Postal Problems

While unions are at times beneficial, one recent report on the United States Postal Service is an example of the unintended consequences of over-unionization. According to the story, the Post Office, due to union rules, has been paying several employees to sit around and do nothing.

The reports notes the following:

Now, postal officials say, the agency is averaging about 45,000 hours of standby time every week — the equivalent of having 1,125 full-time employees sitting idle, at a cost of more than $50 million per year. … a thicket of union rules prevents managers from laying off excess employees; a recent agreement with the unions, in fact, temporarily prevents the Postal Service from even reassigning them to other facilities that could use them. So they sit — some for a few hours, others for entire shifts. Postal union officials estimate some 15,000 employees have spent time on standby this year.

The report notes that not even the postal employees are happy about the situation as, in some cases, they are not even allowed to be productive:

One mail handler in Pennsylvania said a supervisor used to force employees on standby time to read postal manuals. “The local union shop filed a grievance against the Postal Service,” said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous because of concerns about retaliation. “We’re on standby time, not training time. Standby time is different. … You can’t make people read training materials on standby time.”
In the meantime, moves have been made to bailout the Post Office because of its financial troubles — it is looking at a $7 billion deficit just this year. If one wonders why this heavily unionized, monopoly of a business is failing to turn a profit, part of the answer, besides the decreasing use of letters, is these non-sensical labor practices.

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