AUSTIN, Texas — Linda Saldana Alonzo doesn’t need a calendar to determine her retirement date.
“37 years. I’ve been here 37 years,” she said.
Saldana gets mail packages ready for carriers and handles customers in the main lobby at her local post office.
“I love my job,” Alonzo said.
She said it helped her pay for her daughter’s education through law school.
“For the eight years that she was in school, I mailed packages to her every two weeks,” Alonzo said.
She is one of 121,000 U.S. Postal Service employees working beyond retirement eligibility.
The USPS Office of Inspector General shows 23% of all postal employees are now eligible to retire.
The KVUE Defenders previously showed you long lines inside an Austin post office. People who had broken mailboxes waited to get help at the office window. A manager said the post office was short staffed.
“Our 10-year plan is empowerment and the focus on the employee,” said Douglas Watson, an Austin postmaster.
He hired nearly 200 employees in the first half of 2022. Seventy positions were still open as of June 14.
“We're looking for city carrier assistants, rural carrier associates and assistant rural carriers. We do have some postal support employees for working in the lobbies and working on our delivery units, helping to sort packages and mail for delivery,” Watson said.
Wages start at $18.92 an hour for city carrier assistants. Rural carrier associates and assistant rural carriers start at $19.06 an hour.
Those wages are set nationally, part of binding agreements with unions. In the Austin area, it would be considered “low income” for a family of two.
The jobs do not require any college degree or specialized training. Requirements include being 18 years old, a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and having a valid state driver’s license.
Positions began as “non-career” employees, which are not guaranteed a 40-hour workweek.
Spokespersons for USPS said wages are only part of the picture. They told KVUE that USPS incentives make up for the lower pay and uncertain schedule.
The Postal Service has a no-layoff agreement for anyone who has worked more than six years, and all career and non-career employees have 65-75% of health premiums paid.
“I have a husband with an illness. If it wouldn't have been for my health benefits here, we would really be struggling,” Saldana said.
On June 24, USPS Austin will hold a job fair to answer questions and take applications. It will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Austin General Mail Facility at 8225 Cross Park Drive.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: