23 September, 2011

So - How Does My Rural Mail Carrier Get Paid?

My little post about Mail Count and the IMPORTANCE of mailing letters right now (thru the end of September) has generated a good question.
How does a Rural Mail Carrier get paid?

The rural carrier gets paid an evaluated salary.
The Post Office periodically conducts mail counts where everything a rural carrier does is counted.
From time spent sorting in the office, to route maintenance, to the number of letters, flats (manila envelope) and packages.
Everything is counted.
My mailbox is part of a group of mailboxes. The carrier gets a few minutes to 'fill' our row of 36 boxes. He gets minutes for each single box on the route and a slightly lesser rate for a group. The miles driven on the route play into this as well. Dismounting from the vehicle gets counted and only certain dismounts are allowed. Generally speaking, a carrier is not paid to get out of his vehicle to bring your parcel to your door. An average number of parcel dismounts is calculated and this goes into the formula.
The annual salary is formatted from this formula.

So on Mondays when mail volume is heaviest (sun. & mon. mail), a carrier may work an 11 hour day. Their route may only be evaluated as an 8-hr day. On Thursdays when mail volume might be less and a carrier gets back to the office before 8 hrs - well- he still gets paid for an 8-hr day because that is what his route is evaluated as. During the summer, the carriers generally get  back well within the evaluated time. During Christmas, the carriers generally get back long after the evaluated time. Essentially, this evaluated time is a salary.

If mail volume drops, then the route may get re-evaluated and the route will either be added onto or the salary is cut.
Things you don't think about go into this formula. Like counting steps. My carrier says it's a bit like black magic.
If someone decides to use a PO Box instead of street delivery, the number of boxes falls as well as mail volume. Letter-sized mail is all route-sorted on the big machines and sent out to carriers which is faster than carriers sorting their own mail. Over the years, as in all industries, carriers have been asked to do more within those evaluated route hours. The average carrier brings mail to over 500 customers - each and every day.

Whether you live far out in the wilds with no neighbors or a close-knit rural community, you get mail every day but Sunday. This is actually mandated  by Congress -over two hundred years ago, that every American have access to mail delivery.

Over the last century, the population has moved closer to big cities as opposed to living way the heck out there. A concern of mine is the number of people who choose to live in isolated spots not having access to the real world - of computers, of Amazon.com, of smart phones. This causes them to drive more to get the goods they need as well as make the rural lifestyle more expensive to maintain. They are getting left  behind.
But these are the people who, by working two or three jobs, maintain that simpler lifestyle. Usually one of the jobs involves mail-order/internet driven businesses. Without  mail delivery, these part-time jobs would go away. I, myself, in addition to working a job, have a part-time hobby business that brings in extra. I rely on UPS and the USPS to get goods to my customers quickly and efficiently.

The thing is, in many rural communities, the only jobs with benefits are government jobs - either with the city, the schools or the post office. The post office is one of the last blue collar jobs that pays a family wage, has benefits and you don't have to dress up or have a college degree. Benefits are the million dollar question for families. How do you afford them?

Despite what the USPS is saying in their big ad campaigns, package volume has increased,  and bulk mail (gotta love it or hate it) has increased. The only category that has dropped is First-class mail. E-mail, texting and on-line bill paying are directly responsible for this.

I value the service my mail carrier does for me. I know his wife has diabetes. He needs the benefits and the paycheck to pay his property taxes. I am all for writing a few more letters this week, sending some extra care packages out and doing what I can to keep my carrier. I don't want his route to be added onto.

So - send a letter.  It will cost you 44 cents. What in the world can you even buy for 44 cents?
Send a postcard. Send a thank-you note. I just sent off some ebay & Etsy items today as well as a care package for my daughter. I have a friend who committed to send me a letter each day of this two-week count.
She's writing a serial installment story. Each letter ends with a cliff hanger. It's very entertaining.

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