A formal complaint filed last week with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General by a Portland, Maine letter carrier alleges that city Postmaster James Thornton is unlawfully mandating the delay of first-class mail in order to prioritize the delivery of Amazon packages.
"Without consultation or input from any of the postal unions, postal customers, or mailing community, [DeJoy] has launched a series of actions that will undermine the Postal Service and are an insult to every postal worker."
—American Postal Workers Union
The complaint, first reported Tuesday by the Portland Press Herald, comes weeks after Louis DeJoy took over as U.S. Postmaster General and wasted little time implementing "major operational changes" and cost-cutting measures at the agency that critics warned would slow mail delivery and leave USPS unable to compete with private-sector competitors.
Before he was unanimously appointed by the USPS Board of Governors in May, DeJoy was a major donor to President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. The Board of Governors is controlled by Trump appointees.
Mark Seitz, the 16-year Postal Service veteran who lodged the Inspector General complaint on July 13, told the Press Herald that he suspects Thornton's orders to prioritize the delivery of Amazon packages over first-class mail came in response to pressure from national USPS leadership.
"Thornton is willfully delaying thousands of first-class and priority parcels so that fourth-class Amazon parcels can go out for delivery instead," reads Seitz's complaint.
The Press Herald summarized the changes Thornton is imposing at the Portland Post Office:
Typically, letter carriers sort a small amount of mail in the morning before they begin their routes. If mail isn't sorted by the time carriers leave, they return midday to collect it or an assistant carrier would step in and ensure that all the mail is delivered on time. Now, according to letter carriers inside the Portland post office, clerks are told to stop sorting by 8:30 am, an hour and a half before most carriers leave for their routes, and are then sent home to cut costs, leaving first-class parcels unsorted in the office overnight.
According to letter carriers in Portland, it's medications, paychecks, and other first-class mail that's getting left in the office overnight. They say Amazon packages are taking priority at the order of the postmaster and other supervisors in the building.
Seitz's allegation, according to the Press Herald, "was corroborated by two other letter carriers who said they wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution."
The operational changes described by Portland mail carriers resemble a new initiative the USPS officially launched Wednesday titled "Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation (ESAS)."
Under the new program, according to a USPS document posted on Twitter by The Intercept's Ryan Grim, "city carriers will not sort any mail during the morning operation."
"They will clock in, retrieve mail that was pulled down from the previous day," the document reads. "Any unsorted First Class flats will go directly to the street with the carrier and be routed in delivery sequence while on the street. Upon return from the street delivery, carriers will sort all mail, as directed by management. During this time they will also handle any ancillary duties previously performed in the morning."
In response to the new initiative, Grim tweeted that "we're watching the deliberate destruction of the Post Office unfolding in front of us."
NEW: Trump’s postal service is piloting a new program that will take already-delayed first-class mail and delay it further, by ordering carriers to no longer sort and box newly arrived mail in the morning and then deliver it. Instead, they must wait till the end of the day. pic.twitter.com/AEJYgBP1vJ
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) July 22, 2020
Asked about the new directives, an unnamed mail carrier told HuffPost reporter Dave Jamieson that "these orders are immoral to me."
"Is that our new motto? 'If we don't get it done today, we'll get it done tomorrow?'" the mail carrier said.
The changes come as the USPS is in the midst of a financial crisis manufactured by Congress and made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a sharp decline in mail volume. Congress approved $10 billion in emergency relief funds for USPS in March, but the Trump administration has refused to release the money as it seeks to force changes to the agency's finances and operations.
In a message to the American Postal Workers Union's 200,000 members Monday, the organization's National Executive Board accused DeJoy of advancing the Trump administration's privatization agenda by attempting to "undermine service to the point that the people no longer trust and support it."
"Without consultation or input from any of the postal unions, postal customers, or mailing community, he has launched a series of actions that will undermine the Postal Service and are an insult to every postal worker, every postal craft, and every postal customer," the board said.
"The American Postal Workers Union vehemently opposes any actions that slow down and undermine mail processing, delivery, and retail services and thus drives business and revenue away from the Postal Service," the message continued. "United with each other and the people of the country we will defeat those who aim to dismantle and sell off the public Postal Service."