Saturday, September 5, 2020

Oh DeJoy: A Postal-Mortem


Just got my quarterly copy of the Postal Service Retiree Newsletter, introducing our new Postmaster, Louis DeJoy! What a go-getter! He was appointed by Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, the chair of the Board of Governors. Mikey was appointed by Donald J. Trump. Gosh, turns out he was Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2007 to 2009! Clearly this duo will know how to make the Postal Service soar.

DeJoy is quoted here saying the Postal Service is an integral part of the government, but needs to change their expensive, inflexible business model.

Ruh-roh.

So, a mere month in, the talented DeJoy has already pinpointed the main problem: the dang workforce. And the unions won't let him get rid of it. What a bunch of slackers, sucking up so much overtime. There would be no more overtime paid, by golly. If you can't get all the mail out on time in a given day, you leave it behind.

But here's the thing about postal work. People still have to work it. People have to stick their gummy hands on all those individual pieces of mail and jam them and their cooties into your mail slot. If we had enough drones to replace this force, the honeybees would perish of bafflement.

I will admit right here that I don't know what a lot of people do. I do not know what a Market Research Consultant does, or an OJD Information Technology Specialist, or a Senior Technical Account Manager. I can't tell if such a person is doing the thing or not. How do you slack in technology specializing? You could be sitting there doing the thing, or you could be just sitting there. 

And I don't know what the folks working from home actually do, either, although--it's my nature--I do trust they are actually doing something. But postal employees who take their work home are sent to the slammer.

 

It's a different kind of job. Old-fashioned. Here's how it was in my day: every morning, before dawn, we show up at our sorting cases. There are hundreds of one-inch-wide slots representing one or two houses each, and we need to pick trays of letters up off the floor and find little one-inch homes for each letter. Typically, there are three thousand pieces of mail to find homes for. Then we walk out of the station to find their actual homes and stick them in there. It's basic.

It's dishwashing. Every day there is a big stack of dirty dishes and we have to clean them all up. The next day there's a new stack. I didn't mind. Sisyphus didn't have a pension, but I do. And it's satisfying to have a real, honest task to accomplish every day and go home knowing you've done it.


But every morning is not the same. Mondays are harder: nothing went out the previous day, and the trays of mail are stacked that much higher. The day after a holiday is a complete mess. If you're little, like me, you might have to squeeze into your sorting case and sort eight hundred letters before anyone sees the top of your head. The day after Columbus day is the worst of all. Nobody else has the day off but you and bank employees, so everyone else was busy generating mail. Plus, it's the kickoff to the Christmas catalog season, and election mail has started.

I remember Gerald Ford died right before the New Year's holiday. We all wondered when his funeral would be, because we'd get that day off too. No way, I thought, they'd make it a Tuesday after we had Sunday and Monday off. That would mean an unprecedented three days of nondelivery, and we might never see our loved ones again. But they did. We were still shoveling our way out over a week later.

The point is this is real work. In that you can't just wait out the clock. Real mail shows up and real mail needs to get where it's going.

In 2006, a ridiculous burden was put on our Service, when the W. Bush administration required us to pre-fund health benefits for retirees 75 years into the future. That is extremely expensive, and unnecessary, unless, golly, you're trying to undermine the Postal Service. Immediately changes were made that affected us. Mail routes come up for bid whenever they become vacant because the carrier bids on another route, or retires. Suddenly a portion of those vacant routes quit coming up for bid. Those routes, through no fault of the poor souls who lived on them, became "auxiliaries." No one was assigned to them and they were sorted and delivered by committee. Often after dark, all of it.

    “Honey, I’m bushed. I’m going to hit the hay. Coming with me?”
    “No, you go ahead—I think I’ll wait up for the mail.” 

People were pissed. And we carriers who were delivering sections of the route on our overtime had no good answers for the aggrieved customers squinting at their mail by porch light. This is seriously shitty service.

The letter carriers union worked hard for a simple concept: one carrier per mail route. But we did not prevail. It was simply too expensive to hire enough humans--and humans are what is required--since they had to pay retirement benefits so far into the future. It was cheaper to keep a minimal crew and make them work time-and-a-half to deliver poor service. Demoralizing, to say the least.

So when our fine new Postmaster General says no more overtime, in a deliberately understaffed workforce, he means the mail won't go out. And this ain't no holiday. Starting now, there's no catching up. That shit is going to be stacked on the loading dock or warehoused somewhere else and there will be no digging out from under. There aren't enough people, and in this business, we need people. We already thinned the workforce by automating the mail sorting, but now the sorting machines are being laid off too.

At the end of that little quarterly newsletter, DeJoy says: "We stand on the shoulders of the men and women who built this institution." Okay then.

It's not kneeling on our necks, but it's close.

 

 


31 comments:

  1. Was it ignorance/incompetence or malice that kept DeJoy from recognizing that organizations save money by paying overtime as opposed to hiring more people. Did he miss the "Industrial Organization & Management" course that I (engineering student) had to take? Bah! Humbug!

    Well...to be honest, I didn't have to take that course. I was allowed to substitute it for the basic economics course that I was required to take. Worked OK until I transferred to another school who did not allow the substitution. There, I ended up taking another econ course "Money & Banking".

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    1. It's malice. Of course he knows. He is trying to tank the service. The Republicans/Libertarians have been after the profitable bits of it for a looong time.

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  2. Why the orange shitgibbon hires rich donors to do a job they know nothing about is beyond my tolerance levels. Incompetence from the top on down will take years to correct. "Flush the turd on November third!"

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    1. Partly as a reward for the money, and partly because he's deliberately trying to destroy the agencies. Drown 'em in a bathtub.

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  3. They do a good job, too. The type of work I do involves mailing checks out, sometimes hundreds of them per week. When somebody doesn't get a check they were expecting, you tend to hear from them about it, but over the years the number that have actually gotten lost in the mail has been vanishingly small.

    It sounds like they're going to be going through hell until January 21 when there will be people at the top who are on their side, and DeJoy is replaced by someone who will start trying to fix the mess he created.

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    1. Indeed. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times that I know of that something has been lost in the mail at my end or the other person's end. I greatly value the postal service, and still use it to pay bills and such because I don't really trust having an online bank account. I hope to the god-I-don't-believe-in that the postal service stays around!

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    2. We really didn't lose much mail. I personally lost one. I had been carrying about a month, still on probation, and I tossed an outgoing letter into my designated tray in my Jeep--only it flipped up and slid down inside the sliding window. I tried to fish it out but it was way down inside the door somewhere. I should have mentioned it back at the station and they totally would've taken the door apart for it, but I didn't. I thought I'd get in trouble. Many, many years later I heard that they were dismantling the old Jeeps and can you believe they found an outgoing letter inside the door of one! REALLY?

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  4. I really, really resent the concept that everything needs to be profitable. In my naive fashion I believe that some things just need to be done. Things like health, education, and the postal system.

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    1. Yes! There are so many people in isolated places, who maybe are too poor to have internet, or even phones. But they can have SOME access to the outside world via the postal service. Granted, the "Founding Fathers" were an imperfect bunch. But even in that era, they saw that being able to have contact with the outside world was important enough to be in the constitution. We MUST protect this!

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    2. There are so many things we could provide ourselves cheaply by banding together. We just have to decide what they are, and do it. I'd sure put medical care in there, and a lot else. Like universal basic income...

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  5. Make the postal service soar? A job for spellcheck, I think.The whole service is sore and the receiving end is more sore than ever

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  6. I hate that so many etsy and ebay sellers abuse the free USPS priority envelopes.

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    1. Hm! A new complaint. You mean they use them as packaging but they don't send them USPS?

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  7. Australia has been 'restructuring' their mail service for years, and not for the benefit of the customers. My sister and I delivered mail in our town for seven years and in that time the letter service was attacked repeatedly until it was a fraction of what it as. We had to repeatedly deliver mailouts pushing 'digital letterboxes' (somewhat ironic that they used workers to deliver something that would do away with their job..)
    We were 'contractors' which meant we were paid for three hours work, no matter how long it took. It was illegal to leave any mail till the next day, so sometimes we both worked 6 hours, for the same pay. The people who ran the post office felt so bad that they more than once paid us extra anyway.
    Elections were a nightmare and Easter, where there are four days off in a row meant there was barely standing room in the whole place.
    The parcel volume is the only thing that matters now, and shareholders. Australia Post was partially privatised years ago and of course then Profit becomes King. The workers are the easiest thing to screw over for the sake of economy, and yet without us there IS no service.Phew, I still get angry thinking about it all.

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    1. Wow!

      I think rural carriers here are considered private contractors and I don't know how their pay is set up. And I'm not even sure of what I just said.

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  8. I don't know how our mail service is sorted or when, but I d remember years ago, a sister in law worked the night shift at a mail sorting job so when morning rolled around the mail was ready for the postmen to pick up and start delivering.
    The latest news is that some areas now will only get mail every second day and since we already don't get mail on weekends, that doesn't leave much room for actual deliveries. It could be Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or it could be Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is even more sucky for those of us waiting for online purchases to be delivered.

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    1. "...even more sucky for those of us waiting for online purchases to be delivered."

      Perhaps it will restore retail business to local brick and mortar stores that has been going to Amazon, etc.

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    2. It is time for the plutocracy to die.

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  9. I knew you would have the real take on what That A-s has deliberately done to the USPS. I have been quietly apoplectic about it for weeks. It went so far as to state its purpose baldly. The only point? To further its chance for re-election. In the stranglehold of a megalomaniac, we are, and here's the outcome in Whipple: I don't send anything of any value via mail any more. Can't, because it won't get there. Nice job, A-s in Chief. No, I climb in the car for a 35-mile round trip to pay a minimum of $10 to UPS a tiny package. Every time. It is horrible, it is shameful, and it is life under a self-interested, selfish, idiotic, cruel, careless dictator. I'm so sorry, Murre. I can only pray the winds shift in November.

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    1. They need to shift so hard. And so much groundwork is going into making sure we citizens are at war with each other that I fear what will happen with any result. I just hope it's decisive (my way).

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  10. What this administration is doing to undermine our government services is distressing.
    I appreciated the behind-the-scenes insight into their work provided here.

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    1. I've often thought it would make a good TV show to follow workers of all stripes around and see what they actually do.

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  11. I worked for the phone company and they too were of the opinion that it was cheaper to pay overtime than hise more people. The first eight hours of a person comes with benefits etc. Overtime has none of that.

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    1. How did we let these greedy bastards get in charge?

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  12. The behind the scenes peek gives us more clarity on what is being effectively undermined on purpose, Thank You. Everything this Administration gets it's greedy inept hands on goes to shit.

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  13. Not generally one to be a conspiracy theorist, but: Would anyone be surprised if *special* new sorting machines suddenly appeared in a mandatory-first-stop giant mail collection warehouse, to be used only in the dead of night, operating by robotics, to identify mail-in ballots for automatic shredding? At this point, I imagine that I wouldn't be surprised...😡

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  14. My sister has 30 years in working at a regional distribution center. She has some horror stories. Most of her career has been spent watching conditions get steadily worse as upper management does its damndest to get rid of the annoying humans working for hourly wages. I am always amazed the USPS does as well as it does under incredibly demoralizing conditions.

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