Despite stories about deficits at the U.S. Postal Service, delivery of letters and packages is generally good. In the world of Internet shopping, prompt and functional fulfillment of those “instant” orders needs to happen. Customers take that “rain, snow and sleet” line seriously.
Many people, even in rural areas, take getting mail in a timely fashion for granted.
The explosion of new residents in northwestern North Dakota during the last several years, with the housing shortage and escalating wages, has delivered big problems to the local post offices. It’s been hard to keep workers, and as a result, mail gets backed up and prompt delivery has been a problem, in particular in the Williston and Watford City areas.
Lack of housing has made hiring additional workers a problem, the same as it has been for the Highway Patrol and every other employer in the area. Increasing wages has not been in the cards because of a national union contract.
In August, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe joined Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., on a visit to the state and saw firsthand the problems. In November, the postal authorities took action when four carriers in Williston quit without notice, moving a dozen workers from Nebraska in to pickup the slack.
There finally may be a fix. The Postal Service and National Rural Mail Carriers Association reached an agreement that allows carriers to get pay increases of up to 20 percent to help deal with retention, and bonuses for signing new employees. The idea is to make positions at the post office competitive with the local job market — keeping existing workers on the job and beefing up their ranks. That makes good sense.
But it did not come easy. The wage modification, says Donald Maston, executive committeeman for the association is, “very rare and difficult to achieve. This took a lot of effort from the union, the postal service and (North Dakota) officials.”
One of lessons learned in North Dakota’s “boom” has been the need to stay flexible. What works in some other economy may not work here.
The changes at the U.S. Postal Service are geared specifically to northwestern North Dakota. Let’s hope they work well.