Postal Priority: 4 News Now investigation reveals allegations US Postal Service prioritizes Amazon deliveries over worker safety
The United States Postal Service is a far cry from what it was when it was conceived 240 years ago.
Its evolution includes becoming an “independent agency” of the U.S. government, which is no longer subsidized by you, the taxpayer.
Today, USPS is a self-described “organization in crisis,” having lost $87 billion in the last 14 years. The agency is in the midst of what they call the “Delivering for America”plan, which calls for $40 billion in capital investments and forecasts the agency to break-even in 2023 or 2024.
A 4 News Now investigation found who is really paying the price.
Local mail carriers say the existing operation puts their health at risk. They say USPS’ true priority is a company you might think to be their competitor, but is actually a major client: Amazon.
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Piles and piles of Amazon packages nearly touch the ceiling in the Deer Park and Cheney post offices. Current employees, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, are being told to move mountains of mail.
“We have a threshold in the office and Amazon doesn’t adhere to that at all,” one employee said. “We’re supposed to get three pallets, and we’ve gotten 14 pallets some days from them. It’s the bullying and the way that they just keep on you and keep on you to just do more, do more, do more.”
“We’ve been expanding, hiring, hiring, hiring. We’re doing everything we can to hire to the work. It’s obvious that we need more people and we continue to hire,” said David Rupert, Manager of WestPac Area Corporate Communications for USPS.
Rupert says USPS is growing, expanding and morphing as the marketplace changes.
The marketplace now includes competitors like FedEx, UPS and Amazon. The same Amazon that is a client of the Postal Service and that employees say has created their tipping point.
Employees have taken their concerns to their union, which provided the following statement:
“Our problems with staffing are related to Covid first and foremost. For a variety of reasons, we’re extremely short staffed. Amazon is just one of several clients that contribute to the demands on our employees and we’re working hard to make Emergency Hires to alleviate that stress.” – Ronnie W. Stutts, President of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association.
One local carrier provided 4 News Now with a recent pay stub. The carrier worked a standard 42 hours followed by 57 hours of overtime.
“Which goes against our contract. Our union contract is supposed to be 12 hours a day,” the carrier said. “Driving for 17 hours a day and the safety. They don’t care. They say they want you to go home the same way you came in, but then we’re going to work you til you’re almost dead.”
Another employee also provided 4 News Now with a paystub: 100 hours in one week with 60 of those being overtime.
“If we were cutting back, it’d be one thing. We’re not. We’re hiring more people and the work continues to come,” the carrier said. “You are correct that we do need more people and that’s why we’re continuing to hire.”
USPS says by law they are not allowed to turn away mail and they definitely cannot turn away such a lucrative customer.
“It is absolutely Amazon,” the carrier said.
While details of the relationship between the Postal Service and Amazon are private, and no one will comment on specifics, it is public information the Postal Service made $1.6 billion from Amazon in 2019.
They need any extra money they can get because last year USPS lost $6.9 billion.
USPS is trying to make up for those losses through the 10-year “Delivering for America” plan, which they project to have them “net neutral” or balanced within the next two years.
“The plan is working and will continue to work, so that is where we’re headed with this,” Rupert said.
But the 10-year plan did not necessarily account for an evolving pandemic.
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“Everybody feels taken advantage of and used and not appreciated. You get done, and you think you’re done and they say ‘Go help somebody else on another route. Go do this. Go do something.’”
“They use and abuse your body until it won’t take anymore,” said another carrier who is now receiving checks for an injury he got while on the job.
He has been with USPS for seven years and said he was injured in 2017. In 2020, he had two discs replaced in his neck and still cannot work to this day.
“They use you until you break and then just cast you aside like yesterday’s garbage. Like a disposable lighter, they just throw it in the garbage and move on to the next one.”
“We have helped America stay connected and sane through this pandemic, and we’ve done it through our employees who have been dedicated,” Rupert said. “And they are indeed heroes.”
“It’s very disappointing,” a current carrier said. “I used to have a lot of respect for the post office, and I don’t have it anymore.”
USPS contends the opinions of workers we heard from do not represent the public. They say the Postal Service is the most trusted and loved brand in America; a brand, like most, struggling to meet demands through the pandemic on the backs of its employees.
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