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Phoenix protests its snail mail

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – Explosive growth in the Phoenix area has begun to slow mail delivery in some areas, frustrating residents and forcing mail carriers to work into the night.

The backlog is severe enough that letter carriers in some parts of the metro area are delivering until midnight, prompting an outcry from residents and the workers’ union representatives who say the carriers are spread too thin.

Peter Hass, the state’s spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said most residents receive mail on time.

But pockets with swift growth have experienced delays since the agency added 100,000 deliveries in the past year.

The distribution problems stem back to the summer and are not linked to the year-end holiday mail rush, officials said.

It’s unclear how the federal agency aims to fix the mail distribution problem.

Union leaders say it’s a matter of hiring more letter carriers or residents can expect continued delays.

Michael Valdivia, executive vice president of the National Association of Letter Carriers’ metro Phoenix branch, said the shortage has resulted in frequent six-day workweeks with mandatory overtime.

“Morale is very low because we want to do a good job, but we’re just spread too thin,” he said. “We have folks, including young female carriers, doing 14-, 15-, 16-hour shifts, working until midnight in unsafe neighborhoods. This isn’t good.”

The 1,400-member union, which covers Phoenix, Glendale, Buckeye and Kingman, is holding informational pickets to address residents’ and workers’ concerns.

The first took place Nov. 30 at the Maryvale branch post office, with subsequent protests at South Mountain Village, Sunnyslope and north Phoenix branches. More gatherings could follow, Valdivia said.

The escalating crisis has infuriated residents, such as Julius Kornblatt, 82, of Scottsdale, who has phoned postal officials several times to no avail.

“We’ll go days without getting mail, which is very frustrating,” said Kornblatt.

He is a retiree who has frequent doctor visits because of a heart condition, and often receives medical bills marked past due, he said.

“Every time we call, we get a different story,” he said.

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