Postal employees belong to the largest civilian workforce in the U.S. They operate retail services, work in processing centers, move the mail, and manage the mammoth system. The public face of the service—postmasters, carriers, and even the postmaster general—are only part of this workforce. A myriad of skills, knowledge, and specialties are required to keep the broad-reaching and continually expanding system operational. Despite their differences, postal workers share in a common work culture and a sense of public service, which supports the nation's communication.
For many years the postal system was used as a political reward system known as 'patronage'. Postmasters who found themselves on the wrong side of the party in power could also find themselves unemployed. In 1883, the Pendleton Act created the Civil Service Commission. Under the Civil Service, applicants were required to pass examinations before being hired, and advancement was based on merit. In spite of the Civil Service, many postal hires continued to operate under the patronage system until the postal system was reorganized in 1971. Today, employees of the U.S. Postal Service are not federal workers but do participate in the Civil Service retirement program.