report

USPS CCA--My Year From Hell

Catching a power nap before going out on a mission in Iraq.
Catching a power nap before going out on a mission in Iraq.

Starting Out

In 2014 I received my Honorable Discharge from the United States Army. I'd spent 7 years serving my country proudly, with two combat deployments under my belt. I'd been stationed at Fort Hood, TX and when it came time for me to either re-enlist or end my service, I decided it was time for me to return to the civilian world. I'd done my duty and was ready to head back home to New Orleans with my wife and son and resume my life as a family man. I was excited about this new horizon and felt that my time with the Army had prepared me for anything.

In April of that year we moved back to New Orleans, and I quickly took a job in the hospitality field. I loved my work, as it gave me ample time to continue to write my horror stories, paid the bills and allowed me to network with others in the city. While the pay was good, it wasn't great though, and throughout 2014 and 2015, I continued to feel that I wasn't using my full earning potential. Then, in late 2015, a friend of mine turned me on to the United States Postal Service. She was trying to find a job with them and had stumbled into the process of applying to be a City Carrier Assistant, a CCA as they are also known. She wanted me to apply as well and come along with her for the ride. We were good friends and often shared our concerns about making more money. With the rather handsome starting pay for the CCA job and the fact that I could roll over my 7 years of federal employment into the Post Office, it seemed like a no-brainer. I applied as well. She wasn't called back, I was.

Red Flags

So, from the very start I began to notice red flags. It took me about a month to get hired on from the night that I submitted my application to the USPS online. The first red flag came when I realized that about 90% of the hiring process was done online without ever actually speaking to someone from the Post Office. I took several little personality tests, the basic ethics exams and such, followed by submitting to a background investigation. Afterwards I was emailed yet again to go to a 3rd party spot for a drug test. After that, another 3rd party spot for a more in-depth test, similar to a civil service exam. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of sending emails back and forth to a USPS 'do not reply' source, I was finally scheduled for an actual job interview.

This came with yet another flag, as the interview was done in mass form. There were about 20 or so candidates there with me, all of us shuttled into a small break room in the back of the Post Office and told to wait. One by one we were called back to speak with a manager for about 5-10 minutes. He asked me a few basic questions, gave me a little information on the job (we'll come back to this) and finally I asked him a couple of questions. After that, we shook hands and went back to my job at the hotel. About a week later I received an email telling me that I was hired, complete with a starting date and location to appear for orientation.

My first day of orientation was December 1st. I showed up bright and early to the downtown office structure. We were told to dress business casual. I showed up with about a dozen other new hires, where we waited in a break room for about 20 minutes before being brought up to a small class room. The red flags appeared again.

For one, the entire process seemed disorganized, as though the training staff didn't know we were coming in that morning. A lot of the new hires had no idea what station they would be assigned to. A few HR people wandered in from time to time, would speak to us for a few minutes about something and then leave the room. Finally, a certified instructor arrived and things began to somewhat resemble an actual orientation. We stood up, raised out right hands and took an oath to be good mail carriers, respect the mail and do our jobs. I actually felt a swell of pride at that.

Afterwards the confusion resumed. As a CCA, you're technically considered a part-timer, and the instructors couldn't really explain what our shifts would look like. They told us that we were "as needed" and said that getting enough hours was sometimes a challenge. I began to get concerned here. I figured this was a federal job that would come with a pretty solid schedule of at least 40 hours a week. The fact that we were receiving advice on how to get more hours felt so strange to me. I began to feel like I was applying at some Multi-Level Marketing job or something. We were also informed that we wouldn't receive uniforms for up to 90 days, but that we could ask some of the old timers if they had clothes to spare. I found this very odd. Was a federal government job really telling me that I should ask co-workers to donate clothing to me?

We were given several lectures about mail policies and forms, but with no hands-on experience, it was really difficult to put anything they were teaching us into any form of practical application. Everything is a form with a number and no common names are used. I took notes. Every so often someone would wander into the class room and tell us things like, "Hope you're ready to work 7 days a week." I must admit, I didn't quite like that.

We spent the week going through these classes, and by the time Friday rolled around, we were all ready for a break. Friday morning, an instructor came in and told us that we'd have the weekend off and report to work Monday morning for driver's training. That seemed normal. Every job I've ever worked typically ran this way. However, within the course of an hour, things changed multiple times. Another instructor entered telling us that there was a change of plans and that we'd actually report on Saturday for driver's training. There were collective groans from my fellow students, and I actually recall joking that at least we'd have Sunday. I was wrong.

Within that same hour, yet another HR rep came in to inform us that we'd in fact all be reporting to our assigned post offices on Sunday as well to assist in the Amazon Sunday deliveries. Lots of us were groaning now. On the subject of assigned post offices, most of us had our initial assignments changed several times throughout the week, often at the drop of a hat. I was originally hired for Gretna, LA, a suburb of New Orleans on the West Bank of the Mississippi. That was then changed to Belle Chasse, another West Bank suburb. Once in class though, I was changed two more times, once to New Orleans and then to Elmwood, another New Orleans branch in Jefferson Parish. By then I was starting to wonder what exactly I'd gotten myself into.

Saturday came and we reported into work. We sat through the longest and most out-dated driving safety video I'd ever seen. It ran for 6 hours and we weren't given breaks. When that was finally over, we were told to drive over to specific Post Offices where we would take the actual driving test. I was sent out to Kenner, LA, which was actually a blessing because Kenner is only about 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans. Others were sent all the way out to Slidell, LA, which is close to a 45 minute drive.

Once arriving at Kenner, I was told by the instructors that they weren't ready yet and to come back in about an hour. Myself and another new hire went and ate lunch and upon return were finally able to begin the test. I found that driving the mail truck was easy. The right-hand drive feature seems strange but once you get used to it it's very simple. The instructor I had was actually a retired Army First Sergeant, so we spent most of the time just telling Army stories. I was done with everything by about 2pm that day, which felt like some sort of blessing since the classes ran well until 6pm all week, and at least on that day I was able to get home before the sun set.

Now we move to Sunday. I showed up at the Elmwood Post Office as assigned to do Amazon Sunday. I was greeted by a supervisor who was very friendly and warm. She gave me a turn by turn, similar to old school Map Quest directions, and had me begin loading about 120 Amazon packages into the back of a U-Haul rental van. I spent about 8 hours driving around unfamiliar parts of the city dropping off packages one at a time. When I was finally done, I returned the van and was instructed to report to work at 6am the following day. Thus began the marathon that would be my December experience working as a CCA.

So, you guys are here for a job? News to me!
So, you guys are here for a job? News to me!

Amazon and the December I Can't Remember

Remember when I wrote that I started on December 1st? Well, I got my first off day on December 23rd. That entire month was one massive marathon of monotony and brown smiling boxes. I'd report everyday at 6am and start loading anywhere from 60-80 packages in the back of the rental van. I had no idea where a lot of them were supposed to go, as the turn-by-turn is only given on Sundays. I was told that I wouldn't be learning mail delivery until after Christmas, and that my current task was just to deliver the thousands of Amazon boxes that arrive throughout the entire month of December.

I remember that Monday, showing up and being shocked that I was just given a huge mass of packages, no directions and the advice to "use my phone" to find the houses. Once I got the hang of how the neighborhoods ran, it did get easier, but I still had no clue how to route the items to maximize delivery. I'd grown up in New Orleans East, and lived in various spots throughout the city, but I'd never lived in the Elmwood area, so I wasn't familiar with the neighborhoods. I got through my first load and returned to the Post Office, where I was quickly turned back around with another load of packages. This time I was sent to apartments which really threw me off. These apartment complexes were massive and the layout made little sense to a first timer like myself. I actually had to just get out of the van and go for a walk around the area to try and understand how the buildings were set up. Finally I got my bearing and after several hours of largely confused driving in circles, I finally completed that task.

At this point I'd been at work for over 8 hours, plus I was now going on day 7 without a break. Keep in mind, I still thought the Post Office was a normal job with normal days off. That of course was not the case as I'd learn soon enough. Either way, I was exhausted, my phone was dead from using the GPS all day and I thought for sure that I'd be able to head home. Of course I was wrong. I was promptly turned back around with even more packages to yet another unfamiliar part of town. At least this time it wasn't apartments though. I pushed through the day, working well after dark and really starting to wonder just what exactly I'd gotten myself into.

This went on every single day until December 23rd. The regulars, that is to say, the full time carriers, still had their days off during the week, plus they didn't work the Amazon Sundays unless they wanted to. I on the other hand showed up day after day, putting in 12 long hours. Sundays were the same thing, come in and do Amazon, but at least we got the turn-by-turn which made things a bit easier I guess.

When my supervisor did finally tell me that I could take the next day off, I felt like I had just won the lottery. It was crazy how excited one man could get over the idea of having a single day off. The day off went by in the blink of an eye though, and then it was back to basics. Thank God December was almost over.

He's not smiling as much as smirking.
He's not smiling as much as smirking.

It Didn't Get Better

I think I stayed through that nightmare of a December because I believed somewhere inside that once the holiday season was over, that the job would level out. By then I knew it was never going to be a 9-5pm, Monday-Friday experience, but I did believe that it had to become better with less volume. Around the start of January I was finally trained on how to deliver mail. It was a pleasant 3 days as I rode around with some cool folks who showed me the ins and outs of being a mail carrier. I found that I liked it better than the tedious delivery of package after package, and having some company on the job was nice.

However, the divide between Regular Carrier and CCA was quickly established. I would spend the same amount of time out with my trainer, however, when we'd return to the Post Office, I'd get to stand there and watch him clock out and go home while my supervisor immediately handed me another bin of packages and sent me back out to the street. There is a certain soul-crushing quality that comes with watching your co-workers climbing into their cars and going home for the night while I was climbing back into a mail van with 2 hours of packages to deliver after reporting to work at the same time as they did. This happened on all 3 days of my training.

After the training I started my life as a CCA doing mail. Now, the role of the CCA is to take additional portions of routes. This can be for any reason. The Regular on the route could be on limited duty and require the assistance, the Regular may have to go home early that day for an appointment, or, as is often the case, people simply call out sick that day. I would show up in the morning, receive my assignment, which was always on a route that I never worked, and would begin the laborious task of taking out the mail. This would always be capped off with more work being handed to me upon return that night.

At that point I was working on average 11-13 hours a day, even though the CCA contract states that 12 is the max you can work. Days off were sporadic at best. As a CCA, you're told to check the schedule every night. Often times I wouldn't even know I was off the next day until I received a text saying so. I was given one day off per week as we still had to report each Sunday for Amazon delivery.

Then one morning, on my one scheduled day off, I was awoken to my phone ringing. It was my supervisor. She stated that I was being "forced" in. That was a new term for me. Seems that as a CCA, you're always on call, even if you're off that day. If they call you up, regardless of what plans you've made, regardless if you've already spent money or made commitments, you are under order to drop any and all personal agendas and report right away to the Post Office. Honestly I'd never seen anything like this before. Upon arrival to work, I asked when the day off would be replaced, to which I was told they didn't know.

This happened to me again, and when I finally complained about it, the supervisor's only advice was, "just don't answer your phone."

Other notable nightmare experiences would include the day my mail truck broke down. I sat on the side of the street for almost 3 hours waiting for the tow truck. I still had about 4 hours of mail in the back of the truck to deliver, and I was now quite behind the 8-Ball. Around 4pm, the tow truck arrived. I was taken back to the station. I thought for sure my supervisor and station manager would have some sort of plan in place. After all, there was a lot of mail left and I was now very behind. Their advice, finish the route. Not only that, but I was also given an additional hour of mail. That night I was out until after 10pm. One person came over to assist me. That's it, one. This should demonstrate the level of team work at the Post Office. People were going home for the night while co-workers were still out, stuck way behind the curve. The manager, who swore she'd get me help, was able to drum up just one volunteer.

The day after that I was called while out on the street and told to bring everything back, that I had to report to another post office to assist them. I was sent to the Bywater post office, a notoriously mismanaged place that actually made the local news for their poor mail service. I got there around 2pm, and upon entering, the supervisor on duty looked not at me, but at my manager who'd ridden over there with me, and made the comment, "how new is he?" That's right, no 'hello,' no 'thanks for coming,' but rather, 'how new is he?' I was given an entire route at 2pm. When I asked basic questions, the same supervisor pointed me towards the lap board for the route and basically told me to figure it out. I was out until 10pm in a high crime area of the city that night. Yeah, and the Post Office claims to care about your safety. They'll write you up for not wearing a seat belt, but they'll send you out until 10pm into parts of the city that feature a murder almost every night, walking in the dark with nothing but a flashlight and dog spray.

Later I was sent back to the Bywater and had a similar experience. Arrived late and stayed out until well after dark. Safety first!

The Amazon experience didn't make for better work either. Amazon's contract with the USPS states that deliveries will go out on Sundays and Federal Holidays. So, all those times that the Regulars were excitedly making their weekend plans, ready to enjoy that Sunday and Monday holiday block, all the CCA's were planning to show up and take out 100 or so packages. There were many times that we'd be forced in on both the Sunday and Monday, and then of course would be required to show up Tuesday morning for regular work. There is nothing quite like standing there and listening to all of your co-workers telling stories about the fun times they had with family and friends over the weekend, while we all got to spend some less than quality time with those smiling boxes.

In April of 2015, the Post Office participate in a charity food drive. We were given stacks and stacks of brown paper bags which we had to include with out mail route. We had to pass the bags out to every single house. Now, these are full sized grocery store bags, so they didn't exactly fit well in the little mail satchel we carry, especially when that satchel contains the small packages and any other door-to-door mail we had to take. Then, that following weekend, we had to collect all the full bags. People left them on their porch, so we had to drag these bags out to the curb, then come back around in the mail truck and pick them up. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for charity, but there was no functional application to doing this. We already had a truck full of packages, and now we had to find a place to cram dozens of bags of dry goods, canned goods and pretty much anything else heavy. Lots of the Regulars scheduled leave on that particular Saturday as well. And nothing is quite as fun as having those bags bust as you are trying to carry them to the curb. You just sort of sit there, holding a torn bag, tons of mail in your arm and around your shoulder as cans roll everywhere in someone's driveway and wonder... what now?

Around the same time as the food drive, I was given a hold down on a permanent route. The Regular went out for an extended time, and when this happens, CCA's can essentially take over that route until they return. I was told that with this hold down would come a more predictable work life, as I'd be on the same route every day. I was also told that I'd get that route's day off, so there would be no more having to guess what my one off day for the week would be.

It was a nasty route keep in mind. It was all walking, brutally long mail loops, and even the supervisors admitted that the route was 'over,' meaning that it was longer than the 6 hours that all routes are supposed to be. Still, I felt this was better than playing the daily guessing game of "where will I work today?" and took the hold down with enthusiasm.

Well, as the title suggests, it didn't get better. My day off was still frequently messed with, and for the oddest of reasons. If there was a federal holiday, regardless of the fact that I would work that holiday, I would be told that my day off was canceled. Having the hold down also did nothing to protect me from returning to work and being given another hour and a half of mail to deliver. In fact, it was more of a disadvantage, as I'd have to report to work earlier to case the route, and would still get off of work at the same time as the CCA's that were coming in at 9pm.

By this time, every day was a struggle.

Some Things Just Don't Make Sense

This went on all the way until the end. Long days, unpredictable time-lines and lots of career uncertainty. The position of CCA comes with no health benefits for the first year. In addition, somehow CCA's are considered part-time, although we work well over 50-60 hours a week. Not quite sure how they do that, as I recall 32 hours a week being the divider for part/full time labor. Anything over 32 is supposed to be full time status, which means health insurance is supposed to be offered. I'm sure the Post Office has a way around this, but it perplexes me that they wound't extend health benefits to employees who are frequently put in unsafe conditions, like pouring rain, intense heat, dangerous neighborhoods and lots of working at night.

Another mystery is how the Federal holidays equate between Regular and CCA. The Regulars get an extra do off and somehow that means the CCA's inherit an extra work day. That process still doesn't add up to me.

The CCA contract also states that CCA's cannot be instructed to be "on-call." Meaning that your supervisor can't tell you to sit by your phone. Yet, in the same breath they tell you that you have to be ready to drop everything on your day off and come in. Isn't that the very definition of being on-call? I still don't know what they'd say if they called you up as you just finished off a pitcher of beer. Although I almost feel like they'd tell you to drink some black coffee, eat some crackers and come in anyway.

Like I said, this is a job that often left me in a state of head scratching confusion.

When Enough is Enough

I hung in there for almost a year folks. I knew from that first Amazon delivery in December that this probably wasn't going to be a long term career for me. However, just quitting a job isn't in my nature. I have mouths to feed after all.

My writing career took a massive back seat, as did almost everything else in my life that wasn't related to delivering mail. I became depressed frequently, as day after monotonous day rolled on. I would look forward to my one day off a week with fervor. Then it would come and go, and I was suddenly right back to feeling mired in dread. I realized that I was only happy for about 5 hours a week. That would be the 5 hours after I'd get home from work when I was off the next day, before I'd go to bed. When I'd wake up on my day off, I realized it was just a countdown before bedtime that night, when I'd have to get ready to wake up again and go back to the deliveries. Couple that with the fact that you never know when you're getting off and the fact that your off day is snatched away quite often anyway, and I finally hit the sad realization, "I live for the Post Office." That's the thought that went through my head on my last day there, the day I finally decided that it was time to resign.

I had shown up for work that morning as usual, and was told by my supervisor that I was scheduled to work the next day at 9am, that next day was supposed to be my day off for the week. I asked if I'd be off that Sunday from Amazon, to which she said she didn't know. I loaded my truck as usual, went out on the street, and while sitting in the back, sorting the dozens of packages, it hit me. "I live for the Post Office." I had no friends anymore, as I had zero time to hang out with anyone. I had no real hobbies anymore, as I had no time for those. My writing had taken a severe back seat, my time with my family was limited to a few hours at night before I'd have to go to bed.

"I live for the Post Office," just kept repeating in my head over and over as I began walking down the street, sweat forming on my temples. I'd be struggling for the entire year at this point, convincing myself each and everyday not to quit. It was a constant internal struggle. I didn't want to be a quitter. I didn't want to roll the dice with our finances. I was a husband and father, a provider and a mentor, and leaving a well paying job seemed like the worst idea in the world.

But I was also miserable. There was almost no joy in my life. The things that brought me happiness, my family, my writing... all that was almost nonexistent in my life now. I was spending between 10-12 hours a day at work, six days a week, sometime seven, and I realized that I wasn't even living at that point. I was just existing, just going through the motions in the name of a paycheck. I realized that I didn't want to just live for the Post Office, so, with the options being money and misery or freedom and living, I finally made the call that I'd been anticipating all year. I texted my supervisor and told her that I was bringing the mail back and resigning on the spot.

The supervisor was nice about it. There was no yelling of 'take this job and shove it,' or anything like that. She and the Union Rep tried to talk me into staying. I wouldn't. To stay would be to continue to live mired in depression with no hope of the normal existence that I'd left the Army to enjoy. To stay would be to continue to live only for the Post Office. I could find another job, my wife was well employed and we could survive a couple weeks off of one income. However, I was done with being a CCA.

Separating Fact from Fiction

I can only speak for my experience with the Post Office as a CCA. I've read some horror stories out there far worse than anything I experienced. The simple truths are this:

The pay is fantastic. I made great money while working as a CCA. You get overtime at 8 hours and your go into double time after 10 hours. So, there were lots of days that I was making $32.00 an hour, which made for some amazing pay checks. We got a lot of debt cleared during my time there.

I never met an abusive supervisor. One common trend I read about when it comes to CCA's is that they have horrible supervisors and managers that threaten and talk down to them. Never once did I experience this. Even though the supervisors often threw horrible, lop-sided work loads at just the CCA's as the Regulars got to leave on time, the verbal abuse was never there. My supervisors always conducted themselves as professionals, and even did a few favors for me here and there. Once I was given a full weekend off out of the blue. Another time she helped me get a 3-day weekend. They were understanding and listened and did try at times to work with me. I can't speak for all stations across America, but I will say that the leadership team at the Elmwood Post Office is among the best.

The blame falls everyone and nowhere. Does that make sense? Probably not, but it's true. The misuse of CCA's is not the fault of the supervisor or even the station managers. It's really a postal wide issue that is very much embedded into postal culture. The Amazon contract is a debacle of poor planning for example. Using one small bank of employees to work every single day in the name of smiling packages is poor planning at its best, especially considering that these same employees report in Monday through Saturday and do the same work as the Regulars. I delivered Amazon on Easter Sunday, a time that most people would want to be home with their families. Perhaps the USPS was simply too drawn in by the allure of all that money Amazon threw at them. There is a reason that FedEx and UPS wasn't interested in playing that kind of ball with Amazon. Perhaps had the Post Office created two categories of CCA, those that did regular mail duties during the week, and those that did special deliveries on the weekends, then perhaps this Amazon deal could work better, but instead, it just all falls on the CCA.

The Regulars have their share of blame in this as well. While 99% of the ones i worked with were nice enough folks that would help out here and there, many of them learned to abuse the system. CCA's to them often seem to represent an avenue for them to do far less work, because they know they can throw that work off. Quite a few Regulars would only do about 60% of their routes each day, with a CCA always taking that last 40% or so. Some of them were on light duty, while others simply knew how to work the system. One woman in particular, a Regular who I actually liked at first, showed me just how CCA's were viewed, at least in her eyes. She was complaining that help had been sent out to a CCA instead of to her. As though the very idea of a CCA receiving help was unbelievable. Keep in mind, this is a Regular who gives off a piece of her route just about daily. I mentioned to her, just in passing, that CCA's need help too at times. Her response, "YOU ARE THE HELP!" That served to show me just how a lot of the senior staff do view us. I would also over hear complaints from Regulars that they found packages from Sunday that had not been delivered. It blew my mind that someone could complain about having to take out one or two additional packages when the person that worked on their day off did over 100. That is a common nature though.

Dogs are a real threat. I was bitten once in the year that I worked there. The owners were in the backyard with their gate open. The dog was running loose back there, and when I stepped on their porch, the animal ran out and bit me. It was a small dog and the bite did no real damage, but it did draw blood, so of course I had to go and get a shot. The shot made me sick so I had to stay home a couple of days. If you decide to work for the USPS, understand that many dog owners do not ensure their dogs are actually locked up. I've seen dogs break free from their owner as they were being walked, one actually running to me and biting my mail bag as the owner tried to pull the animal back. I've also seen them slide through holes in gates.

In addition to dogs, the heat and rain will wear you down quickly. I suffered heat cramps for the first time in my life on a mail route. Yep, out of two trips to Iraq and a hardship deployment to Kuwait, I never once had a heat injury. My first one came via the Post Office. I'd been drinking water all day, so I am not sure what caused this one, as I was as hydrated as normal. I just remember driving down the street in the mail truck and suddenly feeling very sick to my stomach. I pulled over, thinking I might vomit, when the cramps suddenly ripped through both of my legs, all the way up my arms. It took me almost 10 minutes to recover, as my entire body felt as though it was being charlie-horsed.

Many customers will see you as an object. Mail customers can be fickle. Some are great. There was an old woman who always came out to bring me a cold drink. There was another woman who was a retired carrier who kept a refrigerator in her garage. She kept it fully stocked with cold water and soft drinks and invited me to stop by every day and grab something. There was an old man who'd leave me snacks like granola and energy bars on his porch.

But then, there were the others. Laziness was a common trend on my route. It was all walking, and mail boxes were almost always placed as far back from the street as possible. Other people would place their boxes at the very top of their long flight of porch steps, while others still had mail slots so narrow and tiny that a post card could barely fit through. Sometimes, if someone got their neighbor's mail due to mis-sort, they would leave it hanging on their mailbox over the weekend even if the neighbor's box was a mere 5-10 feet away. I understand that it's not their job or obligation to deliver, but I also see it as lazy to take the time to write "wrong address" and pin it to the box when you could simple take a dozen steps. The irresponsible dog owners were a major issue, as I stated above, as well as those that would pull up next to me as I was walking, honk their horn and hold their mail out the window of their car. I'm not sure if they mistook me for an exotic dancer and thought those envelopes were dollar bills, but that certainly seemed to be their mindset. I was once covering a route for another carrier who I suppose had failed to collect outgoing mail from a man's box. He confronted me on the street, angrily demanding to know why the bill hadn't been taken. He went on to tell me that he'd been late on his payment due to that. I explained to him that I wasn't his mail carrier, and also informed him that there was a blue collections block less than a quarter mile from his front door. He wasn't old or disabled. I also asked him if he knew his bill was going to be late, why did he continue to leave it out if the carrier clearly wasn't taking it. These questions and suggestions did not improve his mood.

You'll spend about 2 years, maybe less, as a CCA. If you've read all of this and still want to be a CCA and eventually become a Regular, that's the timeline you can expect. I would imagine that if you're a single person in good shape that wants to make some good money, CCA could be for you. I wouldn't suggest it to a married person who actually wants to spend time with their family though.

In Closing

Well, that's my year from hell as a CCA. I hope this article helps shed some light on what the CCA position is all about and will help any potential employees who are looking into the Post Office get a better idea of what to expect.

Like I've said before, it's a job that will take over your life. You will live for the post office. You'll make good money, yes, but in the end, you may have to decide what's more important, money or your mental health.

I don't regret my choice to try to job out entirely. I do regret leaving my hospitality job though, as I would likely have become a supervisor or manager by now and would have been making as much as the CCA job paid. I really do feel like I lost a year off my life with this job. To me, it was not rewarding and often left me feeling exploited and under appreciated.

I can't speak for every CCA, nor can I speak for every Post Office, so, there may be some where people actually get somewhat normal schedules and can enjoy somewhat normal lives. That wasn't the case for me though, and as I said above, I just couldn't live only for the post office.

Comments 36 comments

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 6 weeks ago from San Diego California

Dude, I wish you could have held on a little longer and made regular, then you would have had a set schedule. Even for a 23 year reg like myself on the ODL the Postal service can become your life and leave you too exhausted to write. I have learned to write on the fly on my phone and email myself the text to put together later.

Great article, I wish you success in your future endeavors, it's probably good you got out when you did because this place can be a graveyard for dreams if you let it.

I'm going to share this on Facebook. It might get you a little extra traffic.


Mike Kelly 6 weeks ago

Sadly it was like that for almost all of us. I started in 1997 and didnt get a day off for 6 months. I was told if o didnt come in I was fired so i kept coming in. Its been almost 20 years now and I have it good like the old guys. It really is one of the hardest places to start working at.

Most of your managers are people who couldnt do your job or didnt want too and care nothing about you. They treat you like youre worthless and suck every bit of life out of you. After 10-15 years I just stopped caring. I am a zombie collecting a paycheck. I became a union rep eventually just because I hated management and now I enjoy making theor life hell with grievances.


Melanie Evans 6 weeks ago

Dear Sir, first and foremost, Thankyou for your service. I just became regular after 23 yrs as a PTF City Carrier. I live in a small town in Upstate, NY. Winters are horrific. I worked six days a week almost forever. I truly am sorry for your experience. I toughed it out, I'm 61 yrs old. Walk 8 miles every day. I thank God for my job as my husband of 38 yrs died at 57 yrs old four yrs ago. I'm working till 66/ half to get my full social security. God bless you son.


Jae 6 weeks ago

Thank You! Thank you! For sharing! This was my EXACT experience as a CCA. I left after 2.5yrs. I,just like you left another industry.. i was in finance and I tried to hold on as long as I could because I didnt want to give up. After I left the few people in my class that were still there became regulars abt 3months later but I was DONE. I have thought to myself maybe it was just me but hearing you relate to the EXACT experiences I had... I now know!! Often I here regs say "we paid our dues". THE DUES PAID...WERE NOT THE SAME! People were not ordering things online back in the day like now..they didnt have the mail PLUS all the packages! PLUS the SUNDAY delivery too!!! I KNOW this for sure because Sundays started right after I started. This way the CCA ship is run is wack!! Thank you again!


Annette 6 weeks ago

Regulars work as subs and earn their days off and benefits. We all do it. It's the way the system works. It is definitely not for everyone. It's hard and stressful. But it's difficult to find the salary and benefits in other jobs. We stick with it because we have families to support. You were lucky you did not run into an abusive supervisor. In my 20 years I have met quite a few.


J Hontz 6 weeks ago

Weak Union! I am a shop steward and you would've be paid extra for going over 12 hours and if you work over 40 hours for 8 weeks the Union can get the Senior CCA promoted to Full Time. You are not on call just don't answer your phone is right but if told to wait by the phone I would've gotten you paid a guarantee 2 hours at the overtime rate if you worked over 40 hours that week. Regulars can be an ass to CCA because may never turn out and are lazy plus after 5-10 of the crap you spoke about the deserve respect and a day off. The USPS pays great but you have to stick it out (learn your rights) and then you can finally try to live a normal life. I am an OTDL carrier and will make near $100K this year but I work my ass off for it, but that's what it takes to send 2 kids off to College. 18 years and counting after 5 years in military.


J Hontz 6 weeks ago

I love the guy who said that regulars paid there dues but it's not the same because there are far more parcels now with online shipping. Laugh my ass off! I started in 1998 where you reported at 4 am to spread mail before casing your route (with no DPS) so you manually cased on some routes 15-20 foot of man. After completely your route or sometimes in the middle you would have to run back to the Post Office to do Collections pulling mail from the Blue boxes all over town (that in most places have been reduced by 70-80% on these boxes) before going back to finish my route. You came to work is was dark and you went home in the dark. But it's what you do, now I am maxed out making over $28 an hour, overtime $43 an hour and over $56 an hour in penalty. This ain't to freaking bad for a dumbass who joined the military out if high school then joining the USPS after that with no College.


Thomas Scott 6 weeks ago

strange this writer never mentioned if he joined the union and tried to learn his rights? many of his complaints about regular carriers was because he never learned how the USPS and Union contract work. like working over 12 hours a day . I am sure his first year in the military was different from his last as he learned how the military service worked .If he was involved in the union he would have learned that our national (NALC) is working on improving how CCAs are worked .


CCANoMore 6 weeks ago

"We paid our dues" is saying "we were treated like shit and abused, so you have to be treated like shit and abused too." How about NO ONE is treated like shit and abused? And sorry, the CCA pay is not that great. I make more per hour at my temp job, with regular normal hours and every weekend off. No OT, but I don't want it, either. I wasn't willing to be a slave to the PO, just for the chance to become a Regular sometime - often years - down the road. The way the NALC has been operating, Regular carriers' jobs and working conditions are going to get worse with every new contract - we're supposed to "pay our dues" to end up with THAT? No thank you. On top of that, 90% of supervisors I worked with were immature bullies with a God complex.


Mark G 6 weeks ago

J Hontz, you cannot get converted to Regular just by working over 40 hours for 8 weeks.


CJ 6 weeks ago

I started as a TE then got switched to a CCA. I left after 5 years and started working at FedEX ( where they treat you like an actual human being with benefits). I've been for FedEx for 3 months and have already made full time. I found NALC and it's shop stewards need to grow a backbone and defend the people that pay them. Even if their only part time. I miss the work but not the company!


L. Thomas 6 weeks ago

I started in 2007 as a sub. I worked 7 days a week. Sundays were for spreading mail and delivering express packages. There were times when I didn't get off work until 1am and had to report back at 9am. That is, until my steward (who is now the president) advised differently. They stopped Sunday express deliveries and twice a week delivery of sales papers. I was a sub for nearly 6 years before I turned over. Everyone has decisions to make for whatever reason. Some stay and some go. This job is truly a survivor of the fittest, mentally, physically and emotionally.


Roy 6 weeks ago

Boo effin hoo. I love how most people think working for the. P. O. Must be a cake walk and most can't handle it.


joePaul 6 weeks ago

I sure don't know how you made it in the service! And couldn't make it in the Post Office! I agree, its Not for Married people with lives!


banningk1979 profile image

banningk1979 6 weeks ago from New Orleans, LA Author

@Roy: I don't think anyone expected it to be a cake walk, I just think most of us didn't expect it to be an all out mess of poor planning and horrible execution. It's not that people can't handle a tough job, but when that tough job attempt to be your entire life, it's time to make a change. I have tons of respect for anyone who actually does tough this mess out.

@JoePaul: The Military was actually quite better than the Post Office. The Army understands the importance of a work/rest plan much better than the P.O. seems to. There is also a sense of brother/sisterhood in the Military that doesn't exist in the Post Office. Sure, we went through some rough times in the Army, but there were no Soldiers that got to work 8 hours while others had to work 14. If the Privates were out in the field sweating it out, so were the Sergeants and so were the Officers. No one was going home while the some were still out there working.

I remember once about a dozen of us were tossed on this detail to clean out and inventory several large shipping containers. This task took about 15 hours from start to finish. For a little while it did seem like everyone else that wasn't put on the detail was going to get off while the rest of us stayed in the Motor Pool and worked. That was until our First Sergeant came down and saw that we were still going at it. He jumped on his phone and had a recall formation spun up in less than 20 minutes, and before we knew it, there were probably about 45 Soldiers working on this task while even the Senior Leadership was on hand to supervise.

Simply put, the Military was a whole lot better run and managed, and that is something that most of us who got out never thought we'd encounter, a place that made us think, "Wow, the Army was smarter than this."


retired 6 weeks ago

Decent enough article with a few major points of inaccuracies. Worst of all the passages about regulars not wanting to help, getting days off and going home early while the author kept working. It is difficult to understand why the author, after a year, wouldn't know that that they couldn't help. That management determines who gets the work in almost all cases and that will mean using the lowest paid no benefit CCA at all hazards over the regulars. You can blame the system but not the old timers.


banningk1979 profile image

banningk1979 6 weeks ago from New Orleans, LA Author

@retired: The intent of that portion wasn't so much to throw blame at Regulars for not wanting to run out there and help, as much as it was intended to paint the picture from the CCA's point of view. I am well aware that there were many Regulars who would have taken a shot at the over time and gone out and helped, but weren't allowed to due to over time restrictions and no penalty rules.

However, with that said, there were many Regulars who did abuse the system, that is a fact. They would fill out 96's before even seeing how much mail they had for the day, they would bring back mail, make appointments in the middle of the work week instead of trying to take care of that stuff of their day off... etc etc etc.

The issues that I experienced during my time as a CCA do reflect a larger issue with the entire Post Office and how the CCA system is structured. I attempted to make that as clear as possible, but looking back on the article, I can see how some may have taken it differently. The object of this article was never to play the blame game, but rather to shine a light, based on my experiences, on what the life of a Postal CCA is like. Lazy Regulars, sadly, are a part of that life.


Wemadeit 6 weeks ago

Um when we work passed 12hrs and over 60 hrs a week we got paid very handsomely from grievances that was filed...

Sorry you came to USPS during the holiday time.


sheri 6 weeks ago

I started work for USPS in 1989 was a part time flexible for about 1 yr then became regular. It was crazy at times and I often thought I wouldn't survive. But I put in 20 yrs, retiring in 2009. I feel for the new carriers to the USPS because it seems that it only got worse after I retired. I loved my route I was on when I retired and didn't have my name on the ODL. Too crazy. But glad I have that career under my belt.


Lacey 6 weeks ago

Thank you for sharing this with me. I have been straddling the fence about leaving because I have been experiencing the same horror for a year as a CCA. I have accepted a job offer from another company, not usps! I am mother and wife and being a CCA came before both and I have just reached a point in my life where I can no longer be on call 24-7 for them. Sad to say that this job has literally drove me off. But I rather have a peace of mind than a big check any day of the week. May God continue to bless you and your family!


S V 6 weeks ago

This is so accurate it's not even funny! I quit after a little over a year of being a cca... I just couldn't take it anymore and had a full blown panic attack right there on the work room floor in front of everyone! It began to be a life and death situation for me and I literally felt I had no reason to live anymore! I was also unfortunate enough that almost all over my supervisors (there were new ones constantly) treated us like crap, played mind games and tried to control and manipulate you constantly. In the end they begged me not to leave but I didn't have any loyalty to people who ruthlessly ruined my life any chance they got... in the end I still feel like I'm recooperating a year later and look like I aged 5 years instead of one... but I'm so much happier and so glad I gave it up...I even to this day have nightmares of working there and am stoked when I wake up and realize it wasn't real haha ...I'm safe now they can't hurt me anymore haha! PTSD much?!


Leann 6 weeks ago

I was hired as a ptf in 2008. I just made regular may 2014. 6 years of 6/7 days a week every week. Now you think your year was bad, try doin it 6. The office I'm in works FORCED ot everyday and I mean everyday. Ot list? What's that? I immediately signed the WA list but that doesn't stop getting an extra piece off of one of the vacant routes. Mail carrying is not for everyone that's for sure. People honestly don't realize how hard it is. I'm very thankful for my job but boy I'm counting down til retirement


banningk1979 profile image

banningk1979 6 weeks ago from New Orleans, LA Author

@Leann: Folks like you get all my respect. You're right, I couldn't imagine doing that for 6 years. At least now you can kick back a bit as it has to get better from there.


Earnestine 6 weeks ago

I'm a Army Veteran who spent six years in service and 18 years with the PO. I just retired in March of this year and I would like to give you my prospective on the PO. I had really good supervisor when I was first hired. I had extremely good co-workers (clerks, mail handlers, drivers, and managers) that knew the mail backwards and forward and taught you all you wanted to know. I had excellent Union Officials and the best HR around. They were serious about what they did and took great pride in doing it. It was years later when all the old heads either moved up, retired, died, or got too old to perform the work and the individuals left were the slackers who were there only for the money and not a care about what they were doing and for whom they were working for (Customers). If we had continued to give great service at the PO, we would not have lost so much business to the Internet. Just as a loyalty was expected from the military so was it expected from the PO. Most people who complain about the Supervisors didn't step up to the plate because they didn't know the functionality of the mail either, but just like to be whiners and crabs in a barrel. If I saw a problem, I always addressed the issue in a professional manner just as I was taught in the military. I would have a discussion one on one with the individual in the proper setting to work out a verbal resolve. If that didn't work, I began documentation, and once I had enough data about a problem, I forwarded it though the proper channels. In short, I only lost one EEO during my 18 years. I knew the full process of the mail, I enjoyed knowing and performing my duties, and I hate that my health failed in such a manner that I had to retire early. I loved the people that I worked with even though you don't always get it back and I miss them all.


T. Hall 6 weeks ago

I've never heard of a station running like that. I'm a Union Rep at my station. The CCA's at my station get treated fairly. I don't understand why grievances weren't filed on your behalf. Hope everything's working out for you now.


Vicki 5 weeks ago

I am so sorry for your experience. My son is in the Army and told me that when he gets out in two years, maybe he'll work at the Post Office as a letter carrier like my husband and I. I told him to go to UPS instead because it isn't like it was when we started out aa PTFs.


banningk1979 profile image

banningk1979 5 weeks ago from New Orleans, LA Author

@Vicki: Best of luck to your son during his time in the Army. Sounds like you're giving him some solid advice in avoiding becoming a CCA. Maybe some other postal avenues aren't as bad, such as the Postal Inspectors or the medical side of it. But CCA... yeah, to be avoided.


Jeremy 5 weeks ago

It was the same story for me. Its such a mess and realizing how much of a mess it really is took a lot of the pride out of it for me. But, I made regular in 11 months. Im just glad to have a decent job at this point.


Ron 5 weeks ago

I currently work at usps, as a mail handler assistant. Not full time yet. I have to stick it out also! Us MHAs work holidays, with no holiday pay. Anything after 40 hours is considered overtime, so if you work 10 hours in 1 day, those 2 extra hours you put in is not overtime unless you have 40 hours already. No set days off, no cut your hours down to 16 or they make you work up to 72 hours in 1 week. I myself was working 6 days with 12 and at one point 13 hour days. I talked to the union at one point and i was told, "we listen to you MHAs but our main concern is for the regulars." So why am i in the union if they wont listen to me. You have more than one boss, and you dont know who to listen too. I totally agree with you, i was treated way better in the military than i was in USPS. But its hard to find a job these days so i need to just going until i find something better.


Regular 5 weeks ago

CCA life sucks balls

And making a regular ain't a bed of roses either

Managers/supervisors acts life their name is USPS

As someone once reminded one them "the same person that signs your paycheck also signs mine so speak to me with respect "


Hector 5 weeks ago

Pretty much the same story on the rural carrier side. I will be retiring next April with 29 years, and conditions have changes dramatically in that time. Under the rural "evaluated" system of pay (paid according to the size of the route not by the hour) I went from a 46 hour route with 484 deliveries to currently a 43 hour route with 728 deliveries. The union has made so many concessions that the quit rate for new-hired subs is unbelievable.

You are right, the problem is not the supervisors or managers, it is just manifested through them. The problem is structural--the 2008 crisis of the post office has been used to implement a long-standing agenda to foist more work on fewer people. And, with the union's help, they have succeeded beyond expectations.

After 29 years in the union, I tried to quit last year. But the USPS failed to deliver the form to HR in time. Irony of ironies.

Best of luck, and thanks for your story.


MrZip 5 weeks ago

What a bunch if whiners. When I started carrying mail, the station had 56 routes. I never knew which one I'd be on. I reported at 6:00AM and usually done by 6:00PM. I also worked Sundays doing collections. As a sub, you don't have a non scheduled day. You work until you gain enough seniority to be able to go full time, and bid for a route. If you don't like working, don't apply at the PO.


JohnnyFresh 4 weeks ago

I'm looking at it like this.... If you can survive the 2 years of hell, there are green pastures waiting.


SUE FORMER LETTER CARRIER 3 weeks ago

THANK YOU FOR YOU SERVICE. You are lucky to have escaped when you did. I started as a carrier back in 1981 when the usps was still under protection from micro management. govt was subsidizin the service and it was awesome...then they wer forced to make money...beginning of the end...once you make regular and are making more money than anyone you know, its hard to think about quitting. then comes the bullying, intimidation and such. i held out for 27 years with a portion of my sanity still intact and a broken down body...only redeeming thing was retiring with a good pension and health benefits at age 57. thanx for telling the story i could not tell , for fear of losing that pension.


banningk1979 profile image

banningk1979 3 weeks ago from New Orleans, LA Author

@Sue: Thank you for the comments. It's a shame that anyone should ever feel intimidated to tell the truth, but I can see why you would have chosen not to. You are a very strong person, as is anyone who can make a career out of delivering mail. You have my respect.


Mickey 6 days ago

I agree with Mel in wishing you had held out until you became a regular. When I started CCA's were called PTFs, (Part Time Flexables) or "sub" for short. I was a PTF for 3 1/2 years. Things got much better after I became regular even though I carried a 15-mile foot route working from relay boxes and with no vehicle. Yeah, I was worn out at the end of each day, but I had a family to support. So quitting was out of the question.

After nineteen years as a carrier retiree my advice to CCAs and regulars alike is to remember what a fellow carrier once told me: "This job is all attitude." I wish I had realized that and had caught on in the beginning. It is all attitude. Remember you are bigger than the job. The job is not bigger than you. Roll with the punches and laugh them off. Do your job but don't try to do more than your fair share. Management will just pill on if you do. Retirement will come sooner than you think. After nineteen years I still look back on my career with a good deal of fondness for the good parts and have forgotten the bad parts. After nineteen years of retirement I still dream regularly that I am back at the post office. Strangely, I am always disappointed when I awake and realize I am no longer there.

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