Politicians’ pressure fails to speed up holiday mail delivery

The postal service anticipates lots of letters to Santa this time of year. But this Christmas the USPS has also been inundated with letters from members of Congress, who put the agency on their naughty list.

Complaints over the unreliability of mail delivery steadily pile up in congressional offices, peaking around the holidays. So ’tis the season for elected officials to aggressively demand the postal service shape up immediately, or else, and publicize their indignation in media outlets like the Brainerd Dispatch.

“The Postal Service management has asked me to take their word over the words of Minnesotans.  I believe Minnesotans,” [Democratic Minnesota Senator Tina] Smith said in a news release. “This week, I have heard from postal workers and their families in Minnesota, and their testimonies are heart-wrenching.  I stand with these workers and every Minnesotan who relies on the Postal Service to meet its own standards for delivery.”

“The mail delays in Bemidji and across Minnesota are unacceptable and demand a response,” added [Democratic Senator Amy] Klobuchar. “I will continue to push the Postal Service to resolve the delays for Minnesotans.”

It’s far from the first time Minnesota’s senators and other members of the congressional delegation have gotten tough on paper with the USPS. It’s becoming something of a Christmas tradition.

“The welfare of our constituents and the integrity of postal service operations are of utmost importance,” [Republican Minnesota Congressman Pete] Stauber wrote in his letter. “Reports of alleged prioritization of certain third-party packages over essential mail, such as medications, bills, and paychecks, are of serious concern. Moreover, the reports of employees working without adequate benefits and fair compensation are deeply troubling. Our dedicated postal workers deserve better treatment and fair employment conditions as they tirelessly serve our communities.”

In fact, the deterioration of postal service and standards became apparent during the pandemic and never recovered. The longer the post office’s problems persist, the more likely it appears staffing shortages and unreliable service may be the new normal.

The [USPS] response also claims that the Postal Service’s Minnesota-North Dakota District has undertaken the necessary preparations to withstand the influx of holiday mail, yet in a letter dated Dec. 4, 2023, they state the district has fully hired only 24 employees of 112 vacancies for seasonal work. And those vacancies do not take into account the numerous positions opening every week when people choose to quit or retire early rather than continue to face these unsustainable circumstances. In rural areas, the district is currently only staffed at 60%.

There’s little indication lawmakers’ periodic letters demanding service improvements have been any more effective than their youngest constituents’ letters to the North Pole. All of a sudden the old, inefficient yet reliable, post office looks pretty good in hindsight.