A USPS employee works outside post office in Wheeling, Ill., Dec. 3, 2021. Maine postal employees on Sunday said that they are facing long hours and short staff, amid a busy holiday season. Credit: Nam Y Huh / AP

On Sunday, mail carriers who are upset over long hours and delivery delays rallied in front of the post office in Portland. They want the postal service to update what they describe as its antiquated hiring practices that take too long to fill positions.

Andrew Filieo is a mail carrier from Massachusetts who recently spent 8 months assigned to Maine to help fill a staffing shortage.

“When I was hired back in 2016, from the time I filed my application to the time I received a job offer was 6 weeks. Now it’s upwards of 3-4 months,” he says.

The president of the local letter carriers union, Mark Seitz, says roughly 75% of branches in Maine are understaffed, and he doesn’t see any end in sight unless policies change.

“It is a good job if we were fully staffed. The benefits are great, the retirement is great. But when you come in here right now, you’re working 7 days a week. You’re working 12 hours a day. Nobody wants to work that,” he says.

Seitz also says that some customers go a week or more without receiving first class mail because supervisors are prioritizing package deliveries. U.S. Postal Service regional spokesperson Steve Doherty denies the practice. And he says the Postal Service is aggressively recruiting for workers, but the effort is hampered by Maine’s low unemployment rate.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are expressing concern over the delays and staffing levels.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has sent two letters to the postmaster general asking for answers, and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King is calling for an investigation.

This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.