2020 was a tough year for everybody. It was a tough year for postal workers, all postal workers, for reasons that may be obvious, or not so obvious.
I said 2020 was a tough year for everybody, but that’s not strictly true. It’s been a great year for Jeff Bezos and any other Amazon investors. Amazon’s business has surged as people, stuck at home, ordered online to be safe and avoid spreading the coronavirus. The USPS is Amazon’s “last mile” delivery service, a contract that helps keep the Post Office solvent*, and means they became responsible for hundred of millions of packages in 2020.
In recent years, private shipping companies have stopped guaranteeing delivery for everyone but qualified customers. This has diverted packages to other shippers (like the Post office). According to CNBC, over six million packages were diverted from UPS/FedEx and the like to the USPS in 2020.
In May, 2020, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General of the United States. DeJoy had two major qualifications for this important position; in 2016 he donated $1.2 million to the Trump campaign and over $1 million to the GOP, (Wave to Citizens United, everyone!), and, starting in 1992 the company of which DeJoy was CEO got no-bid contracts for some work with the USPS, a contract which the General Accounting Office determined overcharged US taxpayer by $53 million over a period of years.
As Postmaster General, DeJoy immediately suspended overtime, cancelled late delivery, and began removing mail sorting machines and neighborhood dropboxes. After these actions brought a Congressional and Inspector General investigation, DeJoy stopped them in August, and ultimately reversed them, but those bad choices obviously left the USPS with a backlog of mail.
Then came November, when a record number of people voted, and for safety’s sake, a record number voted by mail. Beginning in September, Donald Trump began bellowing falsehoods about the “safety” of mail-in voting, making up stories about bags of ballots (only ballots, apparently) found “by the river,” slandering and libeling postal workers. In the weeks after the election, Trump supporters appeared in front of state houses and on TV, having signed affidavits saying they saw “bad stuff,” which most turned out to be… mail carriers picking up or delivering mail.
In December, the Post Office’s busiest month, the Postal Service has 19,000 people off work nationally because of the coronavirus. That’s 3% of the workforce.
That’s the year the Post Office had.
In my neighborhood, the carriers were delivering mail well past dark. In the three weeks before Christmas, they were running two deliveries, one for packages and one for first-class mail. It was obvious that some of these carriers were fill-in carriers… which often means you take part of another carrier’s route after you finish your own. At least they were getting overtime as they trudged through unfamiliar neighborhoods in the dark trying to deliver mail.
So, before the year ends, I want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you to drivers, sorters, warehouse people, counter people, supervisors, postmasters, carriers, rural route carriers and fill-ins. Thanks to all of you for delivering our life-saving medicines and our magazines, our catalogues and our bills (and maybe, still our paychecks), our holiday gifts and cards. Thank you. You provide a service I’ve grown up with, and I often took for granted. If 2020 has shown me anything, it’s that I can take nothing for granted, and I won’t take you for granted anymore. Thank you again.
*I won’t use up the space here. See Comments, where I have a link to a good article about why the Post Offices seems to run in the red. There’s a reason [cough]politics[cough]