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Hickenlooper, Pettersen, Bennet, Neguse Push USPS to Improve Mail Issues

Jan 3, 2024

Problems with workforce retention, disorganized mail processing, and slow delivery in mountain communities found in new report

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper and Representative Brittany Pettersen, along with Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse sent a letter urging the United States Postal Service (USPS) Postmaster General DeJoy to take immediate action to resolve persistent delivery issues across Colorado. The letter comes in response to a USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit of 13 Colorado mountain towns which revealed egregious problems with staffing, disorganized and inefficient mail processing, and delivery services.

“The OIG’s findings clearly demonstrate the need to take immediate and substantial action to ensure that our communities are properly served by USPS,”
wrote Hickenlooper, Pettersen, Bennet, and Neguse. “It is unacceptable to not see improvements on these long-standing issues, but it is even more alarming during the holiday season.”

To address issues the OIG’s report confirmed, Hickenlooper, Pettersen, Bennet, and Neguse urged USPS to adopt OIG’s recommendations to

  • Assess the impacts of post office work environments on workers

  • Explore the feasibility of increasing workers’ compensation

  • Create and expand access to training for workers of all levels

  • Establish proper oversight of mail processing and delivery to ensure changes are made to mail routes, transportation schedules, and mail sorting processes

In their letter, the members emphasized issues with hiring and staff retention, highlighting the audit’s finding that USPS facilities struggled to retain workers, even in the first few months of a new employees’ tenure, and called on USPS to implement OIG’s recommendations on improvements to work environment and worker’s compensation, arguing that these two factors are essential to addressing staffing shortages in mountain towns.

This letter is part of a continued effort by Hickenlooper, Pettersen, Bennet, and Neguse to resolve long-standing USPS issues in Colorado. In February, Hickenlooper and Bennet invited Postmaster Louis DeJoy to tour a USPS facility in Colorado to see firsthand the ongoing service and delivery challenges that Coloradans experienced. In March, the senators met with DeJoy in person to discuss their concerns.

Full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

Dear Postmaster General DeJoy —

On December 6, the United States Postal Service (USPS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) published the results of their audit of delivery, operations, and customer service in 13 Colorado municipalities. The audit’s results reinforced the concerns our offices have heard from many of our Colorado communities, most notably about workforce shortages and delivery issues. Constituents in our mountain communities rely on USPS for critical services such as delivery of medications and bills year-round, and during the holiday season it is especially important that we all work together to ensure timely mail delivery. The OIG’s findings clearly demonstrate the need to take immediate and substantial action to ensure that our communities are properly served by USPS.

The OIG’s report illuminates many issues our offices have previously raised, including:

  • Packages being delivered to the incorrect location, wrongly returned to the sender, or erroneously held at the post office;
  • Significantly slower delivery speeds in mountain towns compared to other Colorado communities,
  • Ineffective transportation schedules and lack of sufficient mail-sorting equipment at facilities; and
  • Personnel recruitment and retention challenges at facilities.

This last point is of particular concern: 12 of the 13 delivery units included in the report were understaffed throughout the auditing period, and, alarmingly, at least four facilities were understaffed for the entire 43 weeks of the audit. The report highlighted that post offices struggled to retain personnel, even in the first few months of a new employees’ tenure. Further, the audit underscored that no USPS workers in our Colorado mountain communities receive increased wages from locality pay or a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which could be beneficial to USPS recruiting and retaining workers in Colorado mountain towns where hiring is extremely competitive and housing is often cost prohibitive.

It is unacceptable to not see improvements on these long-standing issues, but it is even more alarming during the holiday season. We appreciate that the USPS has committed to adopting 7 of 10 recommendations; however, we urge you to continue working with the OIG to address recommendations 1, 2, and 5 outlined in the report. Specifically, we urge USPS to continue to work with and adopt OIG’s recommendations to assess the effects of USPS work environments on workers, explore the feasibility of increasing personnel pay based on locality for Colorado mountain towns, and require Postmaster training for any individual serving as postmaster. The cost of living in these mountain towns has increased substantially, and the hourly pay of USPS has not kept up with the cost of living in these areas. Each of these recommendations are critically important to improving USPS recruitment and retention of workers, and we urge the USPS to continue working with the OIG to address these recommendations.

We also agree with each of the additional eight OIG recommendations that USPS has committed to adopting. We are especially pleased to see USPS accept OIG’s recommendation to create, and expand access to, professional development training for workers at all levels. This will help address several issues, including mail delivery delays. The OIG’s report found examples of workers who did not know how to report mail delays and managers who failed to address mail processing discrepancies. Specifically, in Steamboat Springs, the OIG found that managers were not adequately trained to adjust to changes in mail delivery routes. These issues exacerbated delivery delays or resulted in mail being returned to the sender. We believe all USPS employees, but particularly managers, must have access to training that empower them to successfully fulfill their responsibility and prevent errors such as these in the future.

In addition, we agree with OIG’s recommendation to establish and maintain appropriate transparency systems for mail processing and delivery. The OIG report found that in several instances, internal post office management within the district did not conduct appropriate oversight to ensure changes were made to mail routes, transportation schedules, or mail sorting processes. We believe that creating space for healthy managerial oversight will ensure responsible and timely mail delivery by USPS. We urge you to create effective mail monitoring systems that support strong mail delivery while protecting worker rights.

As the USPS continues implementation of the OIG’s recommendations by April 30, 2024, we stand by our commitment to work with USPS to identify legislative solutions that will help sustain progress. Earlier this year, you agreed to provide a list of USPS workforce policy priorities that require Congressional action. To date, we have not received that list. We ask that, no later than January 31, 2024, USPS provide the list of policy priorities and legislative proposals to our staff.

USPS provides essential service to every American family and the businesses that drive our economy. It is therefore critical that USPS resolve the operational and workforce issues that were highlighted by the OIG’s audit report. We look forward to seeing the timely implementation of the OIG’s recommendations, and to receiving more information about how Congress can successfully partner with USPS in the future.



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