WASHINGTON – On Friday, April 28, postal workers will be protesting in front of postal facilities and congressional offices at locations across the country to sound the alarm about severe staffing shortages. Members of the APWU are calling for the public’s support in demanding more postal workers and better service. Among the cities where postal workers will be holding signs and walking informational picket lines are Washington, DC; Waterloo, Iowa, San Antonio, Texas, Detroit, Mich.; Philadelphia, Penn., Charlotte, NC., and Tampa, Fla.
Although the USPS’ finances have improved significantly due to passage of the Postal Service Reform Act, “service problems are widespread and no corner of the country has been spared,” said American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein. The APWU president was responding to a statement made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy in an interview with the Washington Post released Wednesday. “I think we’re 10,000 percent better than we were two years ago,” DeJoy said.
More Mail, Fewer Workers and a Toxic Work Environment
“New hires at the USPS are often treated poorly and many fail to receive proper training, resulting in high turnover,” said Dimondstein. “Combine this with the pressures of short-staffing, a high volume of mail and packages, abusive treatment by managers, and you have a toxic work environment at many postal facilities and a perfect recipe for mail being delayed.”
USPS’s own data show a 12.5 percent decrease in the number of retail counter clerks who staff post office retail counters and distribute mail to letter carriers. The figure fell from 79,182 in 2006 to 69,298 in 2023. While mail volume has decreased in that timeframe, package volume has surged from 1.2 billion in 2006 to 7.2 billion at the end of 2022. Sorting and delivering a package is far more resource-intensive than a letter.
- Wait times for customers have increased since 2018 to today, according to a recently released study by the Postal Regulatory Commission. The PRC report also singled out sorting facilities that handle both mail and packages as the site of “staffing challenges.”
- At the same time, the USPS is delivering mail and packages to more locations, a 12.8 percent increase in delivery points from 2006. Today the USPS delivers to 164.9 delivery sites, an increase of 18.7 million from 2006.
- The public is losing confidence in the USPS’ ability to deliver mail promptly and efficiently. While a majority of Americans have a favorable impression of the USPS, according to polling released by the Pew Research Center in March 2023, the number of Americans viewing the USPS favorably dropped from 91 percent in 2020 to 77 percent in the latest poll.
News reports, such as “‘It’s a hit and miss.’ Slow, erratic mail delivery across Kansas City angers residents,” from the Kansas City Star earlier this month, demonstrate that staffing problems exist in sorting facilities, retail counters and with letter carriers. The turnover rate for letter carriers in most parts of the country is higher than the rate for other postal employees.
The USPS has tried to address staffing problems by creating more career track positions, but there has been little gain in real numbers. Postmaster General DeJoy acknowledged that the USPS is treading water when it comes to staffing when he said in his testimony before Congress: “We had a 650,000-person organization that hired 200,000 people last year, right, and the numbers didn't go up. That was turnover because of the environment and the stress and historical lack of good tactical procedures with regard to our workforce.”
Dimondstein said that the USPS can and should do a better job for the customers it serves. “We can be timelier and offer quality services that better meets the needs of the American people. But first, we must ramp up hiring and create a workplace that values its workers.”
The American Postal Workers Union represents 200,000 employees of the United States Postal Service, and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. For more information on APWU, visit www.apwu.org