Going the Last Mile

April 17, 2018

In February, the Nation outlined the increasing toll the Amazon deal is taking on USPS’s sorters and carriers due to understaffing and aging delivery infrastructure designed primarily to handle paper mail. Since the 2013 Negotiated Service Agreement — which at the time was trumpeted as Amazon “saving” the Postal Service from insolvency — USPS has been forced to take on higher and higher volumes of packages without adequate funding to retool its operations for the changing nature of its work.

According to the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Amazon agreement puts added physical strain on clerks and delivery people, frequently leading to workplace injuries. Understaffed and crunched for time, individuals regularly lift heavy packages intended to be handled by multiple workers. For postal workers in areas of the country that Amazon can’t reach, the increased package load translates to added hours spent doing more physically rigorous work.

As part of the deal, USPS also agreed to begin delivering packages on Sunday for the first time in its history. To cover the extra hours, the Postal Service has increasingly hired lower-paid city carrier assistants, who aren’t entitled to the same pay and benefits as regular letter carriers. By accommodating Amazon’s demand for Sunday service and filling those shifts with lower-wage workers, USPS is playing by the lean, profit-driven rules of the private sector.

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