A USPS employee has sparked discussion after voicing his support for UPS workers’ recent strike threat—and bemoaning the issues that USPS employees face while trying to organize.
In a video with over 85,000 views as of Friday, TikTok user and USPS driver Burt (@burtontothismailer) shows himself behind the wheel of a USPS truck.
“I’m happy UPS was able to reach an agreement and get better pay and working conditions by threatening to strike,” writes Burt in the text overlaying his video. “Did you know the USPS (& federal employees) are not allowed to strike?”
@burtontothismailer USPS employees lack power in demanding better working conditions. #screammovie #VozDosCriadores #mailmanchronicles #themail #uspsworker #uspsproblems #mailcarriersbelike ♬ original sound – burt
Burt’s claim here is true. Per an article by Buzzfeed News by Nidhi Prakash, “Government employees are not allowed to strike, or even talk about striking” thanks to a federal law banning the practice.
“An individual may not accept or hold a position in the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia if he…participates in a strike, or asserts the right to strike, against the Government of the United States,” reads the law in question.
As an article in The Atlantic by Russell Berman notes, these strike bans for federal workers have been in place since the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947—however, that hasn’t stopped some federal employees from trying to do just that.
“When the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) struck in 1980, then President Ronald Reagan had them all fired and permanently banned from federal service,” the American Federation of Government Employees’ general counsel’s office explained to Prakash. “As a result 13,000 air traffic controllers had their careers destroyed. Any strike by federal employees is a suicide mission.”
Partially as a result of this inability to strike, workers like Burt face considerable on-the-job issues that cannot be remedied through the threat of a strike.
“…Our LLVs (classic mail trucks) from the 80’s lack air conditioning and air bags,” he writes in the text overlaying the video. “We often work 12 hour days 6 to 7 days per week.”
“I wish we could do something to force change,” Burt concludes.
In a TikTok direct message exchange with the Daily Dot, Burt noted that he was not and is not speaking as a representative of USPS. That said, he offered further issues that drivers face.
“We don’t actually know how long we will work each day. Even if we aren’t on an overtime desired list, we get back from our routes and get sent back out to finish other routes. The limit is 12 hours, but some people work past that,” he explained. “It makes it hard for family, personal plans, appointments, social calendar to plan and expect to get off work in time to make it.”
“Many workers have medical notes with restrictions on daily hours, or weight limits, but they are requiring workers to get a new note from a doctor every 30 days to maintain restrictions, even if the doctor’s note says ‘ongoing restrictions’ or permanent restrictions,” he added. “I have heard someone say that the management claimed ‘Your medical note limiting you to 8 hrs expired yesterday, so you will have to work 12 hours today until you refresh your note.'”
While protesting is allowed off the clock, Burt says, it is difficult to organize and its efficacy is unclear.
“I think it’s important for people to be aware that postal workers are working 12-hour days in poor working conditions. High turnover is just making operations more difficult,” he detailed. “I know posting about this won’t get people to want to work at the USPS. But if the overall population is aware of the everyday problems, maybe they can demand change for us…Quitting won’t change the system. It will just exacerbate the overarching problems with operations and management.”
In the comments section of Burt’s video, users shared other classic non-strike methods that workers have historically employed to achieve their goals.
“Fed employees get a lot of sick days don’t they? Why not coordinate a sick-out,” asked a user.
“It’s not a strike, we’re all having trouble starting the llv’s,” joked a second.
“It’s not a strike if you all just suddenly quit at the same time,” stated a third.
Others simply expressed their support.
“Former usps cca here. had to quit. I worked 75 to 90 hours a week. only got 2 days off a month. lost 60 pounds,” recalled a user. “Doctor recommended I find a new job.”
“I firmly believe in USPS as an institution that betters everyone but christ we need to do better,” shared another.
“Sad that employees basically have to quit in order to get working conditions and pay that should have been from the start,” detailed a further TikToker.