The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is a major necessity, delivering to all areas of the country, regardless of how rural or isolated. With the weight of this responsibility—and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—the agency faces ongoing financial woes and staffing shortages. President Joe Biden put plans in motion to help assist the USPS, signing a major postal reform bill in April to provide almost $50 billion in relief over the next decade. But while those in power work to keep the Postal Service afloat, the agency is now facing additional criticism surrounding delivery processes. Read on to find out what one organization alleges the USPS may be doing illegally.
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Delivery rates have been the center of attention for the USPS. In Oct. 2021, “new service standards” (also known as the number of days between acceptance and delivery of a piece of mail) were announced for First Class Mail and Periodicals. Service standards are still considered timely by the agency, despite increases in time-in-transit standards by one or two days for First-Class Mail and Periodicals traveling longer distances. The delivery time for nearly one-third of small, lightweight packages was also slowed down as of May 1, 2022, thanks to new service standards for First-Class Packages.
Ironically, the agency has now received pushback over certain packages that some say are being delivered too quickly.
The most recent criticism of the USPS has to do with what packages are delivered, and when. According to a May 12, 2022 motion filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), managers at certain post offices are allegedly instructing employees to “prioritize Amazon packages over every kind of mail.” To investigate, the SOC has requested access to an agreement between the USPS and Amazon.
If these allegations are true, it would violate the legal obligations of the USPS, which require the agency not to give priority to letter mail or discriminate between users. This could also impact and undermine services in rural communities and low-population-density areas, which rely on the USPS for deliveries, the motion states.
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The SOC, which includes four labor unions—Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Communications Workers of America, and United Farmworkers of America—represents over four million workers. Its mission is to survey different workers and consumers and then generate in-depth reports, according to its website.
The SOC’s survey of USPS employees was conducted online over the course of the 2021-2022 holiday season, according to the motion. The SOC claims it now has “preliminary but troubling evidence” about a specific contract with Amazon—believed to be Postal Service’s Shipping Services Priority Mail & First-Class Package Service Contract 200—as survey results indicate that “a substantial majority of respondents” had been told to give Amazon deliveries priority.
The SOC then conducted follow-up interviews with respondents, noting that “USPS management consistently pressures USPS employees to sort and deliver Amazon packages as fast as possible, but does not exert the same pressure regarding other types of mail.” When then given the choice between processing and delivering Amazon packages versus other mail, employees opted for Amazon, which the SOC called a “predictable result.”
The SOC has filed the motion in an effort to access the full details surrounding the agency’s service agreement with Amazon. If approved by the PRC, the agreement would be provided under protective conditions to the organization, meaning that it wouldn’t be available to the public. Following a review, the SOC would then look to file a formal complaint with the PRC within 60 days of receipt, the motion states.
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