Staff shortages challenge U.S. Postal Service in rural Iowa

MASON CITY — The U.S. Postal Service has been faced with competitive challenges from private-sector delivery companies, and it’s also not immune to other barriers employers are facing right now – such as being able to attract enough qualified workers. That makes keeping up with delivering the mail especially challenging in places such as Iowa, where a majority of the state’s 812 post offices are in rural areas, said American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein.

“It affects the whole system,” he said, “but it probably in some ways has even the deepest impact on smaller towns and smaller communities, where postal workers are out serving everybody.”

The Postal Service faces serious staff shortages in part because so many employees are quitting. Turnover at the agency jumped from just over 38% in 2019 to nearly 59% last year. Still, 92% of deliveries were on-time.

The Postal Service has faced criticism in the past for regular increases in stamp prices, but Dimondstein argued Postal Service rates are still fair for the service customers receive.

“It’s 600,000 or so people and it’s still an amazing thing,” he said. “You can put a 63-cent stamp on a letter and it can go from one side of the country to the other. And it takes a lot of people to make that happen and a lot of dedication to make that happen.”

In fiscal year 2019, the Postal Service delivered what was then a record 6.5 billion packages – then, during the pandemic, that number shot to 7.9 billion in 2021.