It’s not so much what the current Postmaster General is doing as much as what the federal government has not done.
But the reality is more complicated. In interviews with seven postal workers from around the country, all of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation for speaking to the press, Motherboard heard many of the same concerns LaBelle expressed: that DeJoy may try to intentionally disrupt USPS services in order to sabotage the mail-in ballot system ahead of the November elections, that he is hellbent on privatizing the USPS, and that he is in cahoots with Trump. But at the same time, they dismissed the possibility he is responsible for current or past package delays. When asked how they knew this, the postal workers told Motherboard that they have been having delivery issues on and off for months, long before DeJoy took over. The far simpler explanation, they said, is there are just too many packages right now for them to handle.
The shared networks make it difficult to identify where delays are actually coming from. Even the USPS letter carriers I spoke to often had no idea why packages were delayed. They guessed there were backlogs at distribution facilities, especially ones in cities hit harder by COVID, but didn’t know for sure. A report by the Portland Press Herald in Maine claims letter carriers are being told by their local postmaster to delay mail and first-class packages to ensure Amazon deliveries are made on time. None of the carriers Motherboard spoke to said they had been told to do the same, but they added it would hardly be the first time different regions were doing things differently. Along those lines, a key finding of the June OIG report was a lack of standard operating procedures or “best practices” across facilities.
What is clear is that USPS is trying to do more with less. It is delivering somewhere between 60 and 80 percent more packages than it typically does this time of year and for a longer sustained period, in many cases without the staffing increases that typically accompany the similarly busy Christmas rush. The only way the USPS has been able to manage is to have the existing workforce work longer and pay them the accompanying overtime to do it.
According to the USPS employees Motherboard spoke to, it’s too early to say what impact DeJoy’s policies will have. For example, it takes time for distribution facilities to get so backed up that packages get delayed for weeks. Whether or not DeJoy’s plan works, it won’t fix what ails the post office. Only Congress can do that, and few are optimistic about that.