It’s been a rocky few months for the U.S. Postal Service.
Numerous lawsuits were filed over the Post Office’s handling of mail-in ballots during November’s elections. Then came the holiday season, and many customers became frustrated by backlogs that meant their Christmas cards and packages weren’t delivered until January.
Among those frustrated is Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., who says cards his office sent to constituents on Dec. 1 are still arriving at homes in his district.
Pascrell says enough is enough.
“It would seem to me that if we shrink the trust of the Post Office any more, there won’t be any Post Office left to trust,” he says. “So we need to do something that’s strong. It’s time to clean the house. And that’s what I’m recommending.”
And by cleaning house, Pascrell says everyone — the six current members of the board of governors, and the Postal Service’s top leadership, including Postmaster General Louis DeJoy — should be removed.
“Fire everybody at the top,” Pascrell tells NPR. “They’ve done a lousy job.”
The board oversees the Post Office and appoints the postmaster general. A new board could replace DeJoy, something many of his critics would like to see.
There are three vacancies on the board of governors. Of the six men currently on the board, four are Republicans and two are Democrats — one whose term technically has expired but who can continue for another year. All were appointed by former President Donald Trump, and the law allows them to be removed for cause.
The president of the American Postal Workers Union, Mark Dimondstein, isn’t calling for the entire board to be replaced, but at the very least he says the open positions should be filled.
“It should become a 5-to-4 … majority choices of the Democratic Party,” Dimondstein says, and the chair should also be changed to reflect the Democratic administration.
The chair is currently Robert Duncan, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, who also sits on the boards of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and American Crossroads, another GOP-aligned group.
The politicization of the Postal Service Board of Governors dates back to the Obama administration. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama nominated three Democrats and two Republicans to the board. But the Senate never voted on the nominations, in part because of a hold placed on the two Republicans by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
When Trump took office, the remaining board members’ terms had expired and he was able to get his own nominees confirmed. Last year they appointed DeJoy — who also gave millions to Republican candidates, including Trump — postmaster general.
Dimondstein says there are other reasons for adding new members to the board. Diversity, for one.
“It’s all men,” he says. “We have no women on the board. We have no African Americans on the board.”
Nor are there any members from rural America, which is heavily dependent on mail delivery.
Philip Rubio, a history professor at North Carolina A&T State University and a former postal worker, says currently “what you have is a board that’s not really accountable to anyone, and the postmaster general who is only accountable to the board of governors.”
DeJoy has attempted to initiate cost-cutting reforms at the Postal Service. Many remain blocked by the courts, after lawsuits charged they would interfere with the timely delivery of mail-in ballots.
New postal board members could lead to a policy shift at the Post Office.
“President Biden could do a lot to change the direction of the Postal Service,” Rubio says, that DeJoy “did a lot to sabotage. President Biden could do a lot to take it in a positive direction.”
One change Dimondstein would like to see is an increase in the services that post offices provide, including financial services like paycheck cashing, installing ATMs and handling bill paying and overseas remittances.
“Those kind of things can also all be done right now without any legislative actions,” he says. “Just a policy decision and a good, strong board of governors will help us get there.”
Biden’s plans regarding the Post Office remain unclear. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said recently she’s “not aware of anything” regarding DeJoy’s position.
But it will be up to the board of governors, not Biden, to determine DeJoy’s future. And any nominations to the board would have to be approved by the Senate, a process that could take months. And DeJoy has repeatedly said he intends to stay in his post.