Rural Mail Carriers Hold Picket in Bemidji to Protest Working Conditions
United States Postal Service rural carriers held a picket and symbolic strike outside of the Bemidji post office to raise awareness about their work environment and concerns about delivering mail to the community.
Rural mail carriers say this symbolic strike is necessary because they are short-staffed and unable to perform their jobs from being forced to work 12-hour shifts, while also delivering branches for Amazon.
“Our local district manager has told us that Amazon packages have priority over the U.S. mail, so we have to make sure that every Amazon package gets out every single day even if we cannot deliver the mail, so we have some mail routes that have not have mail delivered in three, four, five, six days,” explained rural carrier Dennis Nelson. “And the U.S. mail is concerned an essential service, Amazon parcels are not.”
The purpose of the picket was to let the community know what’s happening behind the scenes as carriers work to get packages and mail delivered. With a shortage of staff, they say people aren’t getting their packages when they’re supposed to.
“The number one thing is that they have to hire. There have been no hires in a long time, and with retirements, people quitting, we have mail routes that there’s nobody to run,” said Nelson. “The number two thing, is that if Amazon is now the priority for the Postal Service, then we should not be considered essential employees anymore, and we need the right to strike. And by Congressional mandate, by being an essential government agency, we don’t have the right to strike, which means our union has no power when it comes to negotiations, and that’s why we’re in the situation we are now. Nothing’s going to change until our union has the right to strike.”
Rural area carriers say that with being understaffed and overworked, they cannot get their assignments done properly and are being set up for failure by management.
“It was obviously a long time coming,” said Nelson. “And we don’t have a problem doing the Amazon deliveries, but when you don’t have the staff to do it, we’ve pretty much been set up for failure by higher management, and then when we do fail, which was inevitable, we’re being treated with our jobs. So we’re trying to protest and let people know that this is not an acceptable situation.”
Desai Abdul-Razzaaq with USPS Corporate Communications gave a statement regarding the symbolic strike, saying “We respect our employees’ rights to express their opinions and participate in informational picketing while off the clock.”
The rural carriers say that today they’ll be picketing out in front of the Bemidji post office once again.