Officials bemoan city’s mail service, but the problem, like rot, starts at the top

The only way to improve the postal service is to first get rid of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

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A postal worker in Chicago loads packages from a wheeled orange bin into a USPS delivery truck.

A postal worker loads a delivery truck earlier this month in Chicago.

Scott Olson/Getty Images-file

The U.S. Postal Service, once the pride of this country, continues its appalling downward slide with Chicago deliveries — or lack thereof — helping lead the way.

That’s our takeaway after federal elected officials, postal brass and union officials met in Chicago last week for a congressional field hearing on the city’s problem-plagued mail service.

According to testimony, Chicago remains the second worst-served postal district in America.

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We are glad to see this issue brought to light once more. But as this editorial board has said for more than a year, the only way to improve the postal service is to first get rid of U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump-era holdover who has worked overtime to weaken the agency rather than fix it.

‘Dysfunctional’ Chicago post office

At the hearing, Mack Julion, local president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, described Chicago’s postal service as being in top-to-bottom disarray.

Julion said there are staffing shortages — and yet many carriers no longer with the service have somehow remained on its payroll. He also said the agency’s system does not accurately log package delays.

“From the flawed onboarding process, training and retention of new hires, to the erratic and unpredictable operations, the Chicago post office is dysfunctional at best,” he said.

Eddie Morgan Jr., brought in last June as Chicago postmaster, said he’s increased local hiring and created a team to enforce employee attendance. Morgan said 243 postal workers have been recruited.

The changes have brought some service improvements but not enough to keep the city from having the country’s second-worst delivery.

From April through June 2021, the Chicago post office delivered about 82% of mail on time, compared with the national average of 90%.

If you’re awaiting a check, an important package, medical prescriptions or even a birthday card from a loved one, those eight percentage points make quite a difference.

‘A disservice to the American people’

DeJoy, who was handed the position in 2020 by a Trump-controlled postal service Board of Governors, threatens to gut the agency by slashing overtime, as he removed hundreds of mail sorting machines from postal facilities.

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And DeJoy enacted a measure this month that flies in the face of whatever gains the Chicago post office might have made: The postmaster’s 10-year plan includes raising postage costs and lengthening delivery times.

“The notion of decreasing standards while increasing prices defies business logic,” U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., said at last Friday’s congressional field hearing. “It’s really a disservice to the American people.”

We’ve written how only the postal Board of Governors — not President Joe Biden — can give DeJoy the boot.

However, Biden has the authority to dump the entire board and replace it with new members who are willing to show DeJoy the door.

Given what’s at stake, its maddening that Biden seems unwilling to exercise this option — even as the FBI investigates whether a now-defunct company owned by DeJoy illegally reimbursed employees with on-the-job bonuses for donating to Republican candidates.

So while any bump-up in Chicago’s postal service quality is welcomed, what’s truly needed is a national overhaul and reinvestment in the U.S. Postal Service.

And that can only begin with DeJoy’s ouster.

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