During the last few years you may have been surprised to see U.S. Postal Service trucks delivering mail on Sundays; this arrangement was worked out as part of deal with the behemoth Amazon and the Post Office. While it may seem like a good idea for the general public, it is also another example of unrealistic and unfavorable pressures placed on Postal Service workers. An arrangement that looks good on paper from a management perspective can be extremely difficult and problematic when workers are forced to take overtime and extra work days for fear of management reprisal. This kind of retribution by management is well documented in my book, “The Truth Behind Going Postal: Surviving the Torture in the U.S. Postal Service.”
Once upon a time, Sundays provided a much-needed day of rest for the nation’s postal service workers. But that all changed when the United States Postal Service and Amazon kicked off a partnership to deliver packages seven days a week, and now, a year later, workers say the deal has resulted in long hours and weeks without a single day off.
GeekWire reports that while consumers are receiving their goods seven days a week, the pressure put on postal workers is beginning to take its toll, especially with the increased number of deliveries that come with the holiday season.
A number of postal workers have reached out to GeekWire providing a synopsis of their concerns related to Sunday deliveries. Many report being asked to work more than 60 hours a week and going more than 20 days straight without a day off.
One worker, who posted a comment on a previous GeekWire story, says he has averaged 62-hour weeks while working 18 days in a row.
“I feel exhausted and really not looking forward to delivering packages plus doing collections tomorrow (Sunday) it looks like Christmas day will be my next and only day off since Thanksgiving,” the New Hampshire carrier says.
Jo Ann Pyle, the president of Branch 79 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Seattle, tells GeekWire that she’s witnessed the overwhelmed and overworked postal carriers in dozens of offices around the city.
“We are in favor of the Amazon delivery business and Sunday parcel delivery — it’s fabulous and we want it to continue,” she says. “But we have not staffed up properly. We have some employees working seven, 14, or 21 days in a row, and sometimes 12 hours a day. Even though we want the business, that’s an unacceptable way to treat employees.”
Pyle tells GeekWire that since the partnership with Amazon began an average Sunday in Seattle includes roughly 100 carriers delivering 8,000 packages.
However, with holiday shopping in full-swing deliveries have increased drastically, with an average of 130 employees delivering 13,500 Amazon packages.
The higher-than-expected package volume on Sunday has likely been compounded by the USPS’s announcement last month that it would deliver packages on Sundays for all companies during the five weeks leading up to Christmas.
Officials with USPS say that increased volume of package deliveries on Sundays in Seattle is consistent throughout much of the nation.
Sue Brennan, a senior public relations representative with USPS, tells GeekWire that last Sunday the postal service delivered 4.6 million packages, an increase from the 1.6 million delivered last year. The prior Sunday, December 7, also set records, with 3.2 million packages delivered compared to 900,000 a year earlier.
Despite the strain carriers say they are feeling, Brennan says the increased volume and extra work during the holidays is par for the course and that “this type of volume increase would be a wonderful problem to have to address.”
While Brennan say that most of the Sunday deliveries are made by part-time, “non-career” employees, some full-time carriers say they regularly pick up additional shifts over the weekends.
Although, it might seem easy to just say, “Hey, if you don’t want to work, don’t pick up the shift,” it’s not that simple. Some carriers tell GeekWire they don’t feel comfortable turning down the work for fear their jobs could be on the line.
“If you say that you’re unable to do so, you’re threatened with loss of employment or told that you can find work elsewhere, at least that was what my manager told me,” one carrier reports to GeekWire.
The USPS appears to be trying to placate carrier’s worries by hiring more employees.
GeekWire reports that dozen of job openings are currently listed on the agency’s site. But with just eight days to go until Christmas, it’s likely a little too late to provide relief carriers say they desperately need.