Why Does the Post Office Have Over 600,000 Workers?

The U.S. Postal Service has roots that go back to 1792 when it was founded as the Post Office Department. Even before it was formed, Benjamin Franklin was named the first Postmaster General in 1775. The Post Office finds itself under siege in a way that has no precedent. Its multi-billion losses and the slow pace at which it delivered ballots before the last presidential election have raised the question of whether its current scope is necessary. Today, it employs 633,108 people.

Not all of the workers are what the Post Office calls “496,934 career employees.” That figure was counted as of 2019. Virtually all of these are represented by one of seven unions. The balance of the workers are called “non-career employs”, a statement by the Postal Service, of the obvious.

The Post Office reported its financial figures for last year. They covered the period that ended September 30, 2020. The numbers were brutal and called the viability of the Post Office, at its current size and scope, into question. Revenue was $73.1` billion, up from $71.1 billion the year before. The loss for the year was $9.2 billion compared to $8.8 billion in the previous fiscal. While some of the trouble was due to COVID-19, the problems with costs predate the pandemic by years.

Regardless of who runs the Post Office, management cannot solve the Post Office’s problems without a huge restructuring. The current and 75th Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, was a controversial appointment by President Donald Trump. He had no job experience to recommend him for the job. The slow ballot delivery trouble occurred on his watch. It is generally expected that he will not last long now that Joe Biden is President.

Among the reasons the Post Office’s current size has been called into question is the competition which did not exist as recently as the end of the last century. Among these are private package delivery companies, led by FedEx and UPS. Additionally a great deal of “mail” has become email. And the digital transfer of large files has also cut into the need for package delivery.

Among the most obvious problems with the Post Office is that it maintains 31,322 Post Office retail locations. Many are in small towns, and handle extremely modest amounts of mail.

Another challenge to the financial structure of the Post Office is whether, in the world of online communications, it is necessary to deliver mail six days a week. It is an anachronism, part of a number of Post Office practices and a huge infrastructure that have been in place for decades.

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