WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Rain, sleet and snow may not stop the United States Postal Service, but fear of paying overtime could keep letters from reaching your mailbox in a timely fashion.
Some Washington, D.C. postal workers say post office management is forcing them off the street early, even when their routes are far from complete. Although a USPS spokeswoman denied any such allegations, carriers tell ABC7 that the newly established rule is being strictly enforced.
"They're [management] constantly telling us to leave first-class mail, leave packages, everything, and it's getting ridiculous," a veteran mail carrier, speaking on a condition of anonymity, told ABC7.
Take the Friendship Station along the 4000 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW, which distributes mail for zip codes 20007 (Georgetown/Foggy Bottom), 20008 (Cleveland Park), and 20016 (Friendship Heights). Hidden behind its red brick walls, carriers say, are heaps of letters, bills and prescriptions sitting stagnant for days on end. Pictures released exclusively to ABC7 (see video above) corroborate their assertions. In dozens of colored photographs, mail can be seen piled high in white USPS cloth hampers and clear plastic baskets; correspondence that should have hit homes last week, frontline employees contend.
"When you're talking, Friday, Saturday, Tuesday to bring your mail back. That's four or five days customer haven't received any mail. And what kind of customer service is that?" asked the veteran letter carrier, speaking anonymously.
The newly established definition of "snail mail" has already hit the 3500 block of Albemarle Street NW, near American University. Homeowner Lauren McKillop hasn't seen her postman in six days.
"There are two problems. There are problems with mail not getting delivered, and mail getting delivered incorrectly. I can't count how many times I get mail that's not mine," McKillop remarked. "I just don't rely on the U.S. mail service anymore."
It's the same story a few blocks south along the 3300 block of Porter Street NW, in Cleveland Park.
"Here it's been difficult," homeowner Elizabeth Edminster, who recently filed a poor delivery complaint with USPS said. "When we didn't get any mail last night [Tuesday], I said, 'that's enough.'"
A second veteran mail carrier, also speaking anonymously for fear of losing her job, provided ABC7 with time-stamped group text messages sent by management to carriers on their routes.
"Stop delivering all mail carrier r to be back by 4:30....no exceptions call if a problem...," one text, sent on Friday at 2:23 p.m., read. "All carriers are to be back 17:30 finished or not," another text, sent on Tuesday at 5:01 p.m., stated.
Although USPS spokeswoman Laura Dvorak would not comment about the photographs or text messages released to Channel 7, she refuted any claim that the free world's mail provider was cutting corners to help its bottom line.
"There is no policy to have our letter carriers off the street by 6 p.m., although we always strive to have carriers return as early as possible, as the workload dictates," Dvorak said via email.
However, clocking-out on time has become increasingly challenging over the years, postmen argue. The USPS' financial turmoil has ushered-in major staff reductions, requiring remaining employees to carry a heavier load, literally.
"I'm concerned," Edminster, a senior citizen who's husband relies on his mail order prescriptions added. "I haven't gotten mail anytime since last week's storm. It's just terrible."
"Rain, sleet, hail, snow, whatever the mail must go. Fact is, it's just not happening," the anonymous letter carrier concluded, before delivering what she could before the strike of 6 p.m.