Twenty state Attorneys General on Friday filed a joint complaint in an effort to block changes to the U.S. Postal Service enacted last week by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and which critics warn are an overt effort to cripple the mail service from within by slowing delivery times while also increasing the cost to consumers.
The official complaint filed by the 20 AGs is directed at the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which is charged with providing independent oversight of the USPS, but which the suit alleges betrayed its mandate by allowing the controversial plan put forth by DeJoy to move into implementation on October 1 without proper review.
According to a statement from the office of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson:
The complaint details DeJoy's failure to follow federal law in making harmful Postal Service changes. Ferguson asserts these major Postal Service changes, which range from eliminating working hours, slowing delivery of first-class mail and removing equipment, threaten the timely delivery of mail to millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service for delivery of everything from medical prescriptions to ballots.
"Millions of Americans depend on the mail every day to receive their prescriptions, pay bills, receive Social Security checks, send rent payments and more," Ferguson said in the statement. "One political appointee does not get to decide the fate of the Postal Service. There is a process that demands accountability from the American public for a reason—and I will fight to ensure the public gets a say."
In addition to Washington, the complaint was backed by the Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Rhode Island.
The AG's suit comes amid a relentless barage of criticism aimed at DeJoy and demands for his ouster, as well as ire aimed at the Postal Service Board of Governors, for putting forth a plan that experts on the USPS say is paving the pathway for the beloved agency's demise.
As Christoper S. Shaw, author of the the book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams last week, "While previous postmasters generals sought faster mail delivery, DeJoy stands out for his wish to make it slower."
As Shaw's piece notes:
DeJoy claims that lowering service standards offers an outstanding opportunity to cut costs because hauling mail overland on trucks will prove cheaper than using air transportation. Lost in this short-term calculus is the cost to American citizens and to the health of the Postal Service in the long run. Degrading standards of service and discarding competitive advantages is not a formula for long-term relevance.
In response to the complaint, the USPS claimed the filing "has no legal or factual merit" and said "the Postal Service intends to move to dismiss it pursuant to the rules" of the PRC process.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, however, said in a statement that the changes made by DeJoy "destroy the timely mail service that people depend on for medications, bill payments, and business operations in rural parts" of his state. According to Stein's office:
The 10-year plan would undermine the Postal Service, including changes that would enact slower service standards for first-class mail and other packages, change the location of post offices, and adjust rates. The plan would slow down USPS standard delivery for 30 percent of mail from three days to five days, increase the price of each piece of mail by six to nine percent, and put these changes in place without doing anything to effectively address the larger Postal Service budget deficit.
The Postal Regulatory Commission is an independent federal agency that has oversight over the Postal Service's operations. Federal law requires the Postal Service to go to the Commission whenever it makes a change to postal services that will affect the entire country. The attorneys general contend that DeJoy failed to do so, and without the proper review, DeJoy's plan could lead to future problems with mail delivery. The attorneys general are requesting that the Commission order the Postal Service to request a review of the full extent of the ten-year plan, affording the States and the public an opportunity to provide comment.
"The Postal Service," said Stein, "is an essential government service, and it cannot restructure without considering how those changes will affect millions of Americans."