With the leadership of the U.S. Postal Service soon to be completely under the control of President Donald Trump's appointees, the agency has reportedly launched a review of its package prices and bulk delivery contracts as it faces the possibility of imminent collapse due in large part to the coronavirus crisis.
According to the Washington Post, USPS has in recent weeks "sought bids from consulting firms to reassess what it charges companies such as Amazon, UPS, and FedEx to deliver products on their behalf—often in the 'last mile' between a post office and a customer's home."
"Trump's plan to increase package prices by four or five times would hasten the demise of the public U.S. Postal Service and end affordable, universal delivery to every address in the country."
—American Postal Workers Union
"The moves... underscore how Trump is moving closer to reshaping an independent agency he has dubbed 'a joke,'" the Post reported Thursday, citing anonymous sources familiar with USPS decision-making. "Higher package rates would cost shippers and online retailers billions of dollars, potentially spurring them to invest in their own distribution networks instead of relying on the Postal Service."
Trump has threatened to block any emergency funding for the Postal Service if it does not agree to quadruple its package prices, a move that critics say would hurt small businesses more than large companies like Amazon, a frequent target of the president's ire.
"President Trump's clear intent is to raise prices and force a crisis at the Post Office so that his political benefactors at the corporate shippers can increase their company profits at the expense of the people," warned the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union. "Trump's plan to increase package prices by four or five times would hasten the demise of the public U.S. Postal Service and end affordable, universal delivery to every address in the country."
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) tweeted Thursday that "the president's political agenda against the USPS is wrong and dangerous."
"Higher package rates make it much harder for working Americans to get what they need—USPS is a vital public service and we need to provide relief to make sure it stays that way," said Udall.
News of the Postal Service's decision to launch a review of its prices comes as the Treasury Department is attempting to impose changes on the agency in exchange for a $10 billion emergency loan approved by Congress in March.
"Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have sought to attach terms to a $10 billion emergency loan to the USPS that would allow the administration to dictate package prices, review, and alter bulk-discount contracts known as negotiated service agreements (NSAs), appoint the next postmaster general, and direct negotiations with labor unions," the Post reported.
The Trump administration's interference with the independent government agency angered David Williams, the former vice chairman of the USPS Board of Governors who resigned in protest on April 30.
Just days later, on May 8, Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman also submitted his resignation, with some reporting indicating that he was forced out of his position. Stroman's resignation, which will take effect on June 1, was particularly alarming to progressives because of his crucial role as the USPS point-man on mail-in voting.
"Stroman's untimely departure signals deepening chaos and disruption inside the Postal Service at a critical moment during the 2020 election season," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We call on Congress to convene oversight hearings to determine whether the recent wave of leadership shifts at the Postal Service stands to harm the public by jeopardizing implementation of the Census and vote-by-mail amid the pandemic."
"The president and his cronies continue to try and leverage this pandemic to privatize and dismantle the USPS. It's shameful and will hurt every American and business."
—Rep. Gerry Connolly
Last week, as Common Dreams reported, the USPS Board of Governors announced its selection of Louis DeJoy, a top GOP and Trump donor, to serve as postmaster general following the retirement of current Postal Service chief Megan Brennan on June 15.
DeJoy will take charge of the agency as it faces an existential crisis: Brennan warned Congress last month that the Postal Service could completely run out of money by the end of September without an infusion of $75 billion in emergency funding.
USPS has been hit hard by the decline in mail volume caused by the coronavirus pandemic and it remains shackled by a 2006 congressional mandate requiring the agency to prefund its retirees health benefits through the year 2056. Unions representing postal workers have repeatedly warned that Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration could attempt to exploit the Covid-19 crisis to advance their longstanding goal of privatizing the agency.
House Democrats, in their $3 trillion HEROES Act, are proposing $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service and attempting to bar the Trump administration from attaching conditions to the $10 billion loan authorized by previous coronavirus stimulus legislation.
"At the very moment House Democrats are trying to rescue the Postal Service by providing emergency cash and removing onerous loan terms, the president and his cronies continue to try and leverage this pandemic to privatize and dismantle the USPS," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told the Post. "It's shameful and will hurt every American and business."