We have all been made well aware of the many problems the U.S. Postal Service is facing as it struggles to stay afloat. It faces the massive loss of revenue from people using email instead of the U.S. mail. Other online services, as well as the convenience provided by many stores for paying utility bills in person, also take money away that traditionally went to the Postal Service. Additionally, it struggles to meet the requirement of prefunding future retiree health benefits, as mandated by Congress. It also has many service-related issues. Unfortunately, postal management is unqualified to deal with these problems.
At one time, the post office was known for providing employment for disabled veterans. It was not intended as an agency that would pull its own weight. During the Nixon administration, the post office was replaced by the U.S. Postal Service, which was to be an entity separate from the federal government. It was meant to function like a business.
This new business-like entity continued to use the postal exam as its basis for hiring new employees. While this is fine for unskilled labor positions such as clerk or carrier, it is inadequate for assembling a competent management team.
Large, thriving businesses mainly hire people who actually have college degrees for key management positions. Our current postmaster general is very proud of the fact that he worked his way up from his humble beginnings as a clerk, but I ask you: Do manufacturing companies scour the assembly lines looking for their next CEO? If someone says you can run a business without properly trained management personnel, then why don’t other businesses do it?
One of the most obvious problems the Postal Service has is its inability to complete mail delivery at a reasonable hour. This past winter, I saw more letter carriers than ever before trying to deliver mail in the dark. Attempting to read addresses at this time of day, while navigating through the ice and snow (already a safety problem) is no way to deliver the mail.
All this happens in spite of the fact the Postal Service has sophisticated machines now available to put mail in delivery sequence, and less mail volume than before. Only the Postal Service could pull this off.
Postal management’s main strategy seems to be making letter carriers and clerks work faster in order to make the company more productive. In doing so, it has created a work environment that has craft employees and even lower management counting the days until they can retire. If your letter carrier doesn’t smile as much as before, now you know why.
Some postal employees insist the Postal Service can function properly if it is just left alone. I disagree. Nothing short of federal government intervention employing qualified individuals can hope to straighten out this mess.
By Robert Warda, retired from the U.S. Postal Service.