Many postal workers and the millions of people who support the U.S. Postal Service think its current problems began June 15, when Louis DeJoy took over as Postmaster General (PMG). However, the initial assault dates back to April 12, 2018, when President Trump’s Executive Order 13829 created the Task Force on the United States Postal System, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as chair.
A Task Force participant, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), revealed its real purpose June 21, 2018, with a preliminary plan to restructure the Postal System’s business model, before transforming it into a privately held corporation. “USPS privatization through an initial public offering (IPO) or sale to another entity would require the implementation of significant reforms prior to sale to show a possible path to profitability,” the plan said. (Federal News Network, June 22, 2018)
The final Task Force report was released Dec. 4, 2018. (tinyurl.com/y4egr4hm) It drew quick condemnations from postal workers, unions and supporters.
The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) said the plan “would dramatically raise mailing costs for ‘commercial mailers’ and shippers, slash the frequency and quality of delivery and gut the standard of living of postal employees by outsourcing their jobs, stripping them of collective bargaining rights and reducing their retirement and workers’ compensation benefits. These recommendations would weaken, not strengthen the Postal Service — and threaten the most efficient and affordable universal postal system in the world.” (tinyurl.com/y2h7c9m3)
The American Postal Workers Union added: “The APWU also believes the Task Force’s recommendations represent the first stage of getting the USPS ready for privatization, the clear goal of the current White House. All told, the report has no less than 20 attacks on workers’ rights, 13 threats to service and 13 privatization threats.” (Italics in original) (tinyurl.com/y3bq6kt9)
Step two occurred after the report’s release, when Mnuchin began recruiting executives to fill vacant Postal Board of Governors positions and then replacing then-PMG Megan Brennen with a new Postal leader, one whose opinions were more in line with the views of Mnuchin and the egotistical man in the Oval Office.
Mnuchin assembled the Board of Governors with the Task Force’s agenda in mind. Governors were chosen for their specific skills, history of corporate practices and their business and political ties — elements that would be required in forcing a transition to a privatized post office.
Board candidates were given the Task Force Report to read before they appeared at confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Predictably, potential board members repeated some of the Task Force’s recommendations during their hearings, significantly on altering the Universal Service Obligation (frequency of delivery, processing and other standards).
Governors chosen to carry out Task Force recommendations
Mnuchin brought forward six wealthy businessmen (four Republicans and two Democrats), all of whom were approved by the Senate, as required by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. None had experience as workers, managers or executives in the Postal Service. All six were appointed after the release of the Task Force Report.
Their backgrounds provide evidence on why they were chosen.
Roman Martinez IV, confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 1, 2019, describes himself as an expert in “public and private financings, mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructurings and overall corporate financial advice.” He worked for 31 years at Lehman Brothers, retiring as Managing Director in 2003. (tinyurl.com/y383bs2h)
Lehman Brothers was implicated in predatory lending in which Black and Brown borrowers were steered to subprime mortgage lenders, while higher-income, white borrowers were served primarily by conventional lending institutions. With $600 billion in assets, Lehman went bankrupt in 2008 — the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history — triggering the 2008 Great Recession and massive numbers of home foreclosures.
Martinez is on the Board of Directors of CIGNA, making $336,440 annually, in addition to owning $7 million in company stock. He is also on the Boards of ORBITAL ATK INC, Bacardi Ltd., Greenpoint Financial Corp. and New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Martinez’ family came to the U.S. when he was 12, as part of the 1960 wave of wealthy and professional Cubans who fled after the popular overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
William Zollars, confirmed by the Senate on June 18, “led large organizations in three different Fortune 500 companies (YRC, Kodak and Ryder) and served on the board of directors of four different Fortune 500 companies.” He was chosen even though YRC is being sued by the Federal Government for overcharging the Pentagon millions of dollars. (tinyurl.com/yxoxuuz2)
Zollars also currently sits on the board of directors of Prologis, where he owns over $1 million in shares. Prologis is a logistics multinational, which rents industrial real estate to the Postal Service as well as to competitors such as UPS and FedEx — which should have been flagged as a financial conflict of interest.
John Barger, confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 1, 2019, is a Managing Director of Northern Cross Partners, LLC, a Los Angeles-based private investment firm that describes itself as specialist “in improvements of company operating performance, restructuring and recapitalizations, corporate governance and management succession.” (tinyurl.com/y4yka4mb)
Barger played a large role in choosing Louis DeJoy for Postmaster General. Executive search firms Chelsea Partners and Russell Reynolds Associates had recommended 53 PMG candidates but were ignored when DeJoy’s name was added as a late contender by Barger, acting on behalf of the Board’s chairman, Robert Duncan, former RNC chairman. DeJoy, Barger and Duncan are all prominent donors to President Trump and other Republicans.
Former Postal Governor David Williams said DeJoy gave a lackluster performance in his first PMG interview. His second talk with postal governors went so badly that Barger repeatedly intervened to help clarify DeJoy’s responses. Williams later resigned in part to protest the new postmaster general’s ascension.
Ron Bloom, confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 20, 2019, is a Democratic Party member of the Board of Governors. As an investment banker, he participated in more than 100 bankruptcies and reorganizations, including while serving as a special assistant to former United Steelworkers (USW) President George Becker and on the President’s Task Force on the Automotive Industry in 2009.
Bloom’s tenure with the USW included negotiating almost 50 bankruptcies in the steel, rubber, aluminum and paper industries, in most cases recommending severe labor concessions. Bloom served as senior advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury under President Obama. When the federal government bailed out Chrysler and General Motors in 2009, Bloom promoted “shared sacrifice.” Wages for new workers were cut in half to $14.50 per hour, and over two dozen auto plants and warehouses were closed, resulting in record corporate profits, lost jobs and lower wages.
The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) hired Bloom as an advisor from 2011-2012 to “help ‘save’ the postal service while avoiding drastic cuts.” His advice to postal workers at the 2012 NALC Convention was again “shared sacrifice,” telling workers to accept wage and benefit cuts. (youtube.com/watch?v=fqr43k05VAw)
Donald Moak, confirmed by the Senate on June 18, is the other Democratic Party board member. He is the founder and CEO of The Moak Group, a business consulting firm whose website proclaims: “Our team’s experience and expertise allows us to develop and execute innovative strategies and campaigns that allow our clients to achieve desired outcomes, meet commercial objectives, launch tactical executions and issue-advocacy campaigns, build effective coalitions and more.” (moakgroup.com/)
As a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Moak negotiated complex union contracts, during a period of airline mergers and consolidations. He apparently became so comfortable working with upper management, he ended up switching sides.
While Chair of the Election Mail Committee of the Board of Governors, Moak was responsible for the storm of criticism and lawsuits stemming from the misleading national USPS postcard mailing in early September on mail ballot procedures, which conflict with actual vote-by-mail rules in many states.
Moak spoke out against Eastern District of Washington Chief Judge Stanley Bastian’s ruling on Sep. 18, which blocked DeJoy’s operational changes at the USPS. Moak claimed “Any suggestion that there is a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service is completely and utterly without merit.”
Robert Duncan, first confirmed by the Senate in August 2018 and confirmed for a second term starting in December 2019, is Chairman of the Postal Board of Governors and the CEO of Inez Deposit Bank. Duncan maneuvered the Board into hiring Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General.
Duncan is a 40-year RNC political strategist, past chairman of the RNC and director of two conservative Super PACs — American Crossroads and the Senate Leadership Fund. He held high positions in the George H.W. Bush White House, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coalition of coal companies, railroads and electric utilities.
Duncan has a history of involvement in racist disenfranchisement. Under his watch, state Republican parties conducted “voter caging” operations to compile lists of voters of color who are vulnerable to having their registrations challenged and denied.
“Deliver De mail – Depose DeJoy”
Unanimously chosen as PMG by Mnuchin’s team of governors, Louis DeJoy is a former XPO Logistics executive with a decades-long, antilabor record. (workers.org/2020/05/48913/) A mega donor to the Republican Party, DeJoy has $30 million invested in XPO Logistics, a USPS contractor — a clear conflict of interest.
Since his June 15 appointment, DeJoy has reassigned or displaced 23 postal executives, effectively removing decades of institutional postal knowledge from top organizational positions. He brought in four high-level people who previously worked for his businesses, each making close to $200,000 in salary.
Most worrisome is that they may bring with them the same record of sexual harassment, discrimination, speedups, workplace injuries, excessive use of temporary workers and other terrible workplace practices notorious in DeJoy’s three companies.
Thirty-eight percent of postal workers are Black, Latinx, Asian or Indigenous. Forty percent are women. Over ninety percent of the 600,000 postal workers are in unions. The antilabor, racist and gender biases of USPS executives will inevitably impact these workers negatively.
Weeks after taking over as PMG, DeJoy imposed several operational changes — including removal of hundreds of mail-sorting machines and blue mail collection boxes and a crackdown on overtime — causing widespread mail delivery slowdowns.
DeJoy plans more extreme changes after Nov. 3. These include raising package rates when delivering the last mile on behalf of big retailers and setting higher postal rates for service in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. He has already announced holiday surcharges on commercial customers. Discounts for nonprofits and election ballots would be eliminated.
DeJoy’s long history of financial support for the Republican Party totals over $2.4 million since 2016. He was recently accused of forcing employees in his former company to make political contributions to the RNC and then reimbursing them through “bonuses” — a straw-donor scheme, illegal under federal and state campaign finance laws.
There have been many accusations that DeJoy is purposely degrading USPS operations in coordination with Trump’s efforts to suppress voting rights — all part of a naked attempt to illegitimately reelect this openly racist, misogynist, antilabor, right-wing administration.
DeJoy denies his actions are meant to help Trump’s reelection, claiming Trump “is incorrect” when he repeatedly rails against mail-in voting and falsely claims the postal service will be unable to deliver ballots in a timely manner, and that it will lead to widespread voter fraud.
DeJoy’s comments resemble those of a person fixing a few things and cleaning their car or home — before putting it on the market. Privatization of the postal service has been a goal of its competitors for decades. This may be the most serious and organized assault on its existence ever put together.
Whether Trump and DeJoy are working closely together or not, their actions cause people to lose confidence in the post office’s ability to deliver their letters, medicines, parcels and voter ballots on time.
Postal workers and Black and Brown communities, people with disabilities, veterans, nonprofits, small businesses, seniors and other members of the working class, who depend on the USPS, can stop privatization if we rise up as one strong body and replace DeJoy and the USPS Board of Governors with people who actually believe in a people’s postal service. The future of this vital and historic public service is in our hands.
Joe Piette retired from the USPS after 30 years as a letter carrier and is a member of the NALC. He welcomes responses at [email protected].