US postmaster general tells postal workers to leave mail behind if it slows down their route

tlevin@businessinsider.com (Tim Levin)
USPS employee california coronavirus covid-19
A USPS employee in Santa Monica, California, during the coronavirus pandemic.

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  • The US Postal Service's new postmaster general has established new cost-saving policies that could slow down mail service.

  • Mail carriers are being told to leave mail behind at distribution centers rather than taking late trips, extra trips, or logging overtime, according to memos first reported on by The Washington Post and subsequently reviewed by Business Insider. 

  • The Postal Service is on financially shaky ground because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Business Insider previously reported it may run out of cash by the end of September. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As it struggles to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, the US Postal Service has implemented "difficult" cost-cutting measures that may slow mail delivery, The Washington Post first reported. 

The changes, established by new USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, were disseminated Monday in memos viewed by The Post, verified by the American Postal Workers Union, and corroborated by three people with knowledge of the documents who spoke with The Post on the condition of anonymity. Business Insider also obtained and reviewed the memos.

In the documents, DeJoy instructed workers to stop logging overtime and leave mail at distribution centers if it would delay their routes.

"If the plants run late, they will keep the mail for the next day," one of the documents said. "If you get mail late and your carriers are gone and you cannot get the mail out without OT, it will remain for the next day."

The new directive goes against the training postal workers have traditionally received, which says they should avoid leaving letters behind and make sure items are delivered promptly, even if that means making multiple trips, The Post said.

"One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that — temporarily — we may see mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks," a second memo said, adding that "any mail left behind must be properly reported."

In the same document, USPS said late trips and extra trips — which it estimated cost the agency about $200 million in "added expenses" — were now prohibited. 

The cost-cutting policies come as USPS is barely scraping by during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite a vast quantity of package deliveries, overall letter-mail volumes have plummeted since the pandemic began and businesses shuttered. Even with a $10 billion line of credit granted under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, USPS has found itself in dire straits — in May, the agency estimated it could run out of cash by the end of September. 

Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union, acknowledged USPS's rocky financial position but sharply criticized the new measures — saying they hit at the very core of the agency's mission, which is to "provide prompt, reliable, and efficient service."

"These additional moves by the new postmaster general seem to be sending the opposite message, which is that mail can wait," Dimondstein told Business Insider in a phone call on Tuesday. "It will likely undermine the mission we're dedicated to. And in terms of the people of the country, it will likely lead to slower, less prompt, and less reliable, and really less efficient, service."

When asked about the memos, a spokesperson for USPS told Business Insider the service was "developing a business plan" to remain financially stable, while providing "reliable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail, packages and other communications to all Americans as a vital part of the nation's critical infrastructure."

"While the overall plan is not yet finalized, it will certainly include new and creative ways for us to fulfill our mission, and we will focus immediately on efficiency and items that we can control, including adherence to the effective operating plans that we have developed," the spokesperson said. 

This story has been updated with comment from the US Postal Service.

Read the original article on Business Insider