Going Postal... AGAIN
By Audrey A. Davis
THERE'S REALLY NO mystery as to why postal employees turn to violence at work. If you are not on the workroom floor you would probably be shocked to find out what really takes place there.
The post office job is pretty simplistic: collect the mail, sort the mail and deliver the mail. We've been doing it for hundreds of years and with modern machinery the job should be getting simpler and easier every day.
On the contrary, it's more complicated and stressful than ever. The more work a letter carrier does, the more management wants them to do.
The carriers that work at a normal pace and take the time to do the job correctly are treated with contempt by their supervisors. The supervisors walk up to those carriers while they are casing mail and with a look of utter disgust order them to "take four feet of mail, and don't go over eight hours." Sometimes the carriers will ask, "Why are you talking to me like that?" And the supervisor gets indignant and says, "Talk to you like what? I'm giving you instructions."
If the carrier is leaving late and believes he is unable to complete the assignment in eight hours and turns in a PS form 3996 (request for auxiliary assistance) management will write "denied" on the form and keep it on their desk. The carriers are left with no instructions of what to do. And if they ask the supervisor whether they should work the overtime or if they will be getting street assistance, management typically will tell them, "Just call the station later."
When the carrier does call the station later, it's hard to get through because everybody else is calling at about the same time and so the line is busy or they get put on hold. The carrier is only calling because they cannot finish delivering the mail on time, but when they finally do speak to the supervisor they are told, "Finish delivering the mail and don't go over eight hours." You can see the dilemma here for the carrier.
The next day the carrier is dragged into the office and questioned about whatever they did. If the carrier stayed within the eight hour limit and brought the mail back to station, they are charged with failure to follow instructions, because they were told to finish delivering the mail. If the carrier finished delivering the mail but goes into overtime, they are charged with failure to follow instructions, because they were told not to go over eight hours. This is an impossible situation for the letter carrier.
The carriers that give in to the pressure and do everything they can to finish within the eight hours have it even worse. Those carriers, known as runners, skip lunch, breaks, and often times skip on safety. They leave the vehicle running, don't put on seat belts or hold the handrails on stairs. Many times the runners skip on customer service. They don't put all the mail in the mail boxes, they save time by throwing all the magazines on a table for the customers to pick out what they want. They fail to ring the doorbell to deliver parcels and don't bother to write up a notice that the customer has a parcel being held at the post office.
The runners finish within eight hours, but give terrible customer service, run the risk of injury to themselves or others and basically wear themselves out. And to make it worse, once the supervisor realizes the runner will bust their ass to make the time limit, they will give them more work, once again, creating an impossible situation for the letter carrier.
Voice ArticleWorking conditions for letter carriers in the Branch 214 area are worse than they have been in twenty years. No doubt that's true for most letter carriers and other postal workers across America.
More Work, More Injuries & More Abuse
Management is pressuring letter carriers to work harder and faster. Pivoting is the method that's currently being used. Management's definition of pivoting is: once management determines that the letter carrier does not have enough work; they assign other duties in addition to the carrier's regular route, and expect it to be done in eight hours.
Most letter carriers would not complain if they were asked to do additional work when the mail is actually light. But, there seems to be no end to how much additional work carriers are expected to do. Whatever you do, it's never enough. If you do a half hour pivot today, they expect you to pivot an hour the next day.
Pivoting has opened the door for management to sidestep the carrier's contractual right to perform the duties of his or her assignment. Management is requiring carriers to curtail work on their own routes in order to do other assignments. Carriers are often backing up the mail on their own route to work on routes that have no carrier available.
This kind of work method is bad for the customers, too. Some routes do not have a regular carrier for months and sometimes even years. When you don't have a regular carrier the service is generally poor. A route with different carriers sorting and delivering sections of the route usually gets a lot of complaints from customers about mis-deliveries, failure to forward mail and late deliveries.
The worst thing about the way management is running the workroom floor right now is that harassment and abuse have become the daily routine. Many carriers think that they are being harassed because of something they did. Carriers are constantly defending themselves and feeling that they have to prove that they are really trying. Sometimes they think that the supervisor is after them personally.
Management always gives lip service to treating employees with dignity and respect, but everyone should know that the abusive way we are treated is not just a few over zealous supervisors. There is a plan to make letter carriers feel guilty and ashamed because supposedly we are not doing enough work. The plan comes from the Postmaster General's office.
Managers at all levels receive incentive pay for reaching goals. As you can guess, if a manager wants to reach his/her goals, they have to push the employees "below" them. That means the district managers push the postmasters, the postmasters push the station managers and the station managers push the supervisors. After that, it all falls to the craft employees who just happen to be the only ones actually moving any mail!
The letter carriers are at the mercy of a group of lazy, greedy managers that make decisions based on how much it benefits them. This is exactly why we have a union.
The NALC is working very hard with electoral politics. They are getting our membership involved in pressing Congress to approve postal reforms which are beneficial to craft employees. They also raise money through COLCPE which is used to "influence" our elected officials.
Nationally, our union has fought very hard to keep our wages at reasonable levels. Some years back the union led a campaign stating that carriers should be paid more because we are working harder and sustaining more injuries.
Now it's time to fight to protect our working conditions. Locally we need to make ending harassment the number one priority. We have to demand that management stop pressuring carriers to run the routes. Physical injuries are way up and psychological stress is becoming unbearable.
Unfortunately, filing grievances will not stop the harassment. The only way to stop the abuse of letter carriers is by coming together and supporting one another, which is not an easy thing to do.
Many letter carriers have fallen into the trap of blaming each other and putting down our co-workers as too slow. Often carriers are trying to make themselves feel better by finding someone to point the finger at. And let's face it, it's easier to point the finger at a co-worker than confront the supervisor.
I'm sorry to see that our officers are still spending valuable union time doing Formal A grievances, which could be done by designees on management's clock. We desperately need the officers to make a real campaign to unite carriers to stop the abuse. We have to create an atmosphere that makes each carrier feel like we are not in a battle alone, that we have the support of other carriers and of our union.
Audrey A. Davis
Shop Steward, Sunset PCA
October 13, 2006
Dear Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi,
Employees working at the Pacific Carrier Annex are requesting your assistance. We are working with an unacceptable level of stress. We realize that the management here has to meet certain goals set by their superiors, but there is no excuse for the constant harassment and intimidation that is taking place. Our rights are being trampled on and our opinions seem to be meaningless.
Management is placing the employees into a no win situation where we get "in trouble," no matter what we do and meanwhile they cover up their own daily violations and inabilities. In the past we have worked together to give the best possible service to our customers, but that is no longer the case. Customer service is suffering and that hurts all of us.
We have tried everything we can think of to improve the situation, from the grievance procedure to a "Peace Team" intervention and things have only gotten worse. A few months ago the San Francisco Postmaster sent out a team to investigate our very low "Voice of the Employee" survey scores, but nothing was done to change the hostile environment here at PCA.
Please assist us in any way that you can, your help would be greatly appreciated. We know our customers would appreciate it too.
1199 Otega Street
San Francisco, CA 94122
This letter was signed by approximately 90 employees at the Pacific Carrier Annex and sent to Nancy Pelosi (Congresswoman)
Noemi Luna (SF Postmaster)
John Potter (Postmaster General)
Bill Young (National President of the NALC)
Lili Buencamino-Beaumont (President of NALC Branch 214)
Letter to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
October 13, 2006
No Win Situation:
Management Daily Violations: