U.S. postal workers held a day of action Nov. 17 to call on Congress for financial support for the Postal Service and a reversal of new policies introduced by the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
The day of action, hosted by the American Postal Workers Union, asked members of Congress to pass $25 billion in immediate financial support for USPS, after both the pandemic and longstanding financial challenges have stretched the agency thin.
“We want to continue to deliver prompt, reliable and efficient service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein in a news release.
“The pandemic isn’t over. The 2020 election wasn’t our last rodeo; we have more voting by mail to come. The USPS plays a vital role for this country. Let’s make sure it works for all of us.”
On Friday, USPS released its fiscal year 2020 report, which found that declining mail volume, pandemic impacts and ongoing financial challenges had put the agency at a $9.2 billion loss for the year, an increase of $363 million from last year’s loss.
Part of that loss comes from steadily declining first class and marketing mail volumes, which make up the bulk of USPS revenue.
The pandemic did cause a dramatic increase in package volumes, which the agency expects to sustain after the COVID-19 crisis, but, “we do not expect our package revenue growth over the medium-to-long term to make up for our losses in mail service revenue caused by COVID-19,” according to USPS Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett.
“These figures, driven by the economic shutdown’s impact on first-class mail, show the need for federal assistance during the pandemic, just as other sectors have received. Over the past eight months and counting, the United States Postal Service has demonstrated its essential value, with tens of millions of Americans sheltering at home during this public health crisis while postal employees deliver needed supplies, medications and much more,” National Association of Letter Carriers President Frederic Rolando said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, the Postal Service has proven vital in protecting the core of our democracy — the right of citizens to choose their leaders — by facilitating an historic volume of mail ballots during that same health crisis. Perhaps never in its 245 years has the public post office been more indispensable to the country.”
Members of Congress and the postmaster general himself have been at odds over how best to address that funding discrepancy.
DeJoy was chosen by the USPS Board of Governors to lead the agency back in May, and his decision to institute sweeping policies — removal of mail boxes and sorting machines, reducing overtime hours and requiring trucks to go out for delivery on time no matter how full they were — received sharp criticism from postal worker organizations and Congress.
Perhaps the largest financial burden placed on the agency is the prefunding mandate, which requires USPS to set aside funding for retiree health care the moment that employee joins the agency, a requirement that has massive upfront costs and is placed on no other federal agency.
A bipartisan coalition in the House has pushed for legislative reform to remove the mandate, though some Republican members resisted making such a change without additional cost-cutting measures included in the bill.
Further changes, such as raising the cost of certain services or allowing the agency to expand the scope of its work, have been considered to boost revenue.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.