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Rochester postal service looks for 60-plus carriers, workers

Service begins push to hire scores of workers.

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The United States Post Office on Valleyhigh Drive in northwest Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — After another holiday season in which Rochester’s U.S. Postal Service strained to deliver mail on time, often leaving mailboxes empty for days at a time, the Rochester office has embarked on an intensified effort to fill scores of jobs.

Currently, the U.S. Postal Service is looking to hire 61 entry-level carrier positions to cover routes and do other jobs in Rochester, including eight assistant rural carriers, 20 city carrier assistants, 28 rural carrier associates, and five sales and service clerks, said U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Tashi Lama.

Lama was unable to say what the 60-plus job openings represented as a percentage of the total postal workforce in Rochester, but said the Rochester district is a priority in terms of hiring.

But even without knowing the full complement of authorized postal workers, the 61 unfilled jobs suggest that Rochester has been severely understaffed for a while.

To underscore the aggressive search for carriers, the main Rochester post office at 1445 Valleyhigh Drive NW is holding four job fair-style events to spark interest in the profession. The first started Wednesday and runs through Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Three more are scheduled through January and February.

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The hiring blitz in Rochester is part of a nationwide effort called “Delivering for America” that seeks to build a “more stable and empowered workforce,” a press release stated.

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The campaign to hire more carriers comes as the Postal Service emerges from another bruising holiday season in which it struggled to deliver packages and mail on a timely basis due to staffing issues. Some Rochester residents complained that they wouldn’t see a postal carrier on their streets for days at a time.

Retirements and the COVID-19 virus are among the biggest factors for leaving the post office in Rochester and elsewhere short-staffed, an official said.

“Right after we got hit by (COVID-19), some senior folks in the (Postal Service) took their retirement,” Lama said.

Matt Groshek of Rudolph, Wis., said he recently sent a package by priority mail to his sister who lives in Rochester. Priority mail means that a delivery is typically made between one and three days.

The package didn’t arrive until 10 days later, with the box partially crushed but the contents undamaged. Groshek said he was given a tracking number to follow the progress of the package, and for at least three days, it said that the package was “out for delivery.”

“So basically, it was sitting on a truck for a number of days. I tried to call the Rochester post office. Forget that. You couldn’t get through. It would just ring and ring and ring and ring,” he said.

Groshek said he understands that the postal service is short-staffed and faced with extraordinary circumstances. But for people who are waiting for a bill or a time-sensitive parcel, such delays can create more than an ordinary hassle.

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“I don’t know what to expect anymore,” he said. “What do you do if you don’t have workers?”

Troy Fredenburg, a national business agent for the National Association of Letter Carriers representing Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota, said he was aware that carriers from Owatonna were shifted to the Rochester area to handle the influx of demand during the Christmas season.

But he said the situation for carriers was worse last year.

“This year over last year, I would say that the postal services have done much better,” Fredenburg said. “Have they done pretty good in a pandemic era? Yeah.”

Lama said the postal service faces a competitive disadvantage in the hunt for workers relative to businesses and agencies because those can offer bonuses and the post service, a government entity, cannot.

But he said the service offers “great benefits.” Entry-level city carrier assistants start at $18.92 an hour, or $38,000 per year, and can eventually reach $30-plus an hour or more than $62,400. Benefits include federal health insurance, dental and vision insurance coverage, a savings program and a pension.

The job also offers the potential for mobility. A carrier can start his postal career in Rochester then move to Florida or Hawaii to work if jobs are available in those states.

“You can always take your job with you when you're moving,” Lama said.

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In addition to the job fair that runs through Jan. 22, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., others will be Jan. 24 through 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Feb. 28 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To assist potential applicants, USPS personnel will be on-site to answer questions about the openings. Applications are only accepted online at www.usps.com/careers . Laptops will be on-site for application assistance.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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