WASHINGTON (CN) – In post offices across the country, most city letter carriers have for decades spent the beginning of their shifts sorting mail and then the remainder of their shifts going out on specific routes for delivery.
The U.S. Postal Service changed that dynamic this past May, however, prompting a union for these workers to bring a federal complaint Thursday in Washington.
Pointing to the launch of these changes in May at a post office in Annandale, Virginia, the National Association of Letter Carriers says workers who were used as “involuntary guinea pigs” experienced extreme exhaustion, physical pain and mental stress.
The initiative has been dubbed the Consolidated Casing Initiative, and the union says it splits the carriers’ job in two, with some workers arriving early in the morning to sort mail for multiple delivery routes, and others spending their entire shift making deliveries, leaving them on their feet for longer periods of time.
Phase II brought the initiative to seven additional post offices in July, and the union says that number will grow by 58 in Phase III
The complaint states the radical changes to workers’ job description are prohibited by the workers’ union contract.
“Article 5 of the CBA prohibits certain unilateral action by USPS,” the complaint states, using abbreviations for collective bargaining agreement and the U.S. Postal Service. “The parties’ jointly authored Joint Contract Administration Manual explains that Article 5 prohibits unilateral actions by management affecting wages, hours or working conditions.”
In addition to citing provisions of its contract that prohibit unilateral management action, the union says various USPS handbooks is on workers’ side.
“For example, the M-41, at Sections 42, 43 and 44, instructs letter carriers upon returning from street delivery to perform certain tasks, such as disposing of collected mail, processing registered and certified letter mail, and processing undelivered mail,” the complaint states, referring to a handbook titled “City Delivery Carriers Duties and Responsibilities.”
“Management at Annandale has instructed ‘street’ carriers to skip these required tasks to ensure that they minimize their office time each day,” the complaint continues.
The complaint says Annandale postal workers are clocking in more than eight hours a day since the launch of the initiative.
This not only hurts the work-life balance, according to the complaint, but leads to later start times, meaning workers “spend less time on the street during the cooler morning hours and more time exposed to the heat of the long summer afternoons.”
“Come fall and winter, they will be delivering in the dark,” the complaint states. “The later end times have made it nearly impossible for these ‘street’ carriers to pick up their children after school on time, or to go to doctor appointments or run necessary personal errands before offices and businesses close.”
The Postal Service did not return a request for comment Thursday.