Postal Groups Call for End to After-Dark Mail Deliveries

Carolyn Kaster/AP file photo

Letter carriers should no longer deliver mail after dark, one group representing employees at the U.S. Postal Service has said in light of the recent shooting of a postal worker at 7:30 p.m. while on the job in Maryland.

The Community and Postal Workers United -- a group of activists from various postal unions -- blamed the death of Tyson Barnette, a part-time USPS worker, on mismanagement at the agency. The consolidations of mail processing centers and a lack of adequate staffing has caused carriers to start later in the day, CPWU said, which has in turn led to after-dark deliveries.

Mark Dimonstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, also pointed to plant closures as the impetus for night delivery. In a statement, APWU quoted a eulogy from Barnette’s coworker, saying USPS must never again “lose a life to save a dollar.”

“Let this tragedy serve as a wakeup call,” Dimonstein said. “Management must take the necessary steps to strengthen service and safety.”

In light of the shooting, the Postal Service inspector general has launched a “series of audits into the delivery of mail after 5 p.m.,” according to an OIG spokeswoman. The IG’s office had previously investigated the timing of mail delivery, but decided to extend that research after Barnette’s death.

The audit announcement comes after pressure from Congress mounted to look into late mail deliveries. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., wrote a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe probing for a series of answers into the causes and frequency of after-dark delivery.

“I am deeply concerned about the apparent risk of requiring postal employees to deliver mail after dark,” wrote Norton, who serves on the House committee with oversight of the Postal Service. She said some of the blame falls on Congress’ inability to pass a postal reform bill, as well as darkness coming earlier during winter months, and noted the uptick in nighttime deliveries is unprecedented.

The National Association of Letter Carriers also called on the Postal Service to look into how to better ensure the safety of its employees.

“This tragic incident highlights the need in all operational decisions about how and when mail is delivered to give priority consideration to the safety of these dedicated public servants,” said Fredric Rolando, NALC’s president.

CPWU was much stronger in its warning: “This tragedy will be repeated unless major changes are enforced.” 

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