U.S. Senator Tina Smith Demands Accountability from USPS Leadership Following Damning Report on Postal Failures in Minnesota

WASHINGTON, D.C. [5.29.24] – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith sent a scathing letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, following a United States Postal Service (USPS) Inspector General (OIG) report that reveals severe management failures contributing to critical postal service disruptions in Bemidji and the broader Minnesota-North Dakota District, including around 80,000 pieces of delayed mail. Senator Smith is calling for immediate action to address these failures and restore reliable postal service for Minnesotans.

The OIG report reveals that the Bemidji Post Office only had eight days warning before their package volume doubled and Postal Service management failed to confirm that the facility had the staffing or resources to accommodate the increased volume.  It also found that local postal workers were not properly trained to avoid these issues. The report attributes these problems directly to national and district management missteps, resulting in untenable working conditions for postal workers and severe delays in mail delivery.

“The findings of the Inspector General’s report are deeply troubling and highlight severe mismanagement within the USPS that has led to unacceptable delays and unnecessary hardships for postal workers and Minnesotans,” said Sen. Tina Smith. “Reliable postal service is not a luxury—it’s a necessity for accessing medications, paychecks, and staying connected with loved ones. It is imperative that USPS leadership takes immediate action to address these issues and restore trust in our postal system.”

Senator Smith’s letter stresses the urgency of rectifying these issues and holds USPS leadership accountable for ensuring Minnesotans receive the reliable postal service they depend on for essential needs such as medications, paychecks, and letters from loved ones.

Full text of Senator Smith’s letter to Postmaster General DeJoy:

Dear Postmaster General DeJoy,

I write to follow up on the United States Postal Service (USPS) Inspector General (OIG) report titled “Delivery in Northern Minnesota” and to express my deepest concerns for the state of postal operations in Minnesota. This report makes it clear that management failures at the national and district levels of USPS are to blame for the dire state of postal operations in Bemidji last year. My constituents expect and deserve reliable postal service, and these failures are unacceptable.

In November, the Bemidji Post Office received national attention when the sudden influx of Amazon packages overwhelmed the facility, which resulted in a situation so untenable that multiple letter carriers resigned. At a listening session in December, my staff heard the stories of affected letter carriers and their families, and their stories were heart wrenching. Carriers reported delivering late into the night, personal and sick leave being rescinded, and adverse health effects from the chronic stress of working at least 12 hours per day, six days per week to keep up with ever-increasing mail volumes and insufficient staffing. From the OIG’s report, it is now clear that these hard-working Minnesotans were set up to fail by poor management.

In response to the concerns of my constituents, I asked the OIG to investigate the situation in Bemidji and in the Minnesota-North Dakota District at large. When visiting the Bemidji Post Office the week of December 12, 2023, the OIG personnel found nearly 80,000 pieces of delayed mail and insufficient staffing and resources, which they directly attribute to the failures of headquarters and district management. Some highlights of their findings include:

Failure to properly manage delivery operations. The OIG found that headquarters and district management failed to prepare the Bemidji facility with appropriate staffing or resources, and they even failed to notify the facility until eight days before the Amazon packages started arriving. Despite knowing in April 2023 that Bemidji would start receiving drop shipments of Amazon parcels and receiving the projected volume on September 1, 2023, headquarters management only alerted the Bemidji Post Office management that it would begin receiving these shipments on October 24, 2023. Headquarters management did not confirm whether the Post Office had sufficient resources, such as staff, scanners, and vehicles, to accommodate the increase in volume.

Systemic staffing issues. The Bemidji Post Office was already understaffed, and headquarters and district management failed to make sure it had the staffing and hiring support to handle the influx of Amazon packages. Before the facility started receiving drop shipments of Amazon parcels, it was understaffed by approximately six carriers. In January 2024, it was understaffed by 15 carriers. That’s 37% of the facility’s carriers. It is unfathomable that the facility could keep up with a more than doubling of their package volume without sufficient staffing.

Mismanagement of mail processing operations. The Bemidji Post Office did not follow procedures for mail sorting and reporting because they were not trained to do so. OIG personnel found that the Bemidji’s failure to follow procedures for mail sorting and reporting because headquarters management did not offer training on these procedures. Notably, when discussing this finding with the District Manager, the OIG reports that the District Manager was not aware that she was responsible for monitoring mail processing operations, so she was not aware of the issues with these operations at the Bemidji Post Office.

I am disappointed that, in response to the findings of this report, USPS disagreed with several of the OIG’s findings. This is as shocking as it is unusual. You dispute three of the recommendations, all which address the systemic failures to prepare the Bemidji facility for Amazon drop shipments, by stating that such procedures and strategies already exist. If they already existed, why did they not prevent the issues documented in Bemidji?

I would also like to call your attention to OIG’s findings that show that mail delays were not adequately reported. Every time I raise concerns regarding mail delays and service disruptions in Minnesota, USPS tells us that service is stable. USPS personnel have even gone so far as to say that the reports of my constituents are untrue. As I have always reminded you, I believe Minnesotans. I sincerely hope that after this report showing faulty data collection methods, on top of many other OIG reports showing the same, you take more seriously my concerns.

The findings of this report are damning. Throughout the report, it is clear that the issues in Bemidji all resulted from mismanagement at the district and national levels, which I believe are causing service issues throughout the Minnesota-North Dakota District. Local employees in Bemidji worked hard to adapt to their suddenly changed circumstances, and USPS leadership failed to help them succeed. This is unacceptable and must be addressed immediately. The responsibility for the success of the Postal Service is ultimately yours, Postmaster General, and I again express my frustration that the system is failing Minnesotans. Minnesotans rely on the Postal Service for essential needs like medications, paychecks, and communication with loved ones. Please take immediate steps to ensure they can rely on it again.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.