Postal workers picket outside the post office on Forest Avenue in Portland on Sunday. According to union leaders and letter carriers, customers are experiencing major delivery delays because of worker shortages and prioritizing packages over first-class mail. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Postal workers demonstrated in front of the Forest Avenue post office in Portland on Sunday amid major delivery delays.

The rally was organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers Local 92, which says the delays are because of worker shortages and packages – most often from Amazon – being prioritized over first-class mail.

The workers held signs like “Stop Delaying First Class Mail,” and “Where’s the Mail?”

Mail sits in “shark cages” in the Portland Post Office because it was not delivered, according to letter carriers. Carriers say first-class mail is being delayed so that Amazon packages can be delivered first, although delivery of some Amazon packages also are delayed because of cost cutting. Photo courtesy of Mark Seitz

“Management has been purposely delaying first-class mail for a couple of years,” said Mark Seitz, President of NALC Local 92. “We get direct orders every day from our supervisors: ‘Stop delivering regular mail and deliver parcels.'”

The postal service denies that regular mail is being held and packages are being given priority.

But Seitz said it’s been going on for a couple of years and that staffing shortages are making the problem worse. It means too often that people aren’t getting mail for four or five days, he said.


“If you have outgoing mail that you put in the mailbox, we’re not coming to get your mail,” Seitz said. “That’s delaying bills. People aren’t getting their Social Security checks.”

South Portland letter carrier Steven Fulmer, center, pumps his fist as a motorist honks their horn in support of letter carriers outside the the post office on Forest Avenue in Portland on Sunday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Until April, Victoria Aristizabal was a postal carrier with a Brighton Avenue Portland route. She traded her carrier job for a clerk position.

The carrier job was too much, she said. Carriers are being forced to work long days, six days a week. Carrier John Graham said he had a medical note from his doctor that he couldn’t work more than 60 hours a week. “And that’s a good week,” he said.

Aristizabal said as a carrier, no matter how many hours she worked “it was not enough. They wanted me to work more and more hours, 10 or 11 hours. It’s exhausting,” Aristizabel said. “They’re taking packages over the mail. It’s an ongoing problem. They’re working (carriers) to death.”

Last week, in an email to the Press Herald, USPS Northeast Region Spokesperson Stephen Doherty insisted that regular mail is not being held in favor of packages.

“We deliver mail for thousands of companies just across New England,” he said, adding that no one company’s mail is given priority over others.


That’s not true, said carriers who rallied on Sunday.

“They want us to prioritize Amazon packages over the mail. They regularly tell carriers to leave the mail behind and take the packages,” said carrier Katie Montgomery, who has a South Portland route. Carriers can be on the street with all the mail and packages, and “managers will tell them: ‘Just get all the packages delivered and leave the mail,'” she said. It used to be “the mail had to get out,” Montgomery said.

Letter carriers picket outside the post office on Forest Avenue in Portland Sunday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Walter Stover of Portland, a carrier who delivers mail downtown, said he’s lucky. He has a note from his doctor saying he cannot work more than 40 hours a week.

“I had a heart attack five years ago,” Stover said. But many carriers are being forced to work six days a week, 10 or 11 hours a day, especially for new hires. Those working conditions encourage some to quit, he and others said.

And unlike veteran carriers, new carriers are assigned to different routes that are not familiar to them.

“Working to deliver mail at 8 p.m. (in the dark) on Grant Street, that’s an issue,” Stover said. He said the area is not as safe as it used to be, and no carriers should have to deliver mail at night. He remembers as a young carrier walking through the park to his home near Brighton Avenue. “I would never feel unsafe,” Stover said. “I can’t say that any more.”

As he delivers mail, he hears customers complain their mail isn’t coming for days. The public deserves better, Stover said, adding that not everyone has email or receives direct deposit checks, Stover said.

“People still depend on us.”

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