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USPS Letter Carriers' Pay Lags Behind UPS Drivers' Pay
By T.L. Righter, September 18, 2006

Effective September 2nd, 2006, the top pay for a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier is $23.66 per hour. Not bad! That's $49,218 a year, not including overtime and benefits (see pay chart). Yet, on average, United Parcel Service (UPS) drivers receiving top pay make about $3 to $4 per hour more than their government-sector counterparts. Though there is no definitive pay chart for UPS drivers, research indicates that most full-time UPS drivers make about $27 to $28 per hour. The pay gap is even greater for newer postal employees. UPS drivers reach top pay after only 30 months. After 30 months service, USPS letter carriers earn about $20 per hour, resulting in a pay gap of about $7 to $8 per hour at 30 months. This pay gap may be important in current wage negotiations between the U.S. Postal Service and NALC, the union that represents the Postal Service's letter carriers.

UPS driver pay has been cited in past contract negotiations between the USPS and NALC because UPS drivers have a private-sector job most closely resembling government-sector letter carrier jobs. Before the last USPS/NALC contract, UPS driver pay and USPS letter carrier pay was closer. However, the USPS and NALC came to terms on a modest pay increase for letter carriers covering the period 2001 to 2006. However, months after the USPS/NALC agreement, UPS drivers, represented by the Teamsters, secured a more dramatic pay increase. By the end of their current contract, UPS drivers in the top pay bracket (reached after only 30 months in service) will be making more than $28 per hour.

The benchmark of UPS driver pay in comparison to letter carriers' pay is important because it is an indication of what government letter carriers could be able to negotiate in the open, free-market. Letter carriers do not have the option to strike, like their private-sector UPS counterparts. If the USPS and NALC are unable to reach a contract agreement an arbitrator may use the pay comparison to help decide new pay rates for letter carriers.

Despite the favorable pay that UPS drivers receive, UPS continues to be profitable despite operating in a more competitive environment and incurring some operating costs the USPS doesn't have, including taxes and other regulatory expenses. The UPS must directly compete with other companies, including FedEx, DHL and others, whereas the USPS has a virtual monopoly on its core service (letters and flats). UPS stock remains healthy and UPS CEO Michael Eskew received $1.2 million in pay for 2005, according to Yahoo Finance. Recently, UPS pilots "hit the jackpot" with their new contract.

Or course, the USPS will be pushing for another "modest" pay increase for its letter carriers. As in years past, the USPS will cite financial pressures and other considerations to try to suppress wage increases. They will enlist the support of major mailers to plead their cause, and you'll see more of Sam Ryan and other commentator/pundits who will instead compare letter carriers to pizza delivery drivers.

It's been five years since the USPS and NALC negotiated over wages. During that time period the jobs of letter carriers have gotten even more difficult. Carriers are delivering more bulk volume. Automation has reduced the time letter carriers spend sorting mail in the office. As a result, letter carriers are spending more time on the street delivering mail, which is harder than sorting. Overall, routes are longer and the mail load is heavier, a trend that will only increase during the next contract term.

The USPS has earned billions in profits during the course of the current contract and has eliminated its entire outstanding debt. It's time for letter carriers to be rewarded for their hard work and contributions to the Postal Service in a manner that is consistent and fair with the private-sector pay that their UPS counterparts receive.

The last contract was negotiated in the shadow of the 9/11 and anthrax attacks of 2001. NALC, fearful of the economic situation, may have been less inclined to push for larger wage increases. This year, however, there is no shadow looming over negotiations. NALC should be more forceful and confident in negotiating a more favorable contract for its letter carriers and close the pay gap that has resulted from the last contract.  


UPS' pay, perks make it a destination job for many
Thirty months into the job, the company's U.S. drivers earn top union scale wages - up to $70,000 or more a year. Senior drivers get up to nine weeks paid annual leave. While most workers' medical insurance premium costs are rising, UPS picks up 100% of drivers' premiums. Pensions are also generous; drivers retiring after 25 years get up to $30,000 a year. High pay and deep-pocket perks are largely why UPS drivers average 16.2 years on the job, four times longer than the typical American worker. They're mostly why turnover is 1.8% a year. And they're why UPS ranks are swelling with white-collar workers embarking on new careers and an increasingly educated workforce. More than 5,100 UPS drivers are college graduates or hold advanced degrees."

Driver Discusses Pay

"There isn't any pay chart available that I know of, but here is the next best thing. http://www.tdu.org/UPS/UPS This is a copy of the 2006-2008 contract and in Art. 41, you will see what the raises are. Now those are raises to your existing wage. My wage today is $27.17/hr., so on Aug. 1, 2007 with my raise of $1, I will go to $28.17. All of the wages across the  country are a little different (by less than a dollar an hour) because we used to be on separate contracts. They make a little more on the East coast then we do here. Then they consolidated them all into one National agreement and they set the raises, but it does not make the pay the same for everyone because we weren't all making the same when they went National.  But it's real close for everyone. Everyone after 30 months in progression goes to top pay. You can see what progression pay is in the contract also, under Art. 41 ,sec. 2(3). Section 3 is full time inside jobs which we forced UPS to make by combining part time jobs into full time. The part timers don't fair so well. They start at $8.50 an hour and participate in the annual raises. Everyone gets a ballot to vote on the contract but only the full timers seem to cast their votes. The company knows this and pitches the wages to the full timers. The part timers have taken it in the shorts contract after contract even though 60% of the hourlies are part timers. This is the Master agreement and then we all have regional supplements which address issues not covered in the Master. That's why some regions have sick days and some don't. We have an extra week of vacation called our option week but no sick days."


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