A Perfect Storm for USPS
But Information is a Safe Harbor
As anyone who attends to news outlets knows, the new Postmaster General (PMG), Louis DeJoy, stepped into a furious partisan firefight. He became a central figure in it, due in large part to his status as a big time Republican fundraiser. But deconstructing all of that is a job for another day and not one for us. What we and many others remain concerned about is whether his actions – or inactions – will have a material affect on fundraising mail or election mail.
Here are issues and items for your consideration:
- Is delivery performance suffering? In fact, a drop-off in performance was reported for mid-July through early August. But it’s significant, we think, that few, if any, private tracking services noticed the relatively small dip. The PMG testified in Capitol Hill hearings that the dip was likely caused by the need for the system to adjust to his “new” procedural rules (they were in fact existing rules he believed should be followed) governing transportation schedules. He predicted a follow-up report for August would show recovery. That is what happened. Delivery performance went back up to the same levels as early July, before his “new” procedures were implemented.
But going forward matters. Both Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission are compelling far more frequent reporting against delivery standards (quarterly reporting was the previous norm). We will be watching closely and will be on the lookout for any declines.
- Will elimination of sorting machines and overtime affect delivery for the rest of the year and beyond? Know that decommissioning and relocation of sorting machines precedes DeJoy’s tenure by years. It is unlikely he explicitly ordered machines taken out of service, though some have been removed since he took office in accord with the pre-existing protocols. The PMG has promised Congress he will suspend further decommissioning until after the election.
DeJoy’s posture on overtime has been characterized as hostility to overtime in any circumstances. Instead, in testimony and elsewhere, he says he is seeking to control overtime resulting from “an undisciplined transportation network” (precisely the subject of his “new” procedures). In point of fact, overtime pay has been made at exactly the same rate after he assumed the job as before. Again, he committed to Congress that any further overtime reduction initiatives would be on hold until after the election.
- Will the huge influx of voters seeking mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 compromise timely delivery of outbound and inbound fundraising mail? In a word, no. On this point at least, the PMG and the postal worker unions agree: the Postal Service can handle the extra volume of election mail. If, say, the total outbound and inbound election mail amounted to 200 million pieces (a very big number to be sure) what would be the impact? Consider this: USPS delivers, on average, an incredible 470 million pieces of mail every day. During the election mailing season (six weeks), it will deliver 17 billion pieces of mail. Adding 200 million to that total is barely a blip. USPS estimates election mail will constitute just 2% of all delivered mail during that period.
We have no doubt that close scrutiny of PMG DeJoy will continue – by Congress, the USPS Inspector General, and news media. That’s a good thing. Apparently, he presumed the job was akin to his former one of CEO of a private company, apolitical and only concerned with the bottom line. So, he took no pains to explain his first attempt at introducing efficiencies to mailers, USPS rank and file, Congress, or the general public. Hopefully, now he has learned how political – in every sense – the job of PMG can be.
We at TNPA will be closely following further developments and the work product of the many monitors now attentive to USPS (and the PMG’s) performance. We understand how vital it is to have your mail – especially fundraising mail – delivered reliably and on time. We promise to keep you informed and to call on you should your help be needed to protect our collective interests.
Bob Tigner is TNPA’s General Counsel. Prior to joining TNPA, Bob was General Counsel to the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Counsel (ADRFCO), and Regulatory Counsel to the DMA Nonprofit Federation, working on federal and state legislative issues, interacting with regulators, legislators, media, nonprofits, and fundraising consultants.