Snow-clogged or icy streets have made it difficult for postal vehicles, according to Kristy Anderson, a communications specialist for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) based in Minneapolis. She said that while “there are a few individual addresses we cannot get to because of unplowed streets, inaccessible mailboxes or unsafe pathways,” there are no widespread problems and delivery has remained consistent.
“The brutal conditions over the last two weeks throughout the region have been challenging for us and we are very proud of our employees who are working hard to serve our customers,” Anderson said in an e-mail. “We especially appreciate it when [customers] clear a path for their carrier. If we can get to a box, we’ll make every effort to deliver it.”
But union officials representing the letter carriers say their ranks are depleted by a combination of new hires who quit and not enough applicants to fill the vacancies. They’re also dealing with a sharp increase in the number of package deliveries that take more time.
“We are critically short of people,” says Mike Zagaros, president of Branch 9, the Minneapolis unit of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “It is frustrating when my members are saying ‘I can’t be doing this at this pace.’ ”
Zagaros said there are still carriers on the street delivering mail as late as 8 p.m., and the problem is not unique to Minneapolis or Minnesota.
However, Anderson disputed claims of a letter carrier shortage.
“Our Minneapolis staffing is at normal levels,” she said, adding that carriers are regularly hired to backfill normal attrition.
Both Anderson and union representatives acknowledged that injuries caused to carriers by falls on the slippery conditions have had an impact on the ranks.
On Wednesday, Minneapolis carriers across the city delivered, along with the day’s mail, fliers advertising a Saturday job fair for delivery positions across the metro area.