Letter Carrier and NALC Branch 74 President Mark Swan sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just drastically reduce mail volume and stretch the USPS’s chronically-thin bottom line even thinner in the process. It also hamstrung much of the postal service’s workforce. Older workers, fearing exposure, were retiring early. Others were forced home, either to quarantine or to care for locked-down family members. Some fell ill themselves. Those who were able to work often faced PPE shortages and relied on donations from the community.

In late April, 2020, I spent several mornings documenting at the Boardwalk Drive branch in Saginaw Township, Mich. and accompanying letter carrier and local NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers) chapter president, Mark Swan, on his delivery route. At the time, he had just finished quarantining at home for two weeks due to a workplace exposure. Retirement notices from several senior letter carriers were sitting on his desk at the local union office. And he had resorted to picking up boxes of surgical gloves and masks in the mailbox of a local dentist in order to shore up the branch's supply.

Still, Mark arrived at work each day with a sense of pleasure and purpose. Pandemic or not, people were relying on him to bring them their mail—people he had come to know and care for.

May 2020


Letter Carrier Kurt Cunningham sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Rural Carrier Sharon Brook sorts mail for her route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Rural Carrier James Stamann sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Rural Carrier Pam Beaver sorts mail at her case at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carrier Anne Allen sorts mail for her route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carrier Gerald Fries sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Rural Carrier John Moffitt sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carrier Dave Eddy sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carrier Ken Kubczak sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carrier Barry Fischer sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
A case full of letter mail seen at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
A parcel containing 50 baby chicks seen set aside at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Postal clerks sort packages at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carriers Ray and Deb Reid and Tammy Sheahan (left to right) chat before sorting mail for their routes at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carrier Warren Wedding sorts mail for his route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Postal Clerk Marc Thompson sorts flat and letter mail at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Rural Carrier Rebecca Weaver sorts mail for her route at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Thank you notes seen taped to a mail case at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Letter Carriers and supervisors chat early in the morning at the USPS’s Boardwalk branch on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Saginaw Township, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, delivers mail on foot on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Carrollton Township, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, returns to his mail truck after pulling over to look at a Bald eagle’s nest in a tree on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Saginaw, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, hands a customer his mail on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Saginaw, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, delivers mail on foot on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Carrollton Township, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, writes a thank you note to a dentist on his delivery route who had left a box of nitrile gloves in his office’s mailbox on Saturday, Apr
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, delivers mail on foot on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Carrollton Township, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, delivers mail to an apartment building on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Saginaw, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, sorts through packages in the cargo hold of his mail truck on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Saginaw, Mich. In the mail crate is a thank-yo
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, chats with a resident of a high-rise apartment building he had just delivered mail to on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Saginaw, Mich.
Mark Swan, a USPS letter carrier and President of the National Association of Letter Carrier’s 74th branch in Saginaw, sorts through letters in the cab of his mail truck on Saturday, April 25, 2020 in Saginaw, Mich.
Using Format