Covid-19 poses setbacks to Postal Service employees and residents in Oakland and Wayne Counties

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The United States Postal Service has experienced a rapid decrease in mail revenue, which mail carriers and residents in Oakland and Wayne Counties said contribute to package delays and the ongoing pandemic.

Employment and revenue declines

According to USPS Reports for the 2020 fiscal year, First-Class mail revenue decreased by $168 billion. Total work hours were also reduced, and compensation benefits declined by $190 million. In the 2021 fiscal year, First-Class mail revenue is projected to decline by $2.3 billion.

City carrier and Detroit resident Brandi Chenault has worked for the USPS for six years. She said during the pandemic, decreasing postal revenue and compensation benefits have increased unemployment rates, leaving postal workers understaffed and overworked. 

On average, Chenault works 10-14 hour days and said understaffing issues in the Postal Service range across departments.

Seasonal mail jumper Kameron Stephens is responsible for mail shipments by boat, and said the number of deliveries has surprisingly tripled during the pandemic. As a result, Stephens has also experienced an increasing workload. 

For more of Stephens’ interview, click here.

Federal and union responses to privatization efforts

In response to increasing workloads and a lack of governmental support, worker-led campaigns like The U.S Mail Not For Sale and the American Postal Workers Union have fought federal privatization efforts in search of government funding.

When asked about the House’s anti-privatization resolution proposal and its potential benefits to local post offices in Oakland and Wayne Counties, USPS Strategic Communications Specialist Elizabeth Najduch and APWU Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman had no comment.
For the USPS Covid-19 media statement, click here.

Covid-19 Safety precautions for postal workers

While understaffing issues have posed inconveniences during the pandemic, Chenault said more health precautions could be taken by the Postal Service to protect mail carriers.

While on deliveries, Chenault contracted Covid-19 in April, 2020. Since her recovery, Chenault is still unable to return to work because of an increase in cases within her department. 

For more of Chenault’s interview, Click here.

Chenault also said she is concerned with how the Postal Service is protecting employers within Oakland County. 

As Michigan cases continue to rise, Chenault said she thinks business motives have outweighed the safety of mail carriers. 

“Their thing was that we need as many people to come to work as possible, because this business still has to go on regardless of COVID-19 or not,”  Chenault said.

Latoya Weston, a rural carrier at the Postal Service, said the pandemic has impacted the postal service and employees the most. 

Weston said lack of staffing staffing plays a huge part in delaying the process of delivering mail, and also attributes the rise in stimulus checks to the increasing demands and package volumes. 

“Delivery is impacted in many ways such as being understaffed, overworked and exposed to customers every day,” Weston said. “There is a major increase of packages when stimulus checks are issued … Plenty of delays mainly due to being understaffed.”` 

Package delays impact Oakland and Wayne residents

In addition to safety concerns and issues at the local level, Michigan State University junior and Wayne Country resident Jenna Fogelsonger said delivery delays have impacted her online business, Mad Mood Boutique.

Fogelsonger is responsible for all product packaging and shipments. While she has made a decent profit, she said that the rise in COVID-19 cases has pushed back delivery times — causing many of her customers to cancel their orders.

“The pandemic definitely impacted my business,” Fogelsonger said. “It would usually take 5-7 business days for a shipment to be delivered, and it got to a point where it would take one month for a customer to get their clothing … (it’s) extremely frustrating.”

Detroit resident Reese Armstrong said package delays related to the pandemic have also impacted his job on a broad scale.

“I work as a mechanic at Jefferson Beach Marina, and all shipments have been put to a halt,” Armstrong said. “We’d get tons of packages within a day — whether it be boat parts, equipment needed for haul-out or just everyday parts for little fixings … so when the shipping process (for these products) is delayed, it makes it difficult for us to get the job done.”

In Waterford Township, many customers were upset by the delayed process of their mail.  On its website, residents tried to phone the township’s carrier annex and contacted them through its website. However, the postal office was unable to get back to many people during the pandemic.

Although the pandemic has caused package delays, there seems a return to normalcy for Waterford resident Bethany Nardo.

“The shipping times for some of my packages were delayed because more people were shopping online … It took over four months for my long board to come in,” Nardo said. “Now, I’d say mail service is back to normal, and the fees are normal as well.”

While Oakland and Wayne County residents face inconveniences, Fogelsonger said she understands the reasoning behind ongoing setbacks.

“You can’t really blame the mail carriers or the postal service, the pandemic has impacted everyone,” Fogelsonger said. “I think that as things become more digital, nobody really takes levels of unemployment and the way the postal service is impacted into consideration.”