News broke Tuesday that the U.S. Postal Service has widespread issues with wage theft. Many Black people have a family member or friend who has worked for the post office. The post office has long been one of those “good government” jobs with solid pay and benefits, creating greater economic opportunity for Black workers.
Black postal workers, like Josh Dubose, represent close to 25 percent of the Postal Service’s workforce. Dubose was one of several employees interviewed as a part of a collaborative investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, Univision, and The Associated Press, to uncover the systemic wage theft within the agency.
Digging deep into arbitration records, the investigators found that over a nine-year period, around 250 managers across 60 post offices were changing worker’s reported hours so that they would be paid less. In some cases, people who never received paychecks needed one of the three primary postal unions to intervene.
“Supervisors found to be cheating were rarely disciplined — often receiving only a warning or more training. In four cities, arbitration documents show, post office managers continued to alter time cards after promising union leaders they would stop,” read the report in part.
The investigation also found that since 2005, the agency was cited 1,150 times for this issue. Some cases resulted in employees getting paid back less than what they were owed due to negotiations with the agency.
As America’s most trusted federal agency, the news about the Postal Service is disappointing. A 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center showed the Postal Service had the highest net favorability of federal agencies.
Despite service delays and rising prices, the Postal Service had bipartisan support, with 91 percent of respondents looking favorably upon the quasi-federal agency. Struggling financially through a combination of political decisions and poor management from the top has led to the agency.
The post office has not reported a profit in 15 years. But that is no excuse to steal wages and labor from hardworking staff members.
Reports of wage theft, and pressure on managers to cut expenses like overtime, are a part of the problem with forcing the post office to operate as a for-profit business. Wage theft is not new. A 2019 study from the National Employment Law Project estimated that private sector lower-wage workers, who are disproportionately Black and Latino, $12.6 billion in wages were stolen from them that year.