MINNEAPOLIS — “We deserve to have our lives back!” chanted some 150 members of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 9, family members and supporters outside the main post office here April 2. They’re demanding an end to forced overtime and an increase in the workforce. The union has been negotiating for a new contract since Feb. 22.
“Staffing, safety, and service — Letter carriers need a raise,” read the banner workers spoke in front of, describing the shortage of workers that has resulted in large amounts of forced overtime. Days can last 12 or 14 hours, and workweeks can range from 60 to 80 hours and beyond. Normal days off are regularly canceled, with carriers scheduled six and sometimes seven days a week — enforced with threats of discipline.
“The hours are really rough on families when you don’t get time off work,” letter carrier Latham Luepke told the Militant. “I worry about him all the time,” said his wife, Ty, who joined the picket, “being outside in this winter weather 12 hours a day.”
Carrier Ben Noble said the long hours make the work even more dangerous than it already is. On-the-job injuries have increased.
Holding an “End mandatory overtime” sign, Andy Olufson said, “Just to get a paycheck, you shouldn’t have to put yourself in a meat grinder.” He said he just got engaged. “If I hadn’t been able to get on eight hours, I wouldn’t have been dateable.”
This staffing shortage impacts the service to the public. Carrier Pete Schilling said there are routes in his West Edina station that are only delivered once a week. Customers regularly complain of delayed and missing mail.
Management’s answer was to impose a so-called golden hour rule, where carriers aren’t allowed to speak to each other for the first hour of work, a move to speed up production. Carriers that break the rule are harassed.