Biden's Postal Board Nominees Pledge Better Service and Workforce Investments
Their confirmation would give Democrat-aligned members a majority of the nine Senate-confirmed slots on the USPS board of governors, but the board would still be unlikely to fire Postmaster General DeJoy.
President Biden’s three nominees to sit on the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board committed to lawmakers on Thursday to prioritize improvements to customer service, highlighting some areas of potential friction with the vision of the mailing agency’s current leadership.
Ronald Stroman, Anton Hajjar and Amber McReynolds, the three governors-designate to the USPS board, all said they had faced no pressure to fire Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during the appointment process, nor had anyone discussed his performance with them at all. Some stakeholders and congressional Democrats have called for the postal board to dismiss DeJoy, who has faced significant criticism since his appointment last year. The nominees at no point directly criticized DeJoy during their confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and even though their confirmation would give Democrat-aligned members a majority on the board, it would be unlikely to spell the end of DeJoy’s tenure.
All of the nominees discussed the postmaster general’s recently unveiled 10-year business plan, vowing to engage stakeholders and ensure the proposals do not erode USPS service. The Postal Service has experienced several bouts of declining delivery performance and unprecedented mail delays, some of which were exacerbated by policies DeJoy implemented. His plan called for slowing delivery windows for some mail, saying it would more accurately reflect USPS’ capabilities.
Hajjar, a former American Postal Workers Union official, said he was pleased with some aspects of DeJoy’s plan, but had concerns about the reductions to delivery standards, price hikes and proposals to close mail processing plants. USPS consistently receives high ratings from the American public on polls, he noted, and risking a downturn in that approval would make little business sense.
“The deterioration of service in recent times is simply unacceptable and it can’t be the hallmark of the Postal Service that it’s declining in delivering service to the American people,” Hajjar said.
Stroman, who recently served for 10 years as deputy postmaster general, said it was the board's responsibility to represent the public, so he would "get input all across the country" when evaluating DeJoy's plan. Meeting the Postal Service's obligations, he added, "starts with having a plan to make sure you have great service."
While Congress provided USPS with a $10 billion cash injection late last year to help offset losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic, all three nominees agreed the agency must be self-sustaining and should not accept more emergency appropriations. Stroman stressed the need for comprehensive legislative reform in order to get USPS on firmer financial footing and vowed to work with lawmakers in a bipartisan fashion to finally make that long-discussed priority a reality.
“It’s incumbent on the board and management to reach out and to get the opinions of Congress and take that into account,” Stroman said. “We need postal reform, and in order for that to happen Congress needs to understand and communicate clearly with the Postal Service.”
All of the nominees also agreed on the need to invest in the workforce and praised DeJoy for committing to converting the growing number of non-career employees into long-term, career positions. McReynolds, a voting rights activist, said that only by investing in the workforce would USPS be able to grow and boost revenue. She, too, pushed for improving service, noting it would ultimately prove essential to turning around USPS finances.
Stroman said any savings realized by employing a larger non-career workforce—those employees generally earn less and receive a less generous suite of benefits—amounts to fool’s gold, as their turnover rates are so high it adds to long-term costs and mail delays. DeJoy recently told Government Executive he does not have a specific target in mind for the USPS workforce, speculating he could potentially grow the agency by 100,000 employees to meet growing package needs. He added, however, that the high turnover rates will likely highlight areas for efficiencies. USPS is currently in the midst of offering voluntary early retirement to much of its supervisory and administrative staff and has indicated that layoffs could be on the table if an insufficient number of employees accept.
The postal board nominees also laid out potential ways to grow revenue for the cash-strapped agency. Their proposals included working with the Small Business Administration to better tailor their offerings to customer needs, providing more services at post offices and leveraging the national change-of-address database.
With Democrats holding a slim majority in the Senate, Stroman, Hajjar and McReynolds are likely to win confirmation in the coming weeks. No committee member, Democrat or Republican, voiced specific objections to any of their nominations during Thursday’s hearing.