramatically will disincentivize large-scale mailers from using the Postal Service and encourage ecommerce giants like Amazon to expedite the development of their own delivery networks.
The National Postal Mail Handlers Union noted that DeJoy's company had contracts with USPS that sought to privatize tasks performed by its members.
“DeJoy’s appointment is undoubtedly a reflection of the Trump administration’s attempt to influence future postal operations,” the union said in a statement.
The incoming postmaster general’s wife, Aldona Wos, is Trump’s nominee to serve as ambassador to Canada.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said his union looked forward to working in good faith with DeJoy, while noting it had written to the postal board this week not to allow Treasury to inappropriately meddle in its operations.
"Today, we ask the same of the new postmaster general," Rolando said. "Keeping politics out of the Postal Service and maintaining its independence is central to its success."
For his part, DeJoy said he hopes to lean on his experience and is committed to ensuring the viability of a public Postal Service.
“Having worked closely with the Postal Service for many years, I have a great appreciation for this institution and the dedicated workers who faithfully execute its mission,” DeJoy said. “I look forward to working with the supporters of the Postal Service in Congress and the administration to ensure the Postal Service remains an integral part of the United States government.”
He also praised the 630,000-person USPS workforce, saying it will be “an incredible honor” to work with them.
“Postal workers are the heart and soul of this institution, and I will be honored to work alongside them and their unions,” DeJoy said.
The Postal Service highlighted DeJoy's experience with USPS and said the board selected him after an "extensive nationwide search" and reviewing more than 200 candidates. That list was eventually whittled down to a dozen candidates interviewed by the governors.
“Louis DeJoy understands the critical public service role of the United States Postal Service, and the urgent need to strengthen it for future generations,” said Mike Duncan, the board’s chairman. “The board appreciated Louis’ depth of knowledge on the important issues facing the Postal Service and his desire to work with all of our stakeholders on preserving and protecting this essential institution.”
Steve Kearney, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, praised DeJoy’s business experience, saying his perspective could help identify novel solutions for the Postal Service’s longstanding issues.
“In a less polarized environment, DeJoy might be portrayed as a well-qualified executive who could help turn around the Postal Service,” Kearney said.
He expressed concern, however, about Williams’ departure. In his meetings with the former board member, Kearney was impressed with Williams’ commitment to finding solutions to reinvent the Postal Service while maintaining its current volumes.
“We were not happy to see him leave,” Kearney said.
It was expected that USPS would select an outsider to lead the agency. PostCom’s Plunkett said he was looking forward to working with the new postmaster general, but he was waiting to “see what [DeJoy’s] priorities are.”
“We’re still scrambling to find out as much about this guy as we can,” Plunkett said.