All purchases and shipments that Americans have made in the past few weeks have flooded the system with what the USPS says is a “historic volume” of mail and packages.
“Packages go through the roof” in Philadelphia, Nick Casselli, local president of the American Post Union, told CNN. “I’ve been in the mail for 35 years, I’ve never seen what I’m seeing.”
He says there are so many new packages – more than 250,000 per day at the largest processing facility – that the USPS has opened a fourth annex just to store them all. There are so many packages arriving that postal workers are unable to process them in time, said Casselli.
But it’s not just Philadelphia that is dealing with the historic volume of packaging. Union presidents and postal workers in the United States – in Illinois, Michigan, California, Florida, Maine and New York – say they are also seeing record volumes of packages and back orders.
Efforts to clean up the backlog, they say, are being hampered by the increasing number of cases from Covid-19 and quarantined postal workers. There are now fewer employees to operate the machines to process the tsunami of correspondence and packages.
The USPS declined to disclose any statistics to CNN – regarding the volume of correspondence or quarantine rates for employee coronavirus – but APWU’s national president, Mark Dimondstein, confirmed to CNN that there are now more than 18,750 USPS employees in all the US on the quarantine list every day.
In comparison, there were about 8,000 on the daily quarantine list before Thanksgiving, he said.
The USPS grappled with these issues during the pandemic, but they have become what New York’s APWU President Jonathan Smith called “a perfect storm”.
“The United States Postal Service, similar to the broader shipping industry, continues to face short-term pressure on service performance across all categories, while managing a historic holiday volume record this season,” said the spokesman. USPS Kim Frum’s voice to CNN in a statement. “This negative impact is compounded by the lack of temporary staff due to the increase in COVID-19, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with air transport and trucks to move this historic volume of mail.”
These changes have already been reversed, but DeJoy signaled that they could return in 2021.
“It is not a perfect storm, it is a perfect mess.”
Although the USPS has some machines that can classify packages, a significant portion of packages fall into the “non-machinable” category, which means that they must be classified manually. When there is a massive flow of packages in the mail flow, a significant number of USPS employees may be required to process it.
A dramatic increase in positive Covid-19 cases – and quarantined employees due to exposure to the virus – is significantly limiting the processing power of the USPS to move the historic number of packages.
“It’s not a perfect storm, it’s a perfect mess,” Scott Adams, postman and Portland, local president of APWU of Maine, told CNN about the double punch to Covid-19’s stomach and the historic volume of packaging.
Keith Combs, president of APWU Detroit, told CNN that Covid-19 is spreading in the factories there “like wildfire”.
“[The Detroit processing facilities] are stuck; they can’t take any more packages right now, “said Combs.
In western New York, APWU postal worker and local president Lori Cash told CNN that mail processing has been significantly reduced because more than 400 employees – most of whom are mail processing – are quarantined. She said the region has about 6,000 employees.
“There was no one to operate the machines,” said Cash.
Los Angeles APWU President Dominic Davis says the USPS international service center in Los Angeles does not have enough staff available to quickly clear mail that is piled up to the doors.
All of this is translating into significant interruptions in the delivery of mail and Americans do not receive their packages or mail.
When drivers from southern Maine came to Philadelphia to pick up their mail, they were turned down, Adams said. The overloaded processing plant did not have packages for them because they had not yet been able to process them.
There are so many packages obstructing Philadelphia’s processing and distribution facilities, one of the largest in the US, that Casselli said it is not safe to work there. Combs described similar conditions at George W. Young’s processing and distribution facilities in Detroit.
Union presidents said there were dozens of tractor trailers – fully loaded with unprocessed packages and mail – parked outside processing facilities and in loading areas. Inside, the floors and corridors are lined with packages.
According to Cash, union members said the mail had to be diverted from Philadelphia to its already crowded processing facilities in western New York.
It also affected USPS stations, where courier carriers pick up their mail for the day, Cash and Combs said.
“We spent a few days with very little correspondence,” said Cash.
However, with time and manpower, Cash believes that postal workers are beginning to cause a significant reduction in the backlog of mail at the plant in western New York.
“We have processed more correspondence in the last few days than last week,” she said.
In an effort to clear the backlog, union presidents and postal workers told CNN that the USPS is using as much overtime as humanly possible. But it will take time.
“Amidst the historic volume, the postal service continues to make its network more flexible, including ensuring that the right equipment is available to classify, process and deliver a historic volume of correspondence and packages during this holiday season,” said Frum, spokesman. USPS voice.
“Our entire operations team, from collection, processing and delivery, worked throughout the past weekend and continues to work around the clock to meet the historic volume. We are accepting all the volume presented to us, which adds to our challenges. ”
Why the USPS is overloaded with packages
In the past few months, postal workers who spoke to CNN put the meteoric increase in package volume since the pandemic began in context, saying “every day is Christmas”.
Now that it’s the holiday season, the volume of packages has reached new heights – the USPS says it’s a record – because more people are buying online. Because of the pandemic, many families are sending gifts to family and friends on vacation, instead of traveling.
Even though private transportation companies like Amazon, UPS or FedEx handle a package, they often use the USPS to handle the “final mile” and actually deliver it to a customer. Unlike private companies, the USPS delivers to all addresses in the U.S.
Dimondstein, the president of APWU, says this shows how critical the country’s public mail system is. Unlike private carriers, they will collect and send all packages and mail.
But now accumulations are also increasing.
Cash said that in addition to all regular USPS mail and packages, FedEx is dropping more than 800 packages a day at the post office in western New York. They would normally receive about 200 a day.
Cash says she worked for the USPS for 22 years and has never seen anything like it.
FedEx and UPS also reported delays in shipments.
“Record high volumes of e-commerce orders, COVID 19 closings and weather events can cause delays in delivery,” says a banner on the FedEx website.