Nearly 19,000 of the agency’s 644,000 workers have called in sick or are isolating because of the virus, according to the American Postal Workers Union. Meanwhile, packages have stacked up inside some postal facilities, leading employees to push them aside to create narrow walkways on shop floors.
Some processing plants are now refusing to accept new mail shipments. The backlogs are so pronounced that some managers have reached out to colleagues in hopes of diverting mail shipments to nearby facilities. But often, those places are full, too. Meanwhile, packages sit on trucks for days waiting for floor space to open so the loads can be sorted.
“[Customers] are screaming, ‘Where’s my package? Why did it go to Jacksonville, Fla., when it’s going to Miami?’ " said Martin Ramirez, president of the APWU Local 170 in Ohio. “I can’t speak on that. I’ve never seen this before where these places are overflowing.”
The Postal Service’s busiest period for package deliveries, parcel volume was up 14 percent compared with the same period in 2019, the agency told mailing industry officials. That surge has employees in some areas working upward of 80 hours a week, including some who have worked every day since Thanksgiving without a weekend. In Philadelphia, people are scheduled to work December 25th, said one mail carrier, who like others in this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.
The agency is receiving as many as 6 million packages a day since FedEx and UPS enacted restrictions on large-volume retail shippers in early December, according to industry tracking firm ShipMatrix. For the week of Dec. 6, FedEx delivered 93.9 percent of its parcels on time, UPS delivered 96.1 percent, and the Postal Service, 87.5 percent. The agency’s drop in performance compared with the previous two-week period held up more than 3.5 million parcels by one or more days.
No parcels are moving at all,” said one postal worker in Michigan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “As bad as you think it is, it’s worse.”
While the perfect storm of crises is likely to delay millions of gifts and greeting cards, other more essential items, including prescription medications, bills and benefits checks also may be stuck in limbo. Mailing industry officials expressed worry that vaccine deliveries from private shipping companies could displace other packages and overwhelm parts of the mail system.