As long as federal employees do what’s expected of them they have little worry about their livelihoods not being there the next day. Unlike the private sector, they have the additional comfort of knowing how it would take nothing short of an act of Congress to fire them. In their complacency, they also assume that the deep-pocketed treasury department is going to pay everything that’s due to them like clockwork, so why bother to check? It’ll all be there.
Sorry to say that if you’re a postal worker there’s a darn good chance it hasn’t all been there. The USPS has been getting away with shorting its employee’s pay for years. Especially during the holiday season when they’re all working overtime and losing track of their hours on the clock. Or, during a pandemic when more households are ordering what they need online.
Nancy Campos is a 59-year-old grandma in Midland, Texas who totes mail for the USPS. As fast as the boxes keep piling up she keeps delivering them. She had just finished working her 13th day in a row without even so much as a lunch break and her back was screaming at her. Still, the mail must go through and the only way to make sure it did was to continue working on Martin Luther King Jr. Day when everyone else was lighting up their grills.
Being older and wiser, when Campos filled out her time card to include all of her overtime, she snapped a pic of it before turning it in. This lady is no greenhorn. “I knew what was going to happen,” she said, “because it happens every pay period.”
When Campos carefully reviewed her electronic paystub two weeks later she immediately caught the shortage. Six hours of overtime had been overlooked to the tune of $201, enough to fill her pantries with groceries for a week. It was money she had worked above and beyond for.
Hers is not an isolated incident and it is not confined to the post office in Midland. Frustration is rising nationwide over such occurrences. It’s much easier in these days of technology to monitor such things than it was in the past so the jigs up.
The results of an investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity found shorting the paychecks of USPS workers to be a regular practice that spans decades. But it isn’t the treasury department that’s guilty. They simply pay out what they’re told to, no questions asked.
The fault lies with the individual managers of hundreds of post offices nationwide who take it upon themselves to alter their employee’s time cards. Those managers now have some explaining to do to the feds.
It was discovered that between 2010 to 2019, the 250 managers they’ve caught so far were regularly altering time cards to reflect fewer hours worked, resulting in $1000s upon $1000s of unpaid wages.
To top it off, all three of the major postal unions are aware of the widespread unethical and illegal practice but they prefer to handle these types of complaints internally. As long as the managers who get reported promise to never do it again they let them off the hook with a warning that never changes a thing.
Since 2005, an estimated $659,000 of due wages went unpaid and the feds have cited the USPS 1,150 times for wage violations. A portion of the money was paid back but a bigger portion of it never has been and likely never will be.
In the private sector, wage theft is, unfortunately, to be expected. Employees know better than to not check their paystubs. No one trusts their employer that much. But when it gets to the where federal employees can’t trust the government they’re busting their butt for, Houston, Midland, or wherever, we have a problem.
Now that the investigation is done and the report has been published, will it change anything? It’s doubtful.