The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and community members held a rally July 26 at the East Portland Post Office to celebrate Postal Heritage Day, and to demand that the U.S. Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, resign or be removed from office.
The protest follows the passing of a motion put forth by the National President’s Conference—composed of the APWU and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations—on June 14, calling for DeJoy’s resignation.
Problems with funding the United States Post Office (USPS) began in 1970, with the Postal Reorganization Act, which stated that the Postal Service was self-sustaining and exempted it from both executive control and budget/funding laws. From the 1970s until 1989, funding fluctuated depending on if USPS ran a surplus or deficit, until 1989 when its funding was officially taken out of the congressional budget.
Rally participants had all been given pamphlets on the history and tribulations of the Post Office, and details like those above were discussed in hushed circles. Predetermined speakers stood in front of a makeshift podium and attempted to speak over the passing traffic.
Those in attendance also called for reforms to a postal service long-bereft of proper funding and adequate management, according to Jamie Partridge, a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers and representative for Portland’s Communities and Postal Workers United, an affiliate of APWU.
“The overall goal of those who are attacking the postal service is to turn it into a private entity,” Partridge said in an interview with the Portland State Vanguard.
The plan put forth by DeJoy does lean towards privatization of post office services. In fact, a company DeJoy has financial ties with recently received a $120 million contract from the United States Postal Service, despite a year-long call for his removal from the position.
DeJoy was appointed by President Donald Trump in June 2020 amidst a nationwide controversy surrounding mail-in ballots. Following his appointment, DeJoy made several sweeping moves, displacements and reassignments within the USPS.
“Postal prices have risen, you know…it was three cents when I was a kid and now, you know, it’s like 58 cents a piece,” Partridge said. “Everything is just going up.”
In May 2021, DeJoy announced a ten-year plan for the Postal Service called “Delivering for America,” which outlined changes in hours worked for some stations, increased stamp costs, lowered standards for first-class mail and closed some locations.
“This new iteration of privatizers comes out of the Trump camp,” Partridge said. “Louis DeJoy comes from the private sector; he made his millions as the head of a logistics company called XPO, which is trucking. And now his XPO is getting all of these contracts?”
The plan is centered on austerity measures and budget cuts, and has the stated goal of saving the Postal Service $160 billion over the span of the next decade. The majority of the austerity measures take the form of cutting pre-funded health care for retirees and raising the price of paper mail and postage by as much as 9%.
“The privatization is happening, without an act of Congress, and it’s very difficult to get rid of [DeJoy],” Partridge said. “In the meantime, these price hikes are going into effect [soon], the delay of mail from three to five days is going into effect in September.”
Additionally, 18 mail processing plants are going to be closed by Nov., including Bend, OR, according to Partridge.
“Biden’s being urged by three of our Congresspeople: Blumenhaur, Bonamici and DeFazio, to fire those six Trump appointees, for negligence and dereliction of duty,” Partridge said.
Before the rally, Oregon congressional representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici wrote a letter to President Biden denouncing Postmaster General DeJoy and his ten-year plan as “dangerous” and “critically flawed.”
They stress that this plan will cause massive delays, especially in Oregon. The average expected delay in Oregon will be one day late, and more than half of all first-class mail is expected to incur delays.
The representatives also demand the removal of Ron Bloom, William Zollars, Robert Duncan, Lee Moak, John Barger and Roman Martinez IV from the USPS Board of Governors for complicity.
In a letter to the Postal Regulatory Commission signed by 21 attorneys general, including Oregon’s own Ellen Rosenblum, it’s stated that because of these austerity measures, people who depend on the Postal Service for the “delivery of prescription medication, paychecks, and other necessities were left stranded.”
The attorneys general, as a potential reform measure, suggest that the postal service “focus its attention on improving its performance in delivering First-Class Mail and other market-dominant products” instead of furthering budget cuts and delays, according to the letter.
DeJoy is currently under investigation by the FBI for illicit campaign fundraising strategies, or ‘straw fundraising,’ though it is unclear if statute of limitations rules and political will could allow authorities to indict DeJoy for his alleged crimes.