Mail delivery in metro Detroit slowed due to COVID-19, staffing shortages

Union leaders optimistic delivery times will improve within weeks
Posted at 5:25 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 09:22:51-04

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — Mail delivery times in metro Detroit are noticeably slower these days, due in part to temporary staffing shortages and a surge in package volume because of COVID-19.

People's shopping habits have changed due to the stay-at-home order, meaning more and more items are shipping through the mail.

Package surges happen every year around the holidays, but president of American Postal Workers Union Local 480-481 Roscoe Woods pointed out, it's never been met with a pandemic before.

"In the early onset of this in mid-March we were averaging a couple hundred employees out of our largest facility due to the issues associated with coronavirus," Woods told Action News.

He said USPS allowed employees at a Troy call center to telework, but before they could implement that, around a dozen people got sick with the virus.

“This union lost its chief steward to COVID and then a couple days later we lost another member to COVID," he told Action News.

But Woods is optimistic, noting previously quarantined workers are slowly returning to the job. He's hopeful delivery times will return to normal in the coming weeks.

USPS Detroit District spokesperson Elizabeth Najduch released this statement:

“The Postal Service has experienced a considerable increase in package volume. In response to this, we are utilizing our available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We appreciate the patience of our customers and the efforts of employees as conditions change on a day-to-day basis. We apologize for the inconvenience of late arriving packages and are working to minimize the impact to our customers."

Speaking on national numbers, Najduch said "With a workforce of more than 630,000 employees there have been 1,606 postal employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, with some deaths.”

Woods said USPS has been working very well with the local unions, stating the agency has been "incredibly gracious" to local workers who need time off to quarantine or care for a family member exposed to the virus.

“The Postal Service is using its vast network to move volume around. They’re basically spreading it out throughout the network and using the man power we do have to move it. It’s regrettable that some things are being delayed," he said.

COVID-19 is also dealing a major financial blow to USPS, an independent agency of the executive branch which isn't federally funded.

“The Postal Service was in a bad prior to COVID-19. Now it’s even gotten worse," said Keith Combs, president of the APWU Detroit District. "The Post Office only operates off the funds from stamps, money orders, priority mail, express mail.”

Last month, Postmaster General Megan Brennan said USPS is poised to lose $13 billion this fiscal year due to COVID-19. USPS received $10 billion in loan money from the federal government, but some lawmakers are pushing for more help. President Trump has threatened to veto aid to USPS, citing its below market rates.

As for getting your packages on time, Combs is also optimistic.

“Delivery times will get back to normal, or close to normal. But I think we’re about two weeks out. And that will depend how this virus goes," he said, noting that a second wave could be detrimental to local postal workers.

"You see us wearing masks you see us wearing shields, a lot of folks wearing gloves. And people have to come to accept that is going to be part of the workforce for the near future," Wood told Action News.

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