Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., was among seven Democratic lawmakers that called for an end to the USPS Delivering for America strategy in a letter to the service's Board of Governors.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., was among seven Democratic lawmakers that called for an end to the USPS Delivering for America strategy in a letter to the service's Board of Governors. Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Senators call on postal board to abandon DeJoy’s USPS reforms

The overhaul is harming the Postal Service, Democrats say, though postal leadership says it just needs more time.

The U.S. Postal Service’s governing board should stop implementing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s plan to overhaul the mailing agency’s operations, according to a group of Democratic senators who said the 10-year blueprint to improve USPS finances and efficiency is failing.

While postal leadership has repeatedly defended its Delivering for America plan and said it needs more time to realize the benefits of its pricing, network and workforce reforms, the seven senators, led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said the changes are actively harming the Postal Service and its customers.

They praised DeJoy for issuing a “transformative plan,” but said the policies have led to declining service, higher prices and lower mail usage. The lawmakers blamed ongoing price hikes for declining mail volumes and said the approach would continue to drive business away from the Postal Service. 

“It has become clear that under the DFA, USPS is continuing to implement changes that are harmful to Americans and the American businesses that rely on the service,” the senator said. “As the board of governors, you must step in before further harm is caused.”

The letter was the latest in a series of concerns voiced by members of both parties and congressional chambers, though it went further in calling for the termination of the Delivering for America plan altogether. After initial backlash to DeJoy’s selection and his early reform efforts, temperatures cooled as lawmakers worked with the postmaster general to pass the 2022 Postal Service Reform Act and allowed him some leeway to enact his vision. As consolidations and mail rerouting efforts hit individual member’s states and districts, however, that friction is rebuilding. 

During a Senate hearing last week, DeJoy defended his plan and said he was committed to seeing it through. He told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that their influence helped shape the formation and structure of the reform effort and a return to the previous status quo would mean a continuation of the “financial death spiral” that predated his arrival. 

In addition to pricing concerns, DeJoy repeatedly faced questions about his network changes that has led to some disruptions of mail delivery. The DFA plan has included consolidating mail sorting away from individual post offices in favor of centralized centers and moving processing operations away from hundreds of cities and towns in favor of 60 mega-centers throughout the country. As part of a new initiative, USPS is also rolling out an “optimized collection plan” that will require mail to sit overnight at post offices instead of being collected each evening for transportation to a processing center.

Mail delays have spiked across the country and performance has been particularly poor in areas piloting the new network structure, leading DeJoy to apologize and promise improvements. He added, however, that his efforts will bear fruit if given appropriate time. 

“It’s easy to criticize when you show up at the crime scene and see the damage, but the path there is long and people are working very hard to change minds and hearts in terms of how we perform,” the postmaster general said. 

USPS earlier this month announced it is planning in July to raise the cost of a First Class stamp to 73 cents from 68 cents as part of a proposal to raise overall prices by 7.8%. The increases, if approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, would mark the sixth hike under DeJoy’s tenure and a 31% spike in the cost of a stamp since he took office. USPS has begun raising its rates on a biannual basis and DeJoy has tapped into the authority he won in 2020 to increase prices more than the rate of inflation on nearly every allowable occasion. 

Approval of the increases will amount to a simple checking of the math to ensure postal management has stayed within the permissible formula.

The Postal Service lost $6.5 billion in fiscal 2023, despite DeJoy’s initial projection that it would break even that year. The significant price hikes enabled USPS to grow revenue—by 1% for packages and 2.1% for First Class mail—despite volume declines in both categories. Still, critics derided the ongoing strategy as contributing to a spiral of less use of the mail system. 

“Price hikes are driving disastrous declines in mail volume, which is still the biggest money-maker for the USPS,” said former Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., who now leads Keep US Posted, a nonprofit comprised of large-scale mailers and other postal stakeholders. “It’s time for the Postal Regulatory Commission to hit the brakes on price increases, and for Congress to take a hard look at the numbers and how they affect the financial solvency of the U.S. Postal Service.” 

The postal board—in its current composition—is unlikely to heed the senators’ call, as Chairman Roman Martinez recently defended the Delivering for America plan at a Senate hearing. The board “continues to support the DFA plan and Postmaster General Dejoy’s efforts,” Martinez said, adding the changes were “critically necessary” and created “the only viable path” for USPS to regain financial self-sufficiency. Martinez said the plan is working as intended and, despite some setbacks, simply needs more time to unfold. 

The board could soon veer from its current path, however. Amber McReynolds was recently named its vice chair, and she took the occasion to voice an openness to change. 

“It is OK to celebrate success while also being open to ideas for further improvement and adjustments to the DFA, if needed, as challenges arise or conditions change,” McReynolds said.

President Biden has also nominated his former Labor Department Secretary Marty Walsh to fill one of the two vacant Senate-confirmed spots on the board. Walsh’s confirmation would give Biden his sixth nominee on the panel and the former secretary would be the fourth Democrat to sit on the board, joining three Republicans and one independent. Federal statute requires no more than five members of the board be of the same party, meaning Biden could choose another Democrat to fill the remaining vacancy.

DeJoy is also facing pressure from the postal regulator, with whom he has feuded since taking office. At last week’s hearing, PRC Chairman Michael Kubayanda said the Postal Service’s performance is trending in the wrong direction and suggested the commission may issue a renewed advisory opinion on the mailing agency’s network changes. 

A spokesperson for the Postal Service said it had not yet received the letter but would respond to the senators when it does.