Working at the US Postal Service: Everything you need to know

The median salary of a Postal Service letter carrier was $51,310 annually as of May 2019

The U.S. Postal Service is at the center of the latest political storm amid a series of cost-cutting measures implemented in recent months that Democrats contend are part of a broader attempt to sabotage the 2020 election.

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At the end of July, some USPS workers sounded the alarm about days-long backlogs of mail across the country after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who's previously donated to the Republican Party and President Trump, approved changes to the agency aimed at cutting costs, including prohibiting overtime, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring carriers to leave mail behind when necessary to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes.

Millions of Americans are expected to vote by mail this November due to the coronavirus pandemic, igniting fears on both sides of the political aisle that USPS delays could affect the election.

DeJoy has since reversed course, saying the changes to the Postal Service will be suspended until after the Nov. 3 election.

But states remain skeptical.

A postal worker empties a box near the Fiserv Forum on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Milwaukee. With the Trump administration openly trying to undermine mail-in voting this fall, some election officials around the country are hoping to bypass the Postal (Associated Press)

On Friday, six states -- Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and the District of Columbia -- filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service and DeJoy, saying the changes will impede the ability of states to conduct fair and free elections. At least 20 states have threatened to sue.

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Here's everything you need to know about what it's like to work at the U.S. Postal Service:

How many people are employed at USPS?

The Postal Service, whose roots date back to 1775, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first postmaster general, employed 496,934 workers in 2019. There are 31,322 Postal Service-managed stores in the country. In 2019, the agency recorded 811.8 million visitors to those stores.

How much money do mail carriers earn? 

The median salary of a Postal Service letter carrier was $51,310 annually (or $24.67 per hour) as of May 2019, according to Labor Department estimates. Some letter carriers may earn as much as $65,620, or $31.55 per hour, the estimates show.

As federal employees, however, USPS workers enjoy other financial perks, including a standardized federal retirement plan. The agency also provides employees with health care benefits once they retire.

How do you get a job at the USPS? 

Individuals over the age of 18 (or who graduated high school and are at least 16) who are interested in getting at a job at USPS can submit a job application online.

An Amazon package is loaded onto a U.S. Postal Service truck, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, Portland, Maine. Facing public pressure and state lawsuits, the Postmaster general announced Tuesday he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that cr

The agency will then invite some applicants to take a postal assessment, which tests individual's aptitude for tasks such as completing forms, checking addresses, coding, memory, speed and accuracy. The test is officially known as the 473 Postal Exam.

Applicants who score well on the test will continue on in the hiring process. Your score can be used for up to six years if you are not hired.

What is a typical day like for a letter carrier? 

In a memo to carriers in July, USPS leadership introduced a new initiative called Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation. Under the program, carriers will not sort mail during the morning operation. They'll clock in, retrieve the mail that was sorted the previous day and then prepare for delivery.

"Upon returning from the street, the carriers then work any unsorted mail into delivery sequence for delivery the next scheduled day," the memo said.

Benjamin Franklin worked for the USPS. Have there been any other famous or well-known employees?

There have been more than a dozen other celebrities and renowned historical figures who worked for the Postal Service (for many, long before they became famous).

Bing Crosby, the American crooner, comedian and actor, worked as a substitute and regular clerk at a postal office in Spokane, Wash., in 1921, according to USPS.

Steve Carell, the actor, worked as a rural letter carrier in Littleton, Mass., in 1985.

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"It was pre-internet," he said during a 2014 interview on "Ellen." "Lots of catalogs -- Sears, L.L Bean -- you know, big, thick, heavy catalogs, and the mailmen had to deliver them. I was a mailman one Christmas. I only lasted about seven months, but it took me through the Christmas season."

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Carell was a so-called rural mail carrier, meaning he had to use his own car (a Toyota Corona, he said) when delivering mail.

"You deliver out the right side," he said. "So I had to drive with my left hand and my left foot on the accelerator and brake, and throw the mail out the window...I was a bad mail carrier."

Other famous individuals who have worked at the Postal Agency include Walt Disney (substitute carrier in Chicago, 1918); Charles Lindbergh (airmail pilot, 1926-1927); and William Faulkner (acting postmaster and postmaster at the University of Mississippi from 1921-1924).

Former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman also worked as postmasters for the USPS.

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