May 1 is International Workers Day, and in the U.S. postal workers say they’re struggling to keep up amid staffing shortages and a work environment they call “toxic” at some facilities—including in Minnesota.
Last year, Congress approved the Postal Service Reform Act, which was designed to help the agency overcome decades of financial losses—as its leadership ushered in a decade-long improvement and streamlining initiative.
Despite efforts to bolster the system, Dave Cook, the president of the St. Paul-area local of the American Postal Workers Union, said morale is low. “Employees are pushed to the brin—both emotionally and mentally,” said Cook, “you know, the way they are treated and talked to by their supervisor and/or managers.”
The union describes it as a “culture of bullying and toxicity.” Cook said like other industries right now, understaffed facilities are making the situation worse. Over the past few days, postal unions have held events where workers were encouraged to speak up and demand better conditions.
In an e-mailed statement, the Postal Service said the union’s position is “absent of anything based in reality.” The agency also contended that over the past two years, it has worked with the union and management associations to address matters such as workplace safety and career training and advancement.
Meanwhile, Cook said what’s happening behind the scenes is leading to service delays at postal retail locations, where staff can sometimes deal with hostile customers. “And we understand the frustration of the public, we get it,” said Cook. “But, yes, employees are often subjected to irate customers, based on issues that they have no control over.”
Cook said Postal Service jobs have good pay and benefits, but he points to a turnover rate of nearly 60%, both locally and nationally.
Union leaders worry that as the 10-year improvement plan continues to take shape, staff will be under even greater pressure to produce results.
As part of its response, the Postal Service said it has converted 125,000 pre-career workers to full-time career employees since the fall of 2020.
Mike Moen writes for the Minnesota News Connection.