For the last six years, Toby Holder has worked as a part-time, rural carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Killeen.

But the contract he signed with USPS turned out to be more than a part-time job, he said, as budget constraints and short staffing created an atmosphere of mistreatment, unsafe conditions and pay issues.

“They treat us like junk mail,” Holder said.

The choice of phrasing isn’t lost on Holder, as the USPS is becoming increasingly reliant on revenue from catalogs, advertisements and other unsolicited items as personal mail declines.

While Postal Service officials in Killeen declined comment, Holder’s claims about pay issues, long hours and unsafe working conditions were corroborated by several other carriers who asked the Herald not to be identified for fear of retaliation. They all told the same story: employees are lured in by the promise of part-time mail carrying, only to be forced to work full time with no benefits and little time off for family, friends and school.

Every source detailed large pay discrepancies, saying supervisors and union stewards paid little attention to complaints and said retaliation against employees who aired grievances is common.

“The post office is stuck with incompetent supervisors who have no business being in that capacity, yet they have the authority to affect our livelihoods the way they do,” Holder said.

PAY NOT GUARANTEED

Holder and the others said it doesn’t matter how much overtime they work; rarely are they paid on time, if at all.

“When you work six days one week and four days in another week in a biweekly pay period at $20 an hour, with overtime, you bring home much more than $626,” Holder said of his paycheck for Nov. 17-28.

With overtime, Holder said the post office owes him in excess of $1,000.

“I worked last week, 42 hours and five minutes, I believe it was, then the week before that I worked 50 hours and 15 minutes, so I had a total of 12 hours and some-odd minutes of overtime, yet I only brought home $626,” Holder said. “Just that 12 hours that I worked with the overtime is half of what I brought home.”

Holder said if employees don’t pay close attention to their check stubs, they won’t notice discrepancies.

“A lot of the time, if you don’t really pay attention, you won’t notice they paid you straight time instead of the overtime,” he said.

Other workers are experiencing the same pay issues, including one woman who is a single mother. She said she was forced to take out numerous payday loans to cover bills and rent.

“I’ve taken out at least three of them,” she said.

“One of them was $1,000 because I had only received a $400 paycheck. I pay child support and I pay $400 a month, so that wasn’t even going to cover my child support and rent and car payment and all of that stuff at the time.”

TIME NOT ENTERED

Another female employee said she thought working at the Killeen post office part-time would be a good opportunity. But it wasn’t long before she was forced to work too much.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” she said. “I’m thinking, ‘Wow, it wasn’t even this bad when I was deployed working seven days a week’ because they gave us Sundays off.”

Serving her country for more than 20 years with multiple deployments was something she said she misses now that the post office is not paying her for all the hours she works, including overtime and regular pay equaling close to $1,000. She said supervisors deserve the blame for not inputting hours worked properly or in a timely manner.

“I had to go downtown and turn in a rural route and then help deliver it. ... They didn’t pay me my mileage for using my vehicle for the 76-mile route,” she said. “You’re supposed to get vehicle allowance for using your car on that long route. They wouldn’t pay me for that.”

Another part-time mail carrier, who also spent time in the Army, said he also is still waiting on overtime pay.

“Last week, I know I worked over 40 for sure,” he said. “But, no, I haven’t gotten paid.”

SAFETY CONCERNS

While dealing with the same pay issues as other carriers interviewed for this story, part-time rural carrier Dejanee Hollaway said around Christmastime last year, carriers were given some frightening news.

“Last Christmas, we were told that something happened on a rural route and some carriers got killed. We were not allowed to go out and deliver mail after dark. The cutoff time was 6 o’clock,” Hollaway said. “They scared us up and told us all this information, then the next thing you know, they send us all out after 6 p.m. anyway.”

Post office administrators were probably shaken by the pre-Christmas death of Tyson Jerome Barnette, who was shot in Cheverly, Md., in late November 2013 while delivering mail in the dark, a case that remains unsolved, according to news reports.

In May 2013, police arrested James Wayne Ham of Coldspring in connection with the death of Eddie “Marie” Youngblood, who had just delivered mail to Ham’s residence north of Houston.

It’s not just late nights that concern carriers. On Wednesday, Hollaway was attacked by a dog while delivering mail.

According to Hollaway’s duty status report obtained by the Herald, Hollaway suffered a “strain/sprain” to her shoulder and forearm as a result of the attack. A doctor at the Harker Heights Medical Home said she could return to work Monday after concluding that abrasions on her forearm were beginning to heal.

“Honestly, I don’t feel safe or comfortable knocking on anyone’s door at 9 o’clock at night to deliver a package, driving my own car and not dressed in a postal uniform,” another carrier said.

PAYMENT DIFFERENCES

But pay issues remain the chief complaint.

Another carrier said she is a few months behind on rent because of nonpayment from the post office.

“Thank goodness my (apartment) management is kind of nice ... but they can only be patient for so long, and if I get evicted because I’m still waiting on money from the post office, you’re going to have one angry sista,” she said. “I mean, it’s been since August.”

Killeen’s postmaster, who assumed the job in August, declined to comment on the complaints, instead referring the Herald to a Postal Service spokesman who explained the post office pays full-time and part-time carriers differently.

“When they do the evaluation of the route, for a full-time carrier, they evaluate that and it’s all factored in,” spokesman Sam Bolen said of full-time carrier pay. They get one price for a route, regardless of the time it takes to complete it. “But with subs, it’s a little different.”

Bolen said subs are paid per hour, and in an email, said supervisors are responsible for carrier pay.

“With regards to pay, the Postal Service has a process whereby rural carrier payroll is logged each day by their delivery unit supervisor. All employees have been advised to immediately report any pay issues to their supervisor or manager and it will be investigated,” Bolen said in an email. “Prior to employment, potential job candidates are advised in the initial interview as to the expectations of the job, which may or may not include long hours, and the compensation.”

Bolen said many of the recent pay discrepancies are likely because Christmas is the busiest time of year for the Postal Service.

“It’s just the volume,” he said.

While he had little information on specific issues in Killeen, Bolen said most of the carriers are part-time carriers with no benefits and turnover is high.

“The Killeen post office has a 65 percent noncareer-to-career ratio for rural carriers,” Bolen said in an email. “Killeen is in a constant hiring mode.”

And the frustrated Killeen employees say they’re stuck in the middle.

“That’s the really sad thing. The post office has been around since the horse and carriage,” one worker said. “You’d think they’d have it together by now.”

cthorp@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7552​

(10) comments

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Whatabouthetruth

I can not believe the idiotic comments by some of the idiots posting comments here. This story has nothing to do with the work it has everything to do with getting paid for the work you do. If anyone of you are ok with working for free please feel free to contact me and I'll have you clean out my pig stalls and once you finish that I have you cut my 20 acres with a push lawnmower I'll provide. Many of you are a different kind of stupid.

donnyspin

The rural union does nothing to support the rural carriers locally or nationally .Any one finically supporting this organization is a fool.Cant wait to may when the new standard take place when all route loss 5 hours

DJM

When was the last time you went to a union meeting to voice your concerns or opinion? I felt the same way you do now 7 years ago. I decided to get involved and it paid off. I now understand the contract and my rights. Once I became a local steward all of my problems with local management went away. There is no more separating fact from fiction. What do you think our contract would look like if there was no union? I suggest you get off the side line and get into the game. Trust me, your work enviroment will change!

DJM

RCA's can turn down work . They only have to work on their assigned routes when they are scheduled. However an RCA is a substitute carrier and mangagement can ask them to report to work but cannot force them to work. If an RCA is working on a route that they have not done before or have not worked in a 12 month span they can get paid actual hours instead of evaluated time. If you are using your own vehicle you are to be reimbursed at the EMA rate. If your local steward is not helping you should contact your national steward for your district. I suggest that you log onto our union web site and look at our contract and see for yourself the rights that you have. You do not need a steward to file a grievance. You can file on yourself. If you feel that management is violating your rights, read the contract and show them that they are wrong. If you do not have a local steward then I suggest that you become one. Trust me, If you become a steward most of your problems with management will go away. Some supervisor and post masters take advantage of an employees lack of knowledge about the contract.

ajsanford-honestyproject
ajsanford-honestyproject

Abuse of employees is the norm in the Postal Service. Part time employees, senior employees about to retire, union representatives and those who file grievances are the primary targets. Those wishing to be promoted are used as "henchmen".
In 1989 the Mail Processing & Distribution Center n Oakland California was directed by OSHA, to remove all overhead equipment after the Loma Prieta earthquake that damaged the Bay Bridge. This directive was ignored. Instead senior employees, due for retirement, were forced to work on this equipment, under threat of termination. This equipment consisted of the bulk belt system which ran throughout the building. The system couldn't be shut down, circuits were always live.
Senior employees without training were required to work on 440 volt live circuits. Many were shocked. Fortunately none were electrocuted. It was close however, on many occasions.
The equipment in question was retained and was used to hide and store mail that wasn't delivered or that couldn't be processed by the machines.
Until automation was completed in 2006 the machines couldn't process odd sized mail, periodicals and magazines. New equipment has been acquired that processes everything.
This equipment has been provided to independent mail processors, who were created by the post office at the beginning of automation. The processors have been provided with this equipment at no charge. Processing plants that employ full time postal workers are being closed in the name of saving money. Processing the mail, not delivering the mail, is where postal revenue is generated. The mail that is processed for small and medium sized businesses is not monitored for delivery.
Every postal rate increase that has been requested over the past 35 years has been requested based on fraudulent data. The data was take from obsolete bulk belt systems, like the one in Oakland. Those systems across the country, were being dismantled at the time the data was put into the computers at the completion of automation in 2006.
Read, "Going Postal, The Story Behind The Forever Stamp", in hard copy, paperback and e-book on Amazon.

Bigredflag

I would like to applaud Toby Holder for blowing the whistle on the Killeen Post Office 76542 for treatment of their employees. I am a 30 year veteran of the USPS. I also endured the bad treatment of the Killeen Post Office 76542. Managers and supervisors of the Post Office have only one agenda. Be sure their numbers and reports make the supervisors look good so they will get their bonus checks. Doesn't matter how they treat their employees during all of this. The USPS also has un-safe practices inside the building. A manager re-arranged a window workstation causing an employee to be injured on the job. What was the solution of the problem?
Postmaster just transferred the Manager out of state so she could become some else's problem. The Killeen Post office on W.S. Young needs to be investigated about their illegal practices by an outside investigation company.

Dr Strangelove

Puleeeeeeze! What an orgy of buffoonery! Hey I have an idea GET ANOTHER JOB! What a crybaby I worked part time at CTC and got screwed over; six months I left and got a full time job—it’s a free Country. You are not a slave; you are not forced to work as a rural carrier—so shut up.

As for the comment about unions from JohnnyinHarkerHeights ; I’m from Michigan and unions have raped that State you like unions that much move to Detroit and see what happens. It was about time the Republicans slapped unions in the face. They were demanding too much—stuff like paid holiday for deer hunting etc. I’m glad Texas is a right to work State.

JohnnyinHarkerHeights

and One Killeen employee said:

“That’s the really sad thing. The post office has been around since the horse and carriage,” one worker said. “You’d think they’d have it together by now.”

You get what you pay for, and in the case of the post office it was given a budget designed to ensure it would fail so that it could one day be privatized.

How is that, well, they are required to fund the pensions of employees who ARE NOT EVEN BORN YET.

No other company or government agency has such a ludicrous requirement.

The Republicans in 2006 before that election thought it was a clever way to stick it to unions without leaving finger prints.

And it looks like it worked better than they even dreamed if people who work for the post office blame it, rather than a Republican required mandate that keeps it on the edge of bankruptcy year in and year out.

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/09/28/330524/postal-non-crisis-post-office-save-itself/

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