Let’s talk about the Elephant in the room

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Elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.[2] It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.

Rural carriers just came out of another Christmas Overtime period.  That is basically the only time of year where a rural carrier would be eligible for overtime pay.  One might think that since it is Christmas, and there are a lot more packages, that some overtime might be expected.

Sounds right to me, but it does not actually work that way.  Rural carriers basically spend almost a month every year being rushed and pressured to avoid getting overtime.  All of this, while at the same time the USPS brags about this holiday season being the “Best Holiday Season Ever“. They recently reported on the “News Link”  page that packages services volume increased by 244 million pieces in 2012 compared to 2011.



Scan through the rural carrier message boards and the majority of posts about Christmas are from rural carriers who are being rushed and pressured to finish under their evaluation even with the added Christmas volume.  As the Rural Christmas Overtime period approaches the USPS goes into overdrive with telecons, emails, and stand up talks. The hours are tracked online and any overtime or aux help has to be  “justified” and then “approved” by someone higher up the pay scale.  By the time it is over rural carriers are walking wounded bundles of stress.  It takes the spirit out of our holidays and our families end up suffering for it.

Imagine my disgust when I came across this article on Postalmag.com  about City Carrier overtime at the USPS. Just this small paragraph is enough to make a rural carrier’s blood boil after what we just went through.

And overtime seems to be through the roof. On this Monday in question, one of the carriers who was working on their off day worked 16 hours! That’s about $600 for one carrier on one day. That’s lawyer pay. And most all the carriers at my post office seem to be working 10-12 hours 6 days a week.

Of course it is not the fault of the carriers.  They are out there trying to get the mail out just like rural carriers are, but it seems the USPS looks at their overtime in a whole different light as they do rural overtime.  City carriers can get overtime all year-long.  Rural carriers only have 1 month per year they are eligible for overtime, yet one hour of overtime for a rural carrier during the Christmas Overtime period can throw a manager into cardiac arrest!  What is wrong with this picture?

The pencil pushers at the USPS must not be keeping their pencils sharp enough because they are more worried about the mouse in the room than they are the elephant!

And also from Postalmag.com, lets look at this article from August 2012:

According to the National Payroll Hours Summary Report Pay Period 18 – FY 2012 (August 11 – August 24, 2012), the USPS used 187,678 hours of Penalty Overtime at a cost of $9,903,460 for the two-week pay period. The average hourly rate for this overtime was $52.77. This brings the year-to-date Penalty Overtime usage to 3,126,746 hours, costing the USPS $164,457,454 at an average hourly rate of $52.60.

Letter carriers were the benefactors of a majority of the Penalty Overtime, working 130,437 hours for the two-week pay period and a total of 1,995,527 hours so far this year.

I wish someone could explain it to me because I can’t seem to get it to sink in.  It seems that our small window of overtime eligibility is a drop in the bucket compared to the overtime in the other USPS crafts. I could understand it if they were doing it to save money but that can’t be what it is about or we would not have city carriers making lawyer pay.

Hello!  L’Enfant plaza We have a problem!


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139 Comments on "Let’s talk about the Elephant in the room"

September 5, 2014

Lot of jealousy and hate going on in this old thread. I see pluses and minuses to each craft. I don’t know much about city carriers being that I am rural in a 2 route office. I only wish the post office treated all employees fairly. I have been an aux route for 16 years, 6 days a week 39 eval hours per week and I am not considered career or full time? No health or life insurance, no option to join a 401k or no paid holidays. I’m not sure how many employees in either craft would put up with it but it is a job with a short commute and decent pay.

Chris C
July 26, 2014

With those few exceptions that we craft workers have seen…USPS management tends to be inept and in general does more harm than good. The majority of craft workers: rural carriers, city carriers, mail handlers bust ass and earn every penny they are paid.

As a long-term city carrier I personally would welcome the two carrier unions joining forces.
There is strength in numbers…As an example, perhaps the carriers could unite and obtain the same hourly pay and get universal start times in the neighborhood of 0630. Equal pay and we all get off mid-afternoon.

Bickering among the crafts is great for postal management–divide and conquer, the oldest trick in the book.

January 9, 2014

yikes! I was thinking of going full time…

March 31, 2013

just because postal management is allowed to steal our money during xmas, is not a reason to junk a system that works very well for a majority of rural carriers. It is reason to look at the union and say WTF!?

It is a reason to negotiate fairness, but personally I enjoy salary over hourly because most of the year, i beat my evaluation times, even WITH the changes in the formulas. What we need is a Union that has some teeth and actually hires lawyers that can fix these problems, instead of a Union that every single time comes back from bargaining with the apologies and explanations of how they fought a hard and good fight.

February 11, 2013

No Kathy. Rural carrier were never part of the NALC. It is true that city carriers USED to be able to bid on rural routes over rural subs, but that changed back in the mid 70s. I know, I was working at that time. The route I was a sub on at the time, was awarded to the last city carrier to go rural in our office. I subbed for him for a few years, while also working an aux route, before making regular in 1980.