As a firm that works extensively with postal workers, Harris Federal is interested in knowing what changes could be in store for the agency and its employees as it transitions to new leadership.
After four years on the job, Patrick R. Donahoe retired on February 1 and was replaced as the Postmaster General by Megan J. Brennan, who actually started as a letter carrier in central Pennsylvania before rising through the ranks of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
Brennan takes over an agency that faces major challenges. As the Washington Post notes, the USPS sustained $5.5 billion in losses in the budget year that ended September 30 – due mainly to a steady decrease in the amount of first-class mail that the agency is handling.
Based on recent media interviews, it appears that Brennan will continue measures that Donahoe initiated during his tenure in order to cut costs, including the closing and consolidating of post offices and mail-sorting plants and the increasing use of part-time and contract workers.
“Our current financial situation is untenable when you consider that we have 35 cents in assets for every dollar of liability,” Brennan told the Associated Press.
Additionally, Brennan has indicated that the USPS will increasingly focus on package delivery – an area that has seen growth – and will continue to explore opportunities to provide more general delivery services.
Brennan told the AP that she views the delivery of goods as being the Postal Service’s “core competency.”
As the Washington Post reports, since 2013 the USPS has partnered with the online retail giant, Amazon, to ship packages on Sundays at standard rates.
Also, in the fall of 2014, the USPS and Amazon joined forces again to launch a two-year test project that involves delivering groceries in the San Francisco area.
Brennan also told the AP that she supports delivering the mail five days a week (eliminating Saturday delivery) and packages seven days a week.
Changes Can Have Real Impact on Postal Workers
The reality is that these changes can have a rippling effect through the Postal Service and impact the lives of workers.
For example, when one mail-sorting plant is shuttered, the work is transferred to another plant, where workers will deal with increased demands.
Additionally, even though expanded delivery service can lead to stability for the USPS, it can also translate to increased potential for injury – especially as workers deal with more packages than letters.
Stretching and reaching to lift heavy packages all day, seven days a week, can lead to significant wear and tear on some workers.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of injuries connected to mail delivery indicates that repeatedly twisting and stretching to reach mail in the back of a delivery vehicle can lead to back, shoulder and rotator cuff injuries. The GAO reports that postal workers suffer an average of 34,000 injuries each year, and about 13,000 of those injuries (38 percent) are directly attributable to delivery work.
As postal workers face the challenges ahead, it will be important to look after their health and safety. It will also be crucial to explore their options, including federal disability retirement benefits, if they suffer from a medical condition that keeps them from doing their job.