The past year has definitely been tough on mail carriers in some areas. It’s bad enough that they have to visit so many homes every day, wondering if they’re going to contract the plague. But in some of the nation’s larger cities, they are also contending with mounting crime rates and assaults on postal workers. In the Edison Park neighborhood of Chicago, it appears that all of this pressure has finally become too much. CBS News in Chicago is reporting that some residents of that part of town haven’t gotten any mail delivered in up to two weeks. And when they’ve called the Post Office, they were told that they would have to come to pick up their mail rather than having it delivered in the usual fashion. Now they’re calling their representatives and the media instead.
Mail problems have been plaguing the city of Chicago and the suburbs since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
But people living in one northwest side neighborhood didn’t expect to hear this: Come get your mail yourself.
People who live in an Edison Park condo building, down the street from a United States Post Office, said when it comes to getting their mail, they have to stand in a line. That message was given to Tim Steigerwald’s neighbor on Monday.
“She was also told, and this is unusual, we’ll give you the mail now. But from now on you have to have people in your building call us ahead of time and pick up their mail. No delivery,” he said.
As to why this is happening, CBS has been having a hard time getting an answer from the Post Office. Their response depends largely on who you call. One supervisor flatly denied that anyone was told they have to pick up their own mail. But a spokesperson for the USPS told CBS that there were delays in delivery in that neighborhood. The residents agree with the second statement, with one neighbor quoted as saying he hasn’t had any mail delivered in two weeks.
Nobody from the Postal Service is blaming the lack of deliveries on fears of criminal assaults on the carriers. That’s probably a somewhat valid point. Unlike the much rougher neighborhoods on the South Side, Edison Park is still rated as one of the safer areas of the city, despite seeing some modest increases in criminal activity since the pandemic and the riots began.
The spokesperson for the Postal Service is also denying that this has anything to do with concerns over the pandemic. That seems to check out also. Chicago is dealing with outbreaks of COVID just like every other city, but the mail somehow still seems to get delivered.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who represents Edison Park, said that she’s been getting too many calls and emails for this to simply be a couple of isolated incidents. The official response that she received indicated that this is all being driven by a lack of manpower.
Schakowsky said her office has been told there is a huge post office staffing shortage, something the post office spokesperson echoed in a response to CBS 2. But the spokesperson said reported allegation that customers have to pick up their mail is not accurate.
I found that response surprising. Particularly during a time when so many people are out of work, you would think that people would be beating down the doors of the Post Office to take the qualification tests and apply for jobs. Positions with the USPS are like a golden ticket in most areas, and there have traditionally been waiting lists for a chance to get one. The compensation packages they offer are quite impressive given the relatively low level of education and skills required to come in at the entry level.
But I suppose we’ll have to take them at their word on this. If that’s the real reason, the question that the Postal Service needs to answer is why they aren’t aggressively hiring more workers? The unemployment rate in Chicago is still a bit higher than the national average. You’d think they wouldn’t have that much trouble finding workers.