A staffing shortage in the U.S. Postal Service has disrupted service in Berkeley, leaving many customers confused by closed doors and frustrated that there is no information about when they might reopen.
Eight post offices in Berkeley and Albany are impacted by the staffing shortage, according to Augustine Ruiz, Jr., a spokesman for the USPS.
They include the main post office at 2000 Allston Way, Station A at 2111 San Pablo Ave., the South Berkeley post office at 3175 Adeline St., the North Berkeley station at 1521 Shattuck Ave., the Landscape station at 1831 Solano Ave., the Elmwood post office at 2705 Webster St., the Berkeley district unit at 1150 Eight St. and the Albany branch as 1191 Solano Ave.
Essentially the post office only has enough personnel to staff six of the eight post offices so it has to move around postal workers, said Ruiz. Since there is often a single postal worker, he or she will shut down service entirely in order to take a lunch break. Ruiz said the staffing shortage was temporary but he did not know when it would improve.
“I wish I could promise you when we will be back to normal,” said Ruiz. “We are working to minimize the impact on the community as much as possible by maintaining nearby post office operations.”
The intermittent service has been going on for about two weeks.
Many Berkeleyside readers said they went to various post offices around the city to find doors open, but no one behind the counters to weigh and process packages or sell stamps.
“The doors are open, lights on in the public area, but lights off behind the counter and nobody there, no sign explaining anything,” Marissa Moss said in an email.
“I went this morning at 10:20 to pick up a package,” wrote Eva Schlesinger of her experience at the North Berkeley post office. “The lobby was open, but behind the counter was dark. People came in with packages to mail and were frustrated to discover no one was working. This is problematic for those of us who have boxes there and are expecting checks, bills, letters, or packages and those wishing to send packages or other mail. It is also unsafe for the mail that has been delivered and is visible in the backroom behind the unstaffed counter.”
This is a long con attack on mail based voting, something tells me there will be a lot more of this by November.
— Sarah Lefton (@sarahlefton) July 27, 2020
Bob Dixon went to the main post office around 11:30 a.m. to mail a package. He entered the lobby to see a bunch of people sitting on benches, waiting. The roll down doors were closed and no one was offering service, even though the website stated service began at 9 a.m, So Dixon drove across town to the North Berkeley branch, arriving around noon.
“Same thing…lobby open, no one working the counter,” said Dixon. “Someone had put a hand-lettered sign saying, ‘apparently closed’. Looked at my watch — it was just after 12 noon.”
Moss said the Albany post office finally opened but when it did there was a long line and just one clerk.
“Someone had a weird conspiracy theory that Trump is trying to make the PO look dysfunctional so people won’t want mail-in balloting,” she said.
Ruiz said the U.S.P.S. is hiring and encouraged people to apply for jobs to work at post offices or to deliver mail.
Berkeleyside has asked USPS for more information and will update this story with new information if we get it.