In recent weeks, Vashon residents have reported problems with receiving mail, as the local post office continues to experience serious staffing shortages.
The situation made the evening news on Wednesday, Nov. 23, as King 5 News dispatched a camera crew and reporter to Vashon to talk to customers outside the post office — some of whom complained about the way that their packages have been delivered, as others expressed empathy for local postal workers.
Islander Rebecca Davies told King 5 that too much is being asked of the postal workers.
“They are overwhelmed with Amazon packages,” she said. “We have heard that several times from the employees. It is too much mail for them to deliver.”
Compounding recent problems on Vashon has been the departure of one more worker in mid-November.
On Nov. 18, a Beachcomber reporter, in line at the post office, overheard a worker behind the counter tell a customer, who was there to attempt to pick up undelivered medication and other mail that had not arrived that week, that the person who delivered his mail had quit.
(Postal employees on Vashon are not permitted to speak to the press.)
The postal worker also told the customer that workers from other places were being called in to help on Vashon.
That was confirmed in a communication from Lecia Hall, a USPS spokesperson based in Plano, Texas, and who is the person The Beachcomber and other news outlets are directed to contact.
As of Wednesday, Nov. 23, she said, the Vashon Post Office was current with all packages and delivery of first-class mail on the island, including medications.
Hall also said that workers on Vashon had to contend with a large number of package deliveries and that USPS was now shuttling workers from nearby communities to help deliver the mail on the island.
“On occasion, due to limited staffing and the shortened days, we are unable to complete every route every day,” she said. “But on those occasions, our commitment is to deliver the mail on the very next day.”
Conditions at the Vashon Post Office, she said, change on a day-to-day basis.
“We can confirm that our workforce is not immune to the hiring struggles being faced nationwide,” Hall said. “We apologize to our customers for the inconsistent service and we pledge to do better.”
The effort to hire more postal workers is exacerbated, she said, by the island’s lack of affordable housing.
“We’ve been hiring all year in order to stabilize our permanent staffing; however scarce housing options [on Vashon] have limited our pool of candidates,” she said.
The salary for a rural carrier associate position begins at $19.06 an hour, Hall told The Beachcomber earlier this year.
The good news, according to Hall, is that USPS currently has two new employees in the pipeline for the Vashon Post Office, who are now in the orientation and background process of being hired.
“We have several more openings and we will continue to recruit and hire into these jobs,” she said, adding that USPS appreciates “the patience and understanding of all of our valued customers in Vashon, and apologize for any inconvenience that may have been experienced.”
Vashon-Maury Community Council will discuss Vashon’s problems with postal delivery at its next meeting, set for 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, which will be held both in-person, at the Land Trust Building, and on Zoom. To find out more or receive a link to attend the meeting online, visit v-mcc.org.