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

Printed — December 8, 2021
Mail carriers load their vehicles at a U.S. Postal Service location in Van Nuys, California, in September 2020. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Instances through Getty Photos)
The USPS has a behavior of shorting employees on pay, personal arbitration awards present.

Senior Reporter
This story was printed in partnership with Univision.
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A 43-year-old mailman in rural Texas is dreading the following 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 received’t receives a commission for all the additional hours he shall be working.
He’s been clocking about 12 hours of additional time every week for the reason that begin of the pandemic in early 2020 and says his paycheck has been quick not less than half a dozen instances. One, from final yr’s vacation season, incorrectly confirmed him working zero hours, he stated.
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Different postal employees say they really feel simply as anxious about getting cheated in the course of the holidays: A mail provider in Chicago nearing retirement; a mom of three youngsters in upstate New York; a Minnesota father who hardly ever makes it residence in meal time.
Roughly two dozen mail carriers in 10 states instructed the Heart for Public Integrity that they plan to work additional time 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 additional time, which is 50% further beneath 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 precipitated a pointy spike in on-line procuring and a deluge of packages to ship. Most rural carriers are paid by what number of hours it normally takes to ship their routes, not how lengthy it truly takes. They will additionally earn additional time by choosing up further routes on their day off. 
Public Integrity is organizing an internet panel with authorized specialists to reply questions from present and former USPS workers associated to wage theft. If you need to obtain particulars in regards to the occasion or submit a query, click on right here.
A whole lot of managers have been caught illegally altering mail carriers’ timecards to point out them working fewer hours than they did, shorting their paychecks, in accordance 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 have been hardly ever punished for dishonest workers. 
“It’s actually robust to remain at a spot that has such little respect for its folks and the place it’s important to struggle to receives a commission for the work you do,” stated the Texas mail provider, who, like different Postal Service workers interviewed for this story, requested Public Integrity to withhold his title out of concern of retaliation from his supervisors. 
A spokesperson for the Postal Service, Darlene Casey, stated the company doesn’t condone improper timecard adjustments and takes such allegations critically. 
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“This place is messaged to the postal workforce instantly from postal leaders, together with the Vice President, Supply Operations, who periodically reissues insurance policies concerning acceptable 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 higher 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 accordance with dozens of mail carriers and personal arbitration paperwork not too long ago 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.”
Non-public arbitration information and private anecdotes reveal solely a part of the issue. They don’t embody wage theft grievances settled between the company and the postal unions earlier than reaching arbitration. They usually 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 onerous that they don’t have time to relaxation or eat, not to mention examine if their timecard or paycheck is correct,” wrote a mail provider in Minnesota, who has filed greater than two dozen grievances together with her native labor union for the reason that begin of the pandemic. 
In her case, she stated, the company wasn’t paying the price of dwelling increase she was due, per the union contract. She stated she lastly bought paid again eight months after submitting the primary grievance. Like many different mail carriers who reached out to Public Integrity, she stated 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 put up workplace in San Jose. A union steward had introduced 11 binders with copies of worker time sheets, displaying that put up workplace supervisors in Silicon Valley have 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 put up workplaces improperly manipulated worker hours for not less than three years and underpaid workers by tons of of 1000’s 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 the right way to correctly use the timekeeping system. 
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However the time theft didn’t cease, in accordance with a second arbitration resolution she issued in April, which was obtained not too long ago by Public Integrity. 
Jeff Frazee, a union arbitration advocate with the Nationwide Affiliation of Letter Carriers, instructed her he discovered 4,510 timecard violations within the months following her authentic resolution, in accordance with a abstract of Hutt’s findings. Frazee’s binders confirmed that managers continued to clock out workers whereas they have been delivering mail or change time sheets to point out them ending work earlier than they did. In a single case, a supervisor made it seem like an worker took unpaid go away on a day the worker labored a full shift. 
On high of that, a union consultant stated 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 put up workplaces accused supervisors of pressuring them to signal paperwork approving years-old timecard adjustments, regardless of a few of their objections.
A consultant for the Submit Workplace instructed the arbitrator that the company had complied with the earlier arbitration resolution 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 is just not optionally available,” she wrote in her April resolution. “Administration has no possibility to choose 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 completed so.
Casey, the USPS spokesperson, declined to reply questions in regards to 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 provider who labored in San Jose for seven years, stated a Postal Service chief apologized to workers throughout a stand-up assembly earlier than Tran stop in July.
“She stated 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 stated 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 stated 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 identical scale as earlier than. He hopes this vacation season isn’t so tough for them.
“Truthfully, I don’t know what’s going to occur,” stated Tran, who now works the meeting line in a medical gadget manufacturing facility. “It’s in all probability going to be hectic.”
Final vacation season was definitely hectic. The variety of packages mailed by means of the Postal Service jumped 37% from the earlier yr’s peak because the pandemic pushed Individuals to do their Christmas procuring 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 stated it’s ready this time and plans to rent about 40,000 non permanent workers by means of the tip of the yr — a 33% improve from final yr.
The inspector basic for the Postal Service — which serves as an impartial company watchdog — prompt that could be onerous to drag off.
“Whereas the Postal Service was capable of rent its deliberate variety of non permanent workers final peak season, it fell quick the prior two years,” in accordance 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 additional time,” one rural mail provider in Florida who has labored on the company for 17 years wrote in response to a survey Public Integrity shared with USPS mail carriers.
A protracted-time mail provider in Chicago, who has been working 10 to twenty hours of additional time every week in the course of the pandemic, stated the wage theft remains to be taking place.
“They may steal from craft workers by altering their clock rings and discovering any variety of excuses to say that the additional time wasn’t wanted and shouldn’t have been paid,” he wrote in response to the survey.
The mail provider in Texas, in the meantime, stated he expects to get stiffed within the coming weeks. “It’s only a matter of when,” he stated.
Final vacation season, he needed to take out a $4,000 mortgage to pay his mortgage and different payments, he stated, as a result of one paycheck erroneously confirmed him working zero hours. He was ultimately repaid however stated the Postal Service didn’t reimburse him for the curiosity he paid on the mortgage. 
Getting paid again is a course of that normally takes 4 to 5 months after submitting a grievance with the postal union, he stated. That doesn’t rely 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.
Alexia Fernández Campbell is a senior reporter at Public Integrity. She will be reached at acampbell@publicintegrity.org. Comply with her on Twitter at @AlexiaCampbell.
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