A Pew Research Center survey released on April 9 found that 91 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the United States Postal Service (USPS), earning it the title of America’s favorite government agency. The survey also found that USPS and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) were the only agencies to receive similar favorability ratings among both Republicans and Democrats.
The former Post Office Department was created in 1792 as a department within the executive branch and the postmaster general became a member of the President’ Cabinet in 1872. In 1970, however, the postal service was reorganized as an independent federal agency—meaning that it now exists outside of the executive branch.
Independent federal agencies operate with some degree of autonomy from the executive branch. These agencies are most often headed by a commission or board made up of five to seven members. The top official of independent agencies generally has cause removal protections and, therefore, is insulated from political interference by the president or other elected officials.
The more than 630,000 postal service employees are members of the federal civil service, and USPS has the highest number of excepted service members of any federal agency.
The federal civil service is made up of individuals other than military personnel who are employed by the federal government. The excepted service is one of three subsets of the federal civil service: the competitive service, the excepted service, and the Senior Executive Service. Members of the excepted service are not subject to the merit-based selection process of the competitive civil service, which is primarily carried out through competitive examinations. The flexibility of the excepted service allows agencies to recruit and hire individuals to fill certain positions for which candidates cannot be appropriately assessed through the competitive hiring process.
As members of the federal civil service, USPS employees can participate in collective bargaining. USPS has collective bargaining agreements with seven different employee unions as of April 2020.
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