Election of Democratic chair portends change at post office

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Postal carrier Josiah Morse heads out to deliver mail and packages, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Portland, Maine. The U.S. Postal Service's stretch of challenges didn't end with the November general election and tens of millions of mail-in votes. The pandemic-depleted workforce fell further into a hole during the holiday rush, leading to long hours and a mountain of delayed mail. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

WASHINGTON – A former labor leader and Obama administration official was elected Tuesday to serve as chair of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, marking the first step in a potential shakeup under President Joe Biden.

Ron Bloom replaced a former Republican National Committee chair, Robert “Mike” Duncan, who remains on the governing board as critics call for firing embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and changing the board to increase racial and gender diversity and create a Democratic majority. All six current board members are men.

DeJoy, a prominent Republican fundraiser and supporter of former President Donald Trump, has come under heavy criticism for changes he made before the election that led to widespread delivery delays and other problems recently. The Postal Service also dealt with a dismal on-time performance during the holidays because of a crush of mail and packages that was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Bloom said Tuesday he looks forward to working with the board, DeJoy and others on a 10-year plan that will “revitalize” the Postal Service, an independent agency with roots to the 18th century.

“It will require both ourselves and our stakeholders to come together, openly face our challenges, make necessary choices and do what is right for this great organization and our country,” said Bloom, who worked with the Obama administration on the automobile industry bailout and was a longtime official with the United Steelworkers Union. He also has advised the National Association of Letter Carriers on postal issues.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, wants Biden to fire the entire Postal Service Board of Governors for what he called dereliction of duty.

Only the board can fire the postmaster general, a protection put in place to insulate the independent agency from politics. While Biden cannot fire DeJoy, the president can use appointments to reshape the board that hires and fires the postmaster general. If he fills three current vacancies, then Democrats would have a majority on the nine-member panel. The six who currently comprise the board are Trump appointees.

Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said Biden needs to fill the vacancies with choices that reflect greater diversity and fewer links to “the world of finance and banks.”