Approximately two years ago, the semi-private tax-subsidized United States Postal Service struck a deal with unions representing postal workers on work done by salaried supervisors at the Post Office. In many businesses and organizations, when there is work to be done and not enough workers to do it, supervisors are called in to fill in the gap. However, at USPS, the line work is “reserved” for union members. Supervisors are not supposed to do line work. In order to come to a resolution to the ensure the delivery of the mail, the USPS and postal workers’ unions resolved that the USPS should pay union members even if they do not perform any actual work.
According to Government Executive, “The U.S. Postal Service is allowing salaried supervisors to conduct work set aside for union employees,…forcing the agency to waste millions of dollars annually on unnecessary payments.”
The website said that a 2014 agreement between USPS and the American Postal Workers settled a 40-year dispute by capping the number of hours a postmaster or supervisor at certain post offices can spend “performing work typically reserved for bargaining unit employees at 15 per week.” Additionally, the website reported: “When the management workers surpass that threshold, the Postal Service is forced to pay the corresponding hourly wages to a clerk picked out by the union.”
The Post Office Inspector General recently released a report that shows that USPS payments to union members for work that they do not do is prevalent. The report showed that USPS supervisors worked 83,000 hours over the union-mandated limit at a cost of $11.2 million to deliver the mails. The IG report contends that some payments to individual postal clerks selected by the unions were in some cases, “unnecessary and fraudulent.” The report found that some individual clerks earned up to nearly $32,000 in hourly pay they did not actually work. The practice was found in more than 90 percent of Postal Service districts.
The Postal Service’s financial troubles are well known. The worst year was 2012, when the USPS lost a $15.9 billion dollars, followed by $4.8 billion and $5.3 billion in 2013 and 2014, respectively. USPS officials attribute the losses to a decline in demand for first class mail in favor of more efficient modes of communication, and congressional mandates that they deliver mail on Saturdays and to unprofitable parts of the country while arguing that if it were not for such requirements, it would more or less break even.
However, former Treasury undersecretary Robert Shapiro, who now chairs the Sonecon economic consultancy, issued a report in 2015 that taxpayers subsidize the USPS at a rate that surpasses the costs associated with any Congressional mandate. In his report, Shapiro estimates that the subsidies and legal monopolies that Congress bestows upon the post office are worth $18 billion annually.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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