Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson partnered today with a coalition of states that will file a complaint with the Postal Regulatory Commission challenging drastic operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service that threaten mail delivery. These mirror changes Postmaster General Louis DeJoy intended to make before the 2020 election.
The complaint state that DeJoy failed to follow federal law in making certain postal service changes. Ferguson asserts these changes, which range from eliminating working hours, slowing delivery of first-class mail and removing equipment, threaten the timely delivery of mail for delivery of everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.
The lawsuit brought by 20 attorneys general demands the Commission thoroughly review DeJoy’s planned massive overhaul of operations. This will allow postal customers, including people living in Washington state, to provide comments during a hearing before the commissioners.
Although DeJoy has proposed sweeping changes throughout the postal system, he has thus far only asked the Commission to review two smaller components of the massive postal reorganization. Commissioners found DeJoy used models not “grounded in reality” and that failed to show how postal customers would be satisfied with changes to service standards of first-class mail.
On March 23, the Postal Service announced a ten-year strategic plan that would transform virtually every aspect of its operations. The changes include less air and more ground transportation, which the Service has acknowledged will likely slow delivery times by as many as five days. While slowing delivery times, the Service also plans increasing mailing costs to a yet undisclosed amount. DeJoy also seeks to reduce overtime and hours at an unknown number of post offices, and potentially close post offices and mail sorting facilities nationwide.
Some of the changes are already underway, while others will take effect imminently—such as the changes in timing for first-class and media mail.
Postal Service cuts threaten timely mail deliveries for a range of important services, from prescriptions to utility bills. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Americans, especially seniors and other high-risk individuals, to rely increasingly on mail delivery services while they stay at home for their health. In general, seniors rely heavily on the mail to receive essentials like medications, Social Security benefits and even groceries.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, which provides broad health care services to veterans nationwide, fills about 80 percent of veteran prescriptions by mail. The VA processes about 120 million mail-order prescriptions per year—470,000 a day. The Postal Service makes daily prescription deliveries to 330,000 veterans across the country. Ferguson and his colleagues assert the overhaul of the Postal Service will slow delivery of these necessities.
In June 2020, the Postal Service implemented a series of major operational overhauls without first seeking an advisory opinion from the Commission.
In September 2020, a federal judge in Yakima blocked numerous changes it wanted to conduct ahead of the general election. The judge’s decision followed an August 2020 lawsuit that Ferguson led, and 14 other states partnered with, to stop the Postal Service from eliminating or reducing staff overtime, halting outgoing mail processing at state distribution centers and removing critical mail sorting equipment.
The complaint filed today includes a report from the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General that found that the 2020 operational changes “resulted in a significant drop in the quality and timeliness of mail delivery,” and were “implemented without completing a study or analysis of the impact of the changes on mail service.”