The vacation rush is right here. Will mail carriers receives a commission for all their work? – Heart for Public Integrity

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A 43-year-old mailman in rural Texas is dreading the subsequent two weeks. Not as a result of it’s the busiest time of yr for the U.S. Postal Service, however as a result of he worries he gained’t receives a commission for all the additional hours he will likely be working.
He’s been clocking about 12 hours of time beyond regulation every week for the reason that begin of the pandemic in early 2020 and says his paycheck has been quick at the least half a dozen instances. One, from final yr’s vacation season, incorrectly confirmed him working zero hours, he mentioned.
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Different postal staff say they really feel simply as anxious about getting cheated in the course of the holidays: A mail service in Chicago nearing retirement; a mom of three youngsters in upstate New York; a Minnesota father who not often makes it residence in meal time.
Roughly two dozen mail carriers in 10 states informed the Heart for Public Integrity that they plan to work time beyond regulation within the weeks main as much as Christmas, and half say they’ve struggled to receives a commission for all of the hours they labored in current months. Some blame their supervisors for deleting hours labored from their timecards to keep away from paying time beyond regulation, which is 50% further below federal regulation.
In some instances, carriers say the Postal Service owes them cash as a result of it hasn’t up to date the time it takes to ship mail on all rural routes for the reason that begin of the COVID-19 pandemic, which induced a pointy spike in on-line purchasing and a deluge of packages to ship. Most rural carriers are paid by what number of hours it often takes to ship their routes, not how lengthy it truly takes. They’ll additionally earn time beyond regulation by selecting up further routes on their day off.
Public Integrity is organizing an internet panel with authorized consultants to reply questions from present and former USPS workers associated to wage theft. If you need to obtain particulars concerning the occasion or submit a query, click on right here.
Tons of of managers have been caught illegally altering mail carriers’ timecards to indicate them working fewer hours than they did, shorting their paychecks, in line with a Public Integrity investigation printed in August. The information group obtained a batch of personal arbitration award summaries stretching over the past decade. Supervisors had been not often punished for dishonest workers.
“It’s actually robust to remain at a spot that has such little respect for its individuals and the place it’s important to combat to receives a commission for the work you do,” mentioned the Texas mail service, who, like different Postal Service workers interviewed for this story, requested Public Integrity to withhold his title out of worry of retaliation from his supervisors.
A spokesperson for the Postal Service, Darlene Casey, mentioned the company doesn’t condone improper timecard adjustments and takes such allegations significantly.
“This place is messaged to the postal workforce straight from postal leaders, together with the Vice President, Supply Operations, who periodically reissues insurance policies relating to applicable timecard administration for supervisors,” Casey wrote in a press release to Public Integrity. “Moreover, the Postal Service continues to reinforce its time and attendance applied sciences and processes to offer larger oversight of timekeeping practices and improve worker perception into their very own work hours.”
But some managers proceed to alter worker time playing cards, even after arbitrators have ordered them to cease, in line with dozens of mail carriers and personal arbitration paperwork just lately shared with Public Integrity. In San Jose, California, for instance, an arbitrator admonished Postal Service managers earlier this yr for ignoring her order to cease dishonest mail carriers on pay, calling their conduct “deliberate and devious.”
Personal arbitration data and private anecdotes reveal solely a part of the issue. They don’t embrace wage theft grievances settled between the company and the postal unions earlier than reaching arbitration. And so they miss all of the instances that wage theft goes unreported, both as a result of workers are afraid to complain or as a result of they don’t perceive the company’s complicated pay guidelines.
“Persons are labored so exhausting that they don’t have time to relaxation or eat, not to mention examine if their timecard or paycheck is correct,” wrote a mail service in Minnesota, who has filed greater than two dozen grievances along with her native labor union for the reason that begin of the pandemic.
In her case, she mentioned, the company wasn’t paying the price of dwelling increase she was due, per the union contract. She mentioned she lastly bought paid again eight months after submitting the primary grievance. Like many different mail carriers who reached out to Public Integrity, she mentioned she assumes that the Postal Service will quick her in the course of the peak vacation rush.
In February, arbitrator Nancy Hutt grew exasperated with the Postal Service after two days of closed-door hearings at a submit workplace in San Jose. A union steward had introduced 11 binders with copies of worker time sheets, exhibiting that submit workplace supervisors in Silicon Valley had been nonetheless altering mail carriers’ timecards to cheat them out of pay.
A few year-and-a-half earlier, in September 2019, Hutt reviewed proof that supervisors in all 12 San Jose submit places of work improperly manipulated worker hours for at the least three years and underpaid employees by a whole bunch of hundreds of {dollars}.
In a legally binding arbitration award, Hutt ordered Postal Service supervisors to pay again mail carriers and cease altering time playing cards with out their approval. She additionally ordered all concerned managers to get retrained on methods to correctly use the timekeeping system.
However the time theft didn’t cease, in line with a second arbitration determination she issued in April, which was obtained just lately by Public Integrity.
Jeff Frazee, a union arbitration advocate with the Nationwide Affiliation of Letter Carriers, informed her he discovered 4,510 timecard violations within the months following her authentic determination, in line with a abstract of Hutt’s findings. Frazee’s binders confirmed that managers continued to clock out workers whereas they had been delivering mail or change time sheets to indicate them ending work earlier than they did. In a single case, a supervisor made it appear to be an worker took unpaid depart on a day the worker labored a full shift.
On high of that, a union consultant mentioned within the arbitration listening to that the Postal Service couldn’t present proof that it retrained managers to make use of the timekeeping system. And mail carriers in seven San Jose submit places of work accused supervisors of pressuring them to signal paperwork approving years-old timecard adjustments, regardless of a few of their objections.
A consultant for the Publish Workplace informed the arbitrator that the company had complied with the earlier arbitration determination and that each one the cash owed to carriers had been paid by Jan. 8, 2021 – including as much as $571,520.
After two days of testimony, Hutt decided that the Postal Service largely ignored her orders. She described the continued timecard fraud as “intentional, repetitive and egregious.”
“Compliance shouldn’t be optionally available,” she wrote in her April determination. “Administration has no possibility to select and select.”
Hutt as soon as once more ordered supervisors to cease the unlawful conduct and to pay again workers. It’s unclear whether or not the Postal Service has finished so.
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Casey, the USPS spokesperson, declined to reply questions concerning the San Jose case.
Ernie Arrañaga, president of the native San Jose mail carriers’ union, didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Maverick Tran, a former mail service who labored in San Jose for seven years, mentioned a Postal Service chief apologized to employees throughout a stand-up assembly earlier than Tran stop in July.
“She mentioned one thing like ‘sorry about falsifying clock rings’ and that it shouldn’t occur and that they’re doing their greatest to maintain it from taking place once more,” Tran recalled, referring to the beginning and end entries within the timekeeping system. “However they’ve at all times been saying that. It didn’t sound honest.”
Tran mentioned his former bosses typically clocked him out earlier than he completed working, and he stop in July as a result of he didn’t wish to spend one other Christmas season delivering mail late into the night time and lacking out on household gatherings. He mentioned he’s in contact with a few of his former co-workers, who inform him that managers are nonetheless altering timecards, simply not on the similar scale as earlier than. He hopes this vacation season isn’t so tough for them.
“Actually, I don’t know what’s going to occur,” mentioned Tran, who now works the meeting line in a medical system manufacturing facility. “It’s in all probability going to be hectic.”
Final vacation season was definitely hectic. The variety of packages mailed by the Postal Service jumped 37% from the earlier yr’s peak because the pandemic pushed Individuals to do their Christmas purchasing on-line. The Postal Service was already understaffed, with excessive worker turnover, and mail carriers took extra sick days than normal because the pandemic unfold. Packages piled up at mail processing facilities throughout the nation, delaying supply as much as 17 days.
The Postal Service mentioned it’s ready this time and plans to rent about 40,000 short-term workers by the top of the yr — a 33% improve from final yr.
The inspector common for the Postal Service — which serves as an unbiased company watchdog — steered that is likely to be exhausting to drag off.
“Whereas the Postal Service was in a position to rent its deliberate variety of short-term workers final peak season, it fell quick the prior two years,” in line with an audit report launched in November.
The audit didn’t point out considerations from present workers about getting paid for the additional hours they’re logging.
“I really feel administration will make any and all excuses to keep away from paying any time beyond regulation,” one rural mail service in Florida who has labored on the company for 17 years wrote in response to a survey Public Integrity shared with USPS mail carriers.
An extended-time mail service in Chicago, who has been working 10 to twenty hours of time beyond regulation every week in the course of the pandemic, mentioned the wage theft continues to be taking place.
“They are going to steal from craft workers by altering their clock rings and discovering any variety of excuses to say that the time beyond regulation wasn’t wanted and shouldn’t have been paid,” he wrote in response to the survey.
The mail service in Texas, in the meantime, mentioned he expects to get stiffed within the coming weeks. “It’s only a matter of when,” he mentioned.
Final vacation season, he needed to take out a $4,000 mortgage to pay his mortgage and different payments, he mentioned, as a result of one paycheck erroneously confirmed him working zero hours. He was finally repaid however mentioned the Postal Service didn’t reimburse him for the curiosity he paid on the mortgage.
Getting paid again is a course of that often takes 4 to 5 months after submitting a grievance with the postal union, he mentioned. That doesn’t depend the time it takes to fill out the paperwork for every grievance.
“Who’s going to pay me for these hours?” he requested. “No person.”
He will get his final paycheck of the yr on Christmas Eve.
Public Integrity’s Ashley Clarke and Alex Eichenstein contributed to this report.
Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t settle for promoting in order that our investigative reporting can have the widest doable influence on addressing inequality within the U.S. Our work is feasible because of assist from individuals such as you.
Alexia Fernández Campbell is a senior reporter at Public Integrity. She writes about staff’ rights….
The Heart for Public Integrity is a nonprofit investigative information group centered on inequality within the U.S. We don’t settle for promoting or cost individuals to learn our work.
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by Alexia Fernández Campbell, Heart for Public Integrity
December 8, 2021
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