Post Office has thousands of workers paid for … not working

posted at 3:35 pm on September 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Last week, Democrats on Capitol Hill pushed forward with a $4 billion bailout of the US Postal Service, which continues to lose money while business declines.  One reason that the Post Office has such a large deficit may be their labor practices.  The Federal Times reported earlier this month that the USPS pays out an average of 45,000 hours per week of “standby time,” where literally postal employees sit around and do nothing:

The U.S. Postal Service, struggling with a massive deficit caused by plummeting mail volume, spends more than a million dollars each week to pay thousands of employees to sit in empty rooms and do nothing.

It’s a practice called “standby time,” and it has existed for years — but postal employees say it was rarely used until this year. 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.

Mail volume is down 12.6 percent compared with last year, and many postal supervisors simply don’t have enough work to keep all employees busy. But 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.

And let’s not forget — ObamaCare will be just like the Post Office!

If nothing reveals the inefficiency of government or government-subsidized operations, this should.  Under the rules, the Post Office cannot shift employees to other facilities; they have to hire new workers in one place while workers sit idle in another.  Small wonder that the USPS finds itself in a multibillion-dollar hole.

How do the employees like it?  They don’t:

“It’s just a small, empty room. … It’s awful,” said one mail processing clerk who has spent four weeks on standby time this summer. “Most of us bring books, word puzzles. Sometimes we just sleep.”

Employees interviewed said they hate the practice, which relegates them to hours of boredom each day. Postal managers don’t like it, either — but they say declining mail volume makes it necessary. …

Employees are often forbidden from doing almost anything while on standby time. In some facilities, the employees aren’t allowed to do anything they couldn’t normally do on the job. That means no books, no playing cards, no watching television.

Maybe the government should have borrowed them for the Cash for Clunkers program, eh?


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The equivalent of the “Bench” the UAW got with the Big 3. Bravo unions!!!

WashJeff on September 30, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Could be worse… they could have fired people.

That never goes over well at the USPS.

teke184 on September 30, 2009 at 3:38 PM

teke184 on September 30, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Good point! I cannot recall a postal shooting in the last few years. Must be the “stand-by” time.

WashJeff on September 30, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Gosh it’s just horrible to get paid while doing nothing. It’s awful they say.

Ridiculous.

The Calibur on September 30, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Newman!

Fletch54 on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Who needs to be competitive when you constantly get bailed out?

PatriotRider on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Post Office has thousands of workers paid for … not working

Uh…this is a headline? I think it would be more descriptive to say:

“Postal workers no longer faking it”

BobMbx on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Unions and federal government overseeing.

What could go wrong?

Hening on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Good point! I cannot recall a postal shooting in the last few years. Must be the “stand-by” time.

So um… Money well spent then?

rihar on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

My ex’s uncle works for the USPS. His wife didn’t work, and yet he was able to afford a large house with a pool, 4 new cars with insurance, nice vacations, etc.

They make too much d*mn money. And now they make too much to do nothing!

It’s insane!

ladyingray on September 30, 2009 at 3:42 PM

But 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.

Thus we have the end-user part of “stimulus”. These are the “thousands of jobs” that have been saved.

BobMbx on September 30, 2009 at 3:43 PM

They could be licking envelopes and doing mailings for the One. Apology notes to the world.I notice the non union Fed Ex contracts to move a lot of mail.

seven on September 30, 2009 at 3:43 PM

they’ve already had a bailout.

it’s called NetFlix

negentropy on September 30, 2009 at 3:44 PM

Who needs to be competitive when you constantly get bailed out?

PatriotRider on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

With the debt we are accumulating, eventually all these entities getting bailouts today will have to compete for bailouts tomorrow. So competition will come someday.

WashJeff on September 30, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Unions = insanity

journeyscarab on September 30, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Doesn’t sound like much of a perk, sitting around the whole day with means to kill time. Surprising no one has gone postal yet from the excruciating boredom.

year_of_the_dingo on September 30, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Yeah, but the USPS is necessary in order to keep UPS and Fed-Ex honest.

Daggett on September 30, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Gots to love them unions. Theys is all bout efficiency.

jukin on September 30, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Workers on standby time, and yet the customer service stations are understaffed.

ICBM on September 30, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Newman!

Fletch54 on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Ha! You beat me to it!

CP on September 30, 2009 at 3:47 PM

This is a preview of Obamacare.

Enjoy it liberals, you pined for it, you got it.

Spiritk9 on September 30, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Employees interviewed said they hate the practice, which relegates them to hours of boredom each day.

Tell it to your union leaders. Aren’t they supposed to be working for you?

rbj on September 30, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Do Post Office workers have Internet porn access?

tarpon on September 30, 2009 at 3:49 PM

I´m an American. I live in Spain. The last two business packages sent to us,from LA to Madrid,via USPS was delivered by….drumroll…FEDERAL EXPRESS!! I kid you not Ed, They´re paying their COMPETITION to deliver the packages. Jesus.

james hooker on September 30, 2009 at 3:50 PM

Yeah, but the USPS is necessary in order to keep UPS and Fed-Ex honest.

Daggett on September 30, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Yup. If those people weren’t sitting around doing nothing, UPS would jack up their prices so only rich people would be able to ship packages.

mankai on September 30, 2009 at 3:50 PM

They keep them on stand-by until needed on April 15th – Tax Day!

TN Mom on September 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

All I really want is for my mail to come at about the same time every day. Sometimes it comes at 10 am and other days not until 5 pm.

myrenovations on September 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Yet 1 counter out of 10 are open at any given time.

lorien1973 on September 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

But 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.

Here’s a crazy thought. Instead of forcing the taxpayers to bail them out for $4 billion, how about renegotiating the union contracts and fire some of the damn people?!

It’s this same “logic” that was applied to GM and Chrysler that resulted in tens of billions of taxpayer dollars being pissed away just so the unions could avoid the prospect of bankruptcy.

Doughboy on September 30, 2009 at 3:52 PM

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.

If it costs over $50 million for 45,000 hours of standby time per week, or 2.34 million hours per year, the average salary for these lazy do-nothings is OVER $21.37 per hour.

A lot of unemployed Americans would just LOVE to do nothing for $21.37 per hour.

When will the USPS pay my late fees when I mail checks to pay bills 10 days before the due date, and the checks don’t get there on time? Couldn’t these “bystanders” get MY check in the mail?

Steve Z on September 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

The dealers checks would still be “in the mail”.

djaymick on September 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

Yeah, but the USPS is necessary in order to keep UPS and Fed-Ex honest.

Daggett on September 30, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Yep, because staying in business and making a profit never motivated any company. Only competition from a government-subsidized competitor can do that.

AZCoyote on September 30, 2009 at 3:53 PM

I have bought one book of stamps in the past year and a half….I send all my bills and letters by email, except to Grandma.

HornetSting on September 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Yet 1 counter out of 10 are open at any given time.

lorien1973 on September 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Good one! How many hours do people lose standing in line waiting for one postal clerk, while others “stand by”?

Steve Z on September 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM

the logic behind this is mind boggling…

cmsinaz on September 30, 2009 at 3:56 PM

If it fits, it ships!,
If it fips, it…(never mind!)

Steve Z on September 30, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Newman!

Fletch54 on September 30, 2009 at 3:41 PM

LOLOLOL

cmsinaz on September 30, 2009 at 3:56 PM

They keep them on stand-by until needed on April 15th – Tax Day!

TN Mom on September 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Yet another reason to revamp the tax code…fair/flat tax anyone?

HornetSting on September 30, 2009 at 3:56 PM

I’m sorry, but just what the hell good does a union do in the 21st century? Are the benefits worth the cost?

Free Constitution on September 30, 2009 at 3:58 PM

Neither rain, snow, nor gloom of night can stop me from voting the spendocrats out of office in 2010.

Cut the waste in 2010

TN Mom on September 30, 2009 at 3:59 PM

A lot of unemployed Americans would just LOVE to do nothing for $21.37 per hour.

When will the USPS pay my late fees when I mail checks to pay bills 10 days before the due date, and the checks don’t get there on time? Couldn’t these “bystanders” get MY check in the mail?

Yeah, no kidding. As an unemployed American myself, I could use *any* job that pays that much. Heck, there are positions in my field (legal) that pay less than that, including those positions that I’ve had so far.

Btw, try paying as many of your bills online as possible. Call the merchants you do business with to find out the procedures for doing so.

Byzantine on September 30, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Yet another reason to revamp the tax code…fair/flat tax anyone?

HornetSting on September 30, 2009 at 3:56 PM

I’ll call Rangel, maybe he can help us revamp the tax code..

TN Mom on September 30, 2009 at 4:00 PM

The cure: A Single-Deliverer System

mankai on September 30, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Time to apply for a govt. job and milk the gravy train!

I figure if I end up moving out to CO and get paid not to work, I can ski 4-5 months a year with a season pass.

Now do you still have to show up for work and then not work, or can I not work from home?

jhffmn on September 30, 2009 at 4:01 PM

You can’t fight Big Letter.

LibTired on September 30, 2009 at 4:04 PM

Just imagine our health care system being run like this. Then we have a natural disaster, or a terrorist attack, or a flu epidemic that is centered in one or two major cities. The union rules will prevent medical personnel from being reassigned from unaffected areas to the areas in need. People will die.

Think this can’t happen? Hahahaha. Hide and watch.

rockmom on September 30, 2009 at 4:04 PM

I’m sorry, but just what the hell good does a union do in the 21st century? Are the benefits worth the cost?

Free Constitution on September 30, 2009 at 3:58 PM

To the unions, it’s usually worth it. Although even that’s not always the case lately. There were those teachers recently who lost their jobs because the union heads refused to renegotiate their pay.

As for everyone else, it’s definitely not worth it. And it’s reaching a point where the unions have so much pull with the government that we’re all getting screwed for their financial and political gain. Hell, we have a President who’s willing to risk a trade war with China just to throw the unions a bone.

Doughboy on September 30, 2009 at 4:04 PM

The post office is one of the top employers of black people. The government will not be called racists by laying off anyone, ya hear!?!?!?!?

/preemptive strike

SouthernGent on September 30, 2009 at 4:05 PM

And now remember, they want to stop working on Saturdays as well.

NCJeff on September 30, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Maybe Kevin Costner can make a movie about a bunch of postal workers just sitting around…?

Seven Percent Solution on September 30, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Cannot bring a book? I would do it anyway. What are they going to do? Fire me?

jsulman on September 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Do Post Office workers have Internet porn access?
tarpon on September 30, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Nope. Just brown unmarked envelopes.

bloviator on September 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM

They would have work to do if they hadn’t removed hundreds of thousands of mailboxes!

corona on September 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Their lack of work is partly my fault: I canceled subscriptions to Time, Newsweek, US News & World Reprt, O (Oprah)…

TN Mom on September 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Sounds much like a UAW contract

Kini on September 30, 2009 at 4:07 PM

Why pay bills by mail when you can pay online.

jaboba on September 30, 2009 at 4:08 PM

I’ll call Rangel, maybe he can help us revamp the tax code..

TN Mom on September 30, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Rangel has declared a personal exemption from financial accountability.

ICBM on September 30, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Nope. Just brown unmarked envelopes.

bloviator on September 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Huh, I always wondered why apple marketed thier notebook’s ability to fit in an evelope. I was wondering, why that was a selling point.

Moble porn devices for USPS workers.

jhffmn on September 30, 2009 at 4:11 PM

Gubment run business at its best. 45,000 of them standing around and I can’t get my mail before 4 pm. WTF!!!!!

milwife88 on September 30, 2009 at 4:11 PM

Taxpayer dollars going to bail out an “industry” with people not working. Great!

shick on September 30, 2009 at 4:13 PM

Not only that but there are some that don’t even want to truly work. When my wife and I was back in Ohio we had a postman that wouldn’t deliver our mail if he couldn’t his little truck right up against the curb. If he had to get out of his truck to deliver the mail, he wouldn’t even bother and just went on to the next house.

MobileVideoEngineer on September 30, 2009 at 4:14 PM

I´m an American. I live in Spain. The last two business packages sent to us,from LA to Madrid,via USPS was delivered by….drumroll…FEDERAL EXPRESS!! I kid you not Ed, They´re paying their COMPETITION to deliver the packages. Jesus.

james hooker on September 30, 2009 at 3:50 PM

It goes both ways. USPS also delivers some Fedex packaging. Both companies like the arrangement and it is beneficial to both.

BierManVA on September 30, 2009 at 4:15 PM

I had to visit a local post office last Thursday in Richmond. And it wasn’t one of the small ones either. At 4:30, there was only 1 person working in the front, but I could hear and sometimes glimpse others wandering around in the back. At one point, there were 12 people in line. I needed one measly stamp for a square envelope that required extra postage, but since there wasn’t an automatic stamp machine, I was forced to stand in line. It took nearly 20 minutes. Besides the poor service, the place was filthy, tiles were coming off the floor, trash was on the counters, shelves which normally held envelopes for sale were empty, and the one person working the front looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there.

And people wonder why we don’t want government run health care.

behiker on September 30, 2009 at 4:16 PM

European socialism, light.

Schadenfreude on September 30, 2009 at 4:19 PM

They could get rid of a BUNCH of workers if they offered a monetary incentive to retire. They have offered several rounds of early outs (I took one of them), but these mandated cuts in pay for those that took it. The Office of Personnel Management allows incentives of up to $25,000. If they did this, they would get not only early retirements, but a LOT of people already eligible would jump on it and go. I know that a lot of people are just hanging on, hoping and praying for an incentive. Most people have bills that they would need to pay off before they could afford to retire. The costs of the incentives would be made up very quickly.

The postal service is VERY top heavy, way too many people in mangement and administration.

darwin-t on September 30, 2009 at 4:23 PM

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.

$50 million?
Pffft
That’s just a rounding error to the gov’mint.

VibrioCocci on September 30, 2009 at 4:23 PM

Disgusting. The unions are killin’ us.

dogsoldier on September 30, 2009 at 4:24 PM

It sounds like the postal union has taken a page from the UAW’s book. Unions should “go away”. They cause nothing but problems and don’t help the workers. They should be required to stop this practice before the next postal rate increase.

duff65 on September 30, 2009 at 4:24 PM

The postal service is VERY top heavy, way too many people in mangement and administration.

darwin-t on September 30, 2009 at 4:23 PM

Sounds like the story of just about any government administration.

VibrioCocci on September 30, 2009 at 4:25 PM

the agency is averaging about 45,000 hours of standby time every week

Are these the same people who are pan-handling outside?

PappaMac on September 30, 2009 at 4:26 PM

Will Obama still use the Postal Service as one of those Government Programs that is a Shinning Example of effeciency?

PappaMac on September 30, 2009 at 4:28 PM

So the post office is losing money because of decline in business. But every freaking time i go there i wait on a line thats almost out the door. WTF

Greed on September 30, 2009 at 4:29 PM

“Obama “Goes Postal” on Health Care Plan; Appoints “Strong-Willed” Former Mail Worker to Head Health Services Panel” http://optoons.blogspot.com/2009/08/obama-goes-postal-on-health-care-plan.html

Mervis Winter on September 30, 2009 at 4:30 PM

The contracts have a “no layoff” clause for people with at least 6 years seniority. There are steps they could do to reduce their rolls including a “Reduction in Workforce”, but for some reason they don’t want to do it.

darwin-t on September 30, 2009 at 4:30 PM

I go to my main post office and they are in the back with a huge line out front. Maybe they have one or two working with a five window set-up. So those people who reported for duty are getting paid but aren’t doing anything while they are work!

When will the revolution begin?

wepeople on September 30, 2009 at 4:35 PM

I just figured it out and that’s equivalent of almost $45,000 a year for just sitting at home waiting for a call.

Now that’s about what I make and right now I’m not very busy at the moment, but I’m still in the office and I’d rather be busy because it’s boring just sitting here without any form of entertainment besides Hotair. Don’t get me wrong I love Hotair, but it’s been slow recently and mix that with work being slow and it makes for LOOOONG days. A tv would be nice or less blocks on the computer here at work.

MobileVideoEngineer on September 30, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Maybe we could get, like, two deliveries per day?

unclesmrgol on September 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM

‘Idle time’ is not the worst. Just think of the empty Amtrack running.

Postal Office can send out thousands of empty mail trucks going around town, just so its employees are not sitting idle.

Sir Napsalot on September 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Can someone please tell me why government employees need a union?

Weren’t unions designed to protect people from “evil” employers?

byepartisan on September 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Can someone please tell me why government employees need a union?

Weren’t unions designed to protect people from “evil” employers?

byepartisan on September 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM

If you don’t think that postal management is evil, you are mistaken. You wouldn’t believe the pressure they put on people so that they can “make the numbers”. Some postal workers snapped from the pressure and many people died. I’m just surprised that it hasn’t happened in a while.

darwin-t on September 30, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Anyone else seen their delivery guy parked in the shade of that big tree, feet on the dash while reading the paper? Now we know why.

PaCadle on September 30, 2009 at 4:55 PM

Seriously, why do government employees need unions?

byepartisan on September 30, 2009 at 4:55 PM


the equivalent of having 1,125 full-time employees sitting idle, at a cost of more than $50 million per year.

50 million here and 50 million there and pretty soon you ar talking about some real money.

Johan Klaus on September 30, 2009 at 4:55 PM

‘Idle time’

Sir Napsalot on September 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Is that anything like “time out”.

Johan Klaus on September 30, 2009 at 4:58 PM

But are they hiring? I could handle some boredom

JusDreamin on September 30, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Someone may have brought this up already but public schools do the same thing. Teachers sit in “rubber rooms” all day on full pay and do nothing. And NSF workers surf porn. Good thing the Gov. always lowers cost through efficiency though.

unrealcitizen on September 30, 2009 at 5:07 PM

Of all the mail I get, 90% is junk. Of the 10% that I actually open, 99% does not need immediate attention. Which means that I don’t need 6 days a week delivery. Get me my mail on Monday and Thursday and I’m good to go.

angryed on September 30, 2009 at 5:24 PM

The Post Office is socialist!!!!

SpencerFan on September 30, 2009 at 5:32 PM

Do Post Office workers have Internet porn access?

tarpon on September 30, 2009 at 3:49 PM

No

Terri on September 30, 2009 at 5:33 PM

Spiritk9 on September 30, 2009 at 3:48 PM

What makes you think they despise that?

FontanaConservative on September 30, 2009 at 5:35 PM

Good one! How many hours do people lose standing in line waiting for one postal clerk, while others “stand by”?

Steve Z on September 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM

Union rules do not allow you to cross crafts. If another clerk isn’t available you can’t use a mail handler to do clerk work.

Terri on September 30, 2009 at 5:35 PM

Employees are often forbidden from doing almost anything while on standby time. In some facilities, the employees aren’t allowed to do anything they couldn’t normally do on the job. That means no books, no playing cards, no watching television.

No wonder they go “postal”. Would this be considered fraud, waste and abuse? I think so.

Patriot Vet on September 30, 2009 at 5:36 PM

Someone may have brought this up already but public schools do the same thing. Teachers sit in “rubber rooms” all day on full pay and do nothing. And NSF workers surf porn. Good thing the Gov. always lowers cost through efficiency though.

unrealcitizen on September 30, 2009 at 5:07 PM

NYC teachers who get paid to do nothing are allowed to bring computers, TVs, etc. to occupy their time. Postal workers are not allowed to do anything. They can’t even talk on the phone unless its break time. Just like the story says.

Terri on September 30, 2009 at 5:37 PM

Can someone please tell me why government employees need a union?

Weren’t unions designed to protect people from “evil” employers?

byepartisan on September 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM

I agree. Evil, GREEDY employers. I guess they are being protected from us, their employers? Nah.

Terri on September 30, 2009 at 5:39 PM

The communist union mentality strikes again. Worthless baggage.

If the NRC doesn’t mount an integrated, all out media assault on Obama, the Dems and their union scum supporters in 2010, it will be a crime.

Jaibones on September 30, 2009 at 5:42 PM

I´m an American. I live in Spain. The last two business packages sent to us,from LA to Madrid,via USPS was delivered by….drumroll…FEDERAL EXPRESS!! I kid you not Ed, They´re paying their COMPETITION to deliver the packages. Jesus.

james hooker on September 30, 2009 at 3:50 PM

It goes both ways. USPS also delivers some Fedex packaging. Both companies like the arrangement and it is beneficial to both.

BierManVA on September 30, 2009 at 4:15 PM

The USPS has a contract with FedEx to deliver overseas. It says FedEx right on the form/label you fill out when you send the envelope. UPS and FedEx do not deliver to each and every house in the US. Those companies drop off their packages at the local post office and the mail carrier delivers them. It isn’t cost effective for the two private companies to drive to every house so they pay the USPS to do it for them.

Terri on September 30, 2009 at 5:45 PM

This is similar to the story we heard out of the NYC teacher’s unions.

Queen0fCups on September 30, 2009 at 5:45 PM

They make too much d*mn money.
It’s insane!

ladyingray on September 30, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Ahh Lady, Dont start thinking like the Socialist Dems.

malkinmania on September 30, 2009 at 5:49 PM

Comment pages: 1 2