Long-time mail carrier addresses problems brewing across mailrooms

SPOKANE Wash. — For 33 years and four months, David Lance serviced the community by delivering packages and mail to your front door.

“My experience was great, I loved my job, I’m glad I did it,” said Lance, who retired a few years back. “The benefits are excellent, long-term prospects are very good. You can be a family person, you can raise a family in Spokane on a mailman’s salary.”

Though being able to spend time with family is another discussion.

“You’re going to work most Saturdays for the rest of your life,” admitted Lance. “I missed a lot of events with my kids, [but] I also got to go to a lot of school events during the week because you generally get a day off during the week.”

As a mail carrier, chaotic schedules are apart of the job.

“Mostly from Thanksgiving to Christmas, you’re working six day weeks. Every week you’re working ten hours a day. That’s been the norm my entire career.”

But in Lance’s three decades in uniform, he never experienced what’s taking place today.

He keeps in contact with his friends still carrying the mail, one of whom has collected so much overtime, he earned his entire year’s salary back in September.

“He’s going to almost double his base salary in overtime costs through the post office,” said Lance. “I don’t see how there’s any work-life balance if you’re working 90-100 hours every paycheck.”

Many are working 12-16 hour shifts as the holidays are flooding mailrooms with packages. Days off are far and few between.

“They’re exhausted, they’re not seeing their family, they’re not getting any time to decompress.”

Lance began to notice these changes towards the end of his career, largely due to the pandemic. But the USPS has been facing an uphill battle for the better part of two decades.

They began to see noticeable losses beginning in 2006, when Congress approved the ‘Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act,’ a bill which mandated the USPS to pre-fund more than $120 billion for employees retirement and healthcare.

Since then, they’ve reported over $100 billion in losses. 

They’ve also begun emphasizing package deliveries.

“Package delivery is where there is actually money,” said Lance. “The most money the Post Office makes per piece is on packages under three pounds.”

According to Lance, that’s because larger companies like UPS or FedEx pass those packages to USPS, saying it wouldn’t be financially worthwhile for drivers of those larger companies to hand-deliver it themselves.

Particularly to rural parts of the map.

“That last mile of delivery is where the real expense is. And that’s where the USPS is at it’s strength,” explained Lance. That’s because they’re required to. So rather than send drivers to isolated parts of the map, larger companies hand that task off to USPS, who are legally obligated to get Americans their mail.

The profits earned through these deliveries is believed to have resulted in the USPS partnering with larger companies like Amazon, who many speculate to have preferential treatment in the mailroom.

Lance spoke of the post office’s complex relationship with the commerce giant.

“Amazon very closely monitors the postal service,” said Lance. “We had to run a report every day of Amazon packages that didn’t get delivered and why each one didn’t get delivered, if for some reason it didn’t.”

A requirement exclusively demanded by Amazon, and no other partners.

It’s speculated that postal workers are prioritizing package deliveries for Amazon above standard mail deliveries. Something Lance believes to be true.

“Because they have these contracts with other areas, they are prioritizing those contracts before mail delivery. The actual letter and flat mail delivery.’

As a result, things like bills and even medication is arriving late to Americans across the country.

When asked about their contract with Amazon, the USPS said, in part, “The Postal Service works with a wide variety of partners on shipping and mailing. Amazon is just one of those partners. Like any prudent business, we do not publicly discuss specifics of our business relationships.”

READ: For mail carriers, 12-14 hour shifts are common; days off are not