Postmaster DeJoy pauses USPS consolidation; local leaders react

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley: ‘So much damage has already been done to our delivery system’
Tiempos de Rogue Valley

After a strong bipartisan effort opposing the consolidation of United States Postal Service operations, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has agreed to a nearly eight-month pause.

DeJoy issued a statement May 9 saying he would halt consolidation until January 2025.

The postmaster’s statement came in response to a May 8 letter, signed by 26 senators led by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that opposed “irrevocable changes” to the Postal Service’s processing and delivery network.

Consolidation efforts include a range of changes to the postal network but focus largely on Mail Processing Facility Review of some 60 of 427 processing plants under DeJoy’s Delivering for America Plan, which seeks to consolidate processing and distribution operations nationwide.

Postal officials say consolidation will bring “financial sustainability and service excellence,” while postal customers, postal employees and government representatives contend with ongoing delays to mail service due to reduced truck routes and the relocation of regional operations to larger hubs.

In Southern Oregon, a portion of processing operations from Medford’s Sage Road facility was moved to Portland in February. The move came after staunch criticism from community members and postal employees.

Union leadership and members turned out in droves at community meetings y picketed local post office branches to oppose the plan, which began to be implemented in February despite the pushback.

Within days of cut backs in truck routes, local postal officials reported entire days’ worth of outgoing mail being left overnight at various post office locations.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, answered questions for about 75 minutes at a town hall meeting held at Ashland High photo by Bob Palermini

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat who first spoke out against consolidation last summer, called DeJoy’s decision to postpone further consolidation a glimmer of hope.

“We’re thrilled that there’s a pause, but still frustrated that so much damage has already been done to our delivery system and that DeJoy is so tone deaf to the concerns that are being expressed by representatives of the people,” Merkley told the Rogue Valley Times in an interview Wednesday.

“It seems like he’s working for the powerful and not the people.”

The senator vowed to “keep pressing” for a reversal of consolidations where possible.

“We certainly don’t want this to be a temporary freeze, like, ‘OK, we’ll freeze this, but then in January we’ll pick it up and keep doing it like there’s no longer an election in sight,’” Merkley said.

DeJoy said in his May 9 statement: “In response to the concerns you and your colleagues have expressed I will commit to pause any implementation of these moves at least until after January 1, 2025.

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“Even then we will not advance these efforts without advising you of our plans to do so, and then only at a moderated pace of implementation.”

In addition, DeJoy stipulated that the positive investments in the facilities on the attached list “will also not commence.” He estimated cost savings of $133 to $177 million and the “positive investments to be more than $430 million.”

Buy NowJeremy Schilling, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 342, outside the USPS distribution center on Sage Road in Medford in July. Schilling and others have worked to oppose the ongoing consolidation of postal service operations that included reduced processing operations and fewer truck routes in the Rogue Valley.Andy Atkinson / Rogue Valley Times

Jeremy Schilling, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 342, called DeJoy’s agreement to pause consolidations a “tiny victory.”

“It’s basically a temporary delay, I believe, because there’s an upcoming election, which is fine. We’ll take any victory, big or small, and build on it,” Schilling told the Times on Wednesday.

“Our job, now, is to campaign and find a way to make the temporary delay a more permanent delay, or to extend the delay until we can get more eyes on the situation and generate more support.” 

Schilling was unsure what DeJoy’s “pause” would mean for customers in Southern Oregon or other areas where some consolidations have already occurred. Some changes, Schilling noted, cannot be undone.

The Medford facility had a purple mail facing machine, affectionately known as “Barney” after the beloved dinosaur character, that also detected “bio agents.” “Barney” was dismantled and disposed of in February.

“It’s been 23 years since two postal workers were killed by anthrax in envelopes. Removing that biological detection system is another thing that defies logic, like everything else that DeJoy has done so far. It makes you scratch your head and ask what exactly they could be thinking,” Schilling said.

Contacted this week by the Times, USPS spokesperson Kim Frum said via email that she was unable to elaborate on what DeJoy’s pause could mean for Oregon postal customers.

“I’m afraid we don’t have any specific information at this point,” Frum said.

Merkley said he hoped to learn more about the specific aspects of consolidation that would impact postal facilities in Eugene and Medford. He called DeJoy’s Delivering for America Plan “more like Destroying First-Class Mail in America Plan.”

“You may be sending a letter to somebody who lives a block away and it has to go to Portland and back. It just discourages use of our first-class mail system, and that certainly doesn’t honor the fact that we have had the best mail system in the world,” Merkley said.

“He’s treating the postal system like a corporation that you squeeze to cut every conceivable cost, even when it destroys the quality of delivery. I think it really … weakens the Post Office as a competitor with some of the private corporations that deliver mail that also deliver packages. I don’t know if that’s his goal or not, but it’s extraordinarily troubling.”