Sunday, April 19, 2020

Cashing in on USPS Overtime: Why Many Postal Workers Earn More Than Their Bosses

A U.S. Postal Service employee recently received triple the annual pay of fellow mail handlers by working 4,578 hours during a single year.

That’s the equivalent of clocking in for more than 12 ½ hours a day, 365 days a year. Or 11 eight-hours shift per week.

The hard-working mail handler was apparently the USPS’s highest-paid front-line employee during Fiscal Year 2018, earning $181,253, according to an Inspector General’s report released a few days ago.

The typical full-time career mail handler earned $26 an hour and averaged about 8 hours of overtime per week, according to USPS data.

Mr. or Ms. Eager Beaver Mail Handler clearly out-earned the boss: The highest-paid front-line postal supervisor that year earned a paltry $152,489 by working a mere 3,567 hours (averaging 69 hours per week) in Distribution Operations.

“The average pay of supervisors was higher than craft pay,” the report noted. “However, when comparing total pay (including base salary plus overtime), craft employees can earn more than their first-line supervisors.”

The average annual pay for supervisors was $69,631, 27% higher than the average for craft positions, according to the report. (I believe these numbers are base pay without overtime, not total pay, but the report doesn't make that clear.)

But 3,362 craft employees – including almost 1,000 carriers and nearly as many clerks and mail handlers – had total earnings that surpassed $100,000.

A postal expert and former USPS employee tells me that some of these $100,000-plus craft employees probably "involve situations where the employees filed grievances because they were improperly denied overtime opportunities. Unfortunately USPS (in my experience) doesn't provide supervisors and managers with the tools they need to manage OT. The end result is large grievance settlements."

(Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan's base pay that year was $290,565 FY2018. Tsk, tsk, if the Postal Service operated like "a real business," she would have made at least 20 times as much as the highest-paid front-line employees and supervisors.)

One reason craft employees can earn more than their supervisors is that they receive up to two times their normal hourly pay for overtime, “whereas first-line supervisors are paid straight time for hours worked above their normal schedule.”

Noting that postal supervisors have an annual attrition rate of only 1%, the OIG’s report didn’t recommend any changes in how supervisors are compensated.

But I suspect that attrition rate was calculated without including postal workers who switched from supervisor back to craft positions. I know of several people who gave up supervisor positions because they had been earning more as a letter carrier.

Or because the minimal extra pay for being a supervisor wasn’t worth the bureaucratic headaches.

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