Postal Christmas volumes are surging predictably, sometimes resulting in delayed delivery. Parcel numbers have increased dramatically during the pandemic as customers seek to avoid in-person shopping and order on-line or through catalogues. A new Amazon distribution center located just a block from the main Post Office on Milwaukee Street in Madison is absorbing some of the growth, but postal workers are still being forced to work mandatory overtime, often seven days a week and up to twelve hours or more per day.
The Postal Service’s strategy of short-staffing, widespread throughout the U.S. economy, often results in worker exhaustion and resignations. Pre-retirement departures, virtually unknown in the USPS in the twentieth century, have become routine, with as many as half of new employees leaving within a couple of years.
Positive COVID19 tests and quarantine for employees either exposed at work or elsewhere result in additional staffing shortfalls. The Wisconsin State Association of Letter Carriers lost their first active employee member to COVID early in December in Eau Claire. Management rarely tells coworkers that they may have been exposed due to an employee’s COVID illness. They sometimes try to discipline employees who use sick leave to quarantine themselves even though the discipline violates legal and Postal regulations. The discipline puts additional pressure on employees to work when they are sick.
Hiring has dropped off recently in the Madison installation, but it’s not clear whether there are fewer applicants or whether the Postal Service is implementing a hiring reduction directed from regional or national management levels. Postmaster General DeJoy, the Trump appointee who implemented policies that appeared to be efforts to undermine and slow postal services, will continue in his position after Trump’s departure and has said that he would pursue “cost-saving” measures that may include worker downsizing and lower service standards. He serves at the will of the Postal Service Board of Governors, the majority of whom are Trump appointees who serve staggered terms of office.
The insufficient workforce often results in unpredictable delivery times, sometimes after dark. Carriers ask that customers leave porch lights on until mail is delivered. Please make sure that house numbers are visible, even at night. Mailboxes and stairs should be cleared of vehicles and garbage receptacles if at the curb and shovels, toys and holiday decorations if on porches.
Holiday mailing deadlines are Tuesday, December 15th, for ground service; Friday, December 18th, for First Class; Saturday, December 19th, for Priority Mail; and Wednesday, December 23rd for Express Mail.
To find out more about efforts to support and strengthen the U.S. Postal Service, go to Savethepostoffice.com, or Communities and Postal Workers United at cpwunited.com, or find the DSA4USPS Campaign at labor.dsausa.org.
Image: a photograph of postal vans in a parking lot outside of a post office. Photo credit to Chali Pittman.