President Obama Please Rescue U.S. Postal Workers
Why is there so much stress and workplace tragedies in the U.S. Postal Service? The answer to these questions is because the postal culture embraces and reflects core values that center on achieving bottom-line results with little or no regard for employee participation, respect, dignity, or fairness.
[Beneath The Spin: Open Letter]
Dear Mr. President:
I’ve been one of your biggest supporters every since you arrived on the political scene.
I must admit, my support of you has become far from unwavering and much less enthusiastic than it was at this time during your 2008 campaign. The primary reason for that is I’ve found it literally impossible to reconcile your claim of full support for the poor and middle class while at the same time you’re completely ignoring the horrendous abuse that your very own United States Postal Service is perpetrating against its employees.
The U. S. Postal Service is not simply insensitive toward its employees, the agency is actually engaged in torturous intimidation, threats, and criminal extortion. In the Los Angeles District, for example, postal officials routinely use threats, harassment, and intimidation to force employees to work off the clock without pay. And in many cases, when an employee does have the courage to hit the clock, managers and/or supervisors will use a special code to go into the system and falsify the employee's time. The agency is robbing its employees just as blatantly as if it was a a thug in a parking lot.
And the theft of employee earnings that’s become so rampant throughout the Los Angeles district is far from an aberration. The postal service has clearly adopted time fraud as a national business strategy. One law suit against the postal service alleged that time fraud against its employees is so rampant and widespread that it constitutes a criminal enterprise.
The attorney in the case actually tried to charge the postal service with violation of the RICO Act (The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), the law passed by Congress to go after the Mafia – and the postal service didn’t deny the charge. Instead, it simply petitioned the court to throw out the allegation based on the fact that a government agency can’t be charged with engaging in a criminal enterprise.
The post office indicated in it’s response that “The Postal Service is not Subject to RICO liability as Part of the Federal Government; and Postal Service Officials Cannot Be Held Criminally liable for Acts Committed in Their Official Capacity.”
The petition further states “the Supreme Court observed that while the Postal Reorganization Act of 1971 may have waived the Postal Service’s immunity from suit, it…did not strip it of its governmental status.”
On December 2, 2009, Arbitrator Sherrie Rose Talmadge said in her decision against the postal service for time fraud that “Management’s violations were so egregious over a period of many years that punitive damages were awarded to deter the service from further clock ring violations.”
Here’s a typical example of how the United States Postal Service treats its employees - and this is a supervisor (204B); craft employees are treated even worse:
JoAnn Snow was the closing supervisor for Bicentennial Station in Los Angeles, and she held that position for 21 years. Her responsibilities were to follow up behind all of the supervisors that worked during the day to make sure that all of the mail was delivered, and to ensure that all mail collected during the day was dispatched to the general mail facility for processing in a timely manner. That included checking every route and every vehicle for "sleeper mail" that might have been overlooked during the day. She was also responsible for seeing that the mail in every collection box in the service area was collected on time, but not before the time indicated on the box. In addition, she returned calls and addressed all customer complaints that had been overlooked, or more often than not, shunned by supervisors during the day.
In short, it was Ms. Snow's job to check behind every employee, and supervisor, each day to make sure that they'd carried out all of their responsibilities, and according to Eugene Jeffries (her former manager), and her unprecedented longevity in her position, there was none better at what she did.
Protecting the interest of the postal service, its employees, and customers was, literally, Ms. Snow's life. She worked seven days a week for two years. She came in on Sundays for nine years to ensure that the Express Mail for several post offices was delivered to the customers in a timely manner - and most of that time she did it without being compensation.
As Mr. Jeffries pointed out in a statement, she would often volunteer her own time to make sure she carried out all of her responsibilities efficiently. Jeffries said:
“I was the Manager of Customer Service at Bicentennial Station in Los Angeles from 1997 until I retired in 2001. I was Ms Snow's manager during this time. Prior to coming to Bicentennial Station, the two previous managers, Lloyd Curtis and James Barnett had apprised me of Ms Snow's supervisory skills and total dedication to duty and company. Upon coming to the unit I was not disappointed and found all they had told me concerning Ms Snow was true.
“Ms. Snow was one of my closing and weekend supervisors. She had an exceptional knowledge of the overall operation and excelled at running a difficult unit and she required little to no supervision. She could be counted on to work beyond what was normally considered an average work day without complaint. She always finished her assignments no matter how long her day was extended and this included weekends. She has excellent interpersonal skills which you need supervising the diverse workforce at Bicentennial Station. Ms Snow exceeded my expectations relative to handling my business customers and resolving complaints. In addition to all of this, Ms. Snow would routinely call the office on her scheduled off day to see how things were going and offer her assistance if needed.
“Joann Snow proved to be an invaluable asset and even now in retirement, I often think of her and thank her when I talk to her for helping make my tour at Bicentennial successful.”
But instead of thanking Ms. Snow for her dedication, the new breed of postal managers felt that "we've got a fool here," and began to load her down with additional responsibilities, to the point, in fact, that she would still be in the post office when the morning shift arrived (she comes in at 12 noon) - and they expected, in fact, DEMANDED, that she do it for free! As a result, instead of going home, she had to check into a motel across the street from the post office. At that point she had no alternative but to start hitting the clock to be compensated for the time she was being forced to work. That's when her problems began - Tyrone Williams (her new area manager) called her while she was in the motel - after she’d worked a double shift - and demanded to know why she hit the clock!
According to Ms. Snow, when she told Mr. Williams that she was being loaded down with so many additional responsibilities that she couldn't get them all accomplished in a reasonable time, Mr. Williams told her that she sounded like one of the carriers. She was told that she simply wasn't managing her time wisely, and if she couldn't do any better she'd be returned to delivering mail - this, to a woman over fifty, with twenty-one years of dedicated service as a supervisor.
Thereafter, her manager, Ms. Luna, stayed with her to assist her with her responsibilities, but even with Luna’s assistance it still took them nearly twelve hours to complete the additional responsibilities that had been placed on Ms. Snow. Ms. Luna finally left about midnight, leaving Ms. Snow there alone. Thus, they were demanding that Ms. Snow do in eight hours what both she, and her manager, couldn’t accomplish in twelve. So Ms. Snow stuck to her guns, and just as Mr. Williams threatened, on Monday, April 12, 2010 she was scheduled to be "retrained" to carry mail. So she was demoted from a job she held for twenty-one years - before her manager even hired into the post office - for refusing to work for free.
Several managers who were familiar with Ms. Snow's work ethic and competence as a supervisor offered to bring her aboard their operations as a supervisor, but Mr. Williams refused to release her out of his jurisdiction. Allegedly, he claimed that retraining her to carry mail would help him hold down his overtime.
18 U.S.C. § 1001 reads, “Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully - (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.”
In spite of the above law, the postal service left no stone unturned to protected both Tyrone Williams and Marci Luna for allegedly conspiring to falsify Ms. Snow’s time records. Among other things, they allegedly falsified the records to reflect three-hour lunch breaks that Ms. Snow never took. In response, not only did the agency fail to hold these managers accountable for their criminal conduct, but allegedly, the agency gave Mr. Williams an award, and promoted both managers. Do our laws mean anything, or are they now just window dressing to give us the allusion of justice?
The postal service’s labor relations manager, Steve Marney offered to pay Ms. Snow several thousand dollars to drop her claim against the agency, but with the proviso that she also drop her demand that Area Manager Williams and Manager Marci Luna be fired. When she refused, they circumvented her by getting the NALC to agree to it without Ms. Snow.
In anticipation of this action, Ms. Snow wrote Larry Brown, president of branch 24 and national trustee of the NALC. In her letter she specifically demanded that the union not settle her case without the removal of both managers who falsified her time. The letter reads in part,
“April 30, 2010
President Larry Brown:
“I spoke to Ray Espana today, and he told me that he was meeting with Marci Luna and the postal service next Friday to get me paid for their falsifying my clock rings. I told him at that time that I didn't just want to be paid. I want the people responsible for falsifying my time removed from the postal service. In response, Ray told me that he couldn't do that. That's what EEOs are for. That's a bunch of crap! Ray has been Executive Vice President of Branch 24 for over 15 years. You'd think that he'd know that the EEO procedure is for discrimination, not simple theft . . .
“I am formally requesting that you have someone handle my case who is both knowledgeable, and has some modicum of integrity. And DO NOT RESOLVE THIS CASE WITHOUT THE PEOPLE WHO PERPETRATED THIS CRIME, AT THE VERY LEAST, BEING REMOVED FROM THE POSTAL SERVICE. Nothing else is acceptable.”
Almost exactly one year later Ms. Snow received the following letter from the NALC:
“Dear Mr. Jackson:
"Calvin Brookins and I discussed the above captioned grievance on at least two occasions, the last being April 15, 2011.
"After a full review of the information, contentions, and arguments, both parties have reached the pre-arbitration settlement. In reviewing TACS records and the other information contained in the file it was agreed that the grievant is entitled to compensation.
"The Grievant will receive a lump-sum payment of $7,866.26 as compensation.
"This agreement is entered without prejudice to the position of the parties and constitutes full settlement of the issues pertaining to this grievance.
Manager Labor Relations
With that, the postal service swept three federal crimes against one of its employees under the rug - conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and falsifying government documents.
I've sent you the following statement several times, but I'm sending it again, because it amazes me how you can claim to be standing up for the middle class and continue to ignore it. Dr. Stephen Musacco, an organizational psychologist, a therapist with thirty years experience in the postal service, and the author of "Beyond Going Postal,” says the following:
“Prior to my retirement from the USPS, at a former district I worked for, there were three suicides within a two year period that I concluded were contributed to in significant part by how these employees were treated in the workplace. The third employee, a city letter carrier, fatally shot himself in a postal jeep and left a letter stating that he could no longer take the job. The night before he committed suicide he told his wife he did not know if he would be able to handle his job anymore. How do I know? His wife told me this one day after his suicide. He was one of the best employees in the office. The District Manager and I interviewed his coworkers after his death, and they stated he would urinate in a bottle while on delivery route for fear he would not meet an artificial deadline set by postal management. During the interviews, one of the postal supervisors told the District Manager and me that the day before the suicide she gave a letter to all the city letter carriers in the station, noting that any future over time used for their routes would be considered unacceptable performance. The suicide at the Gastonia postal facility was the second since December 2005.
“Many people have asked: Why is there so much stress and workplace tragedies in the U.S. Postal Service? The answer to these questions is because the postal culture embraces and reflects core values that center on achieving bottom-line results with little or no regard for employee participation, respect, dignity, or fairness. Additionally, there is little or no accountability for the actions of top management in the Postal Service. Many postal facilities consequently have toxic work environments, and they can be a catalyst or trigger for serious acts of workplace violence, including homicide and suicide. The associated rewards system for behavior consistent with the postal culture core values, moreover, enables systemic organizational and individual bullying of employees at all levels of the organization.”
Mr. President, I’ve written over twenty-five articles relating to the criminally abusive practices within the U. S. Postal Service, and I’ve sent most of them to the White House. So I’m sorry, Sir, but considering your lack of response to what’s going on in your own government agency, your solemn pledge of support for middle-class workers hits my ear like a bad note. We'd like to hear a lot less political rhetoric, and see a lot more action.
While you continue to claim you’re in full support of fairness and justice for veterans, the poor, and the middle class, your United States Postal Service is the second largest employer of veterans and middle class workers in this country, yet it is routinely committing federal crimes against them on a daily basis. You don’t need Congress to address this issue, so you cannot continue to claim support for middle-class justice while allowing this situation to exist. Thus, it's going to be very interesting to see what you do about it, or extremely instructive if you choose to do nothing.
And by the way, Ms. Snow’s son is a career non-commissioned officer in the military. So while he’s away fighting for the just treatment of others, his very own government is at home treating his mother like soiled toilet tissue. This situation is absolutely unconscionable, and it speaks directly to your credibility, so I sincerely suggest that you get in front of this issue before the election season heats up.
More articles by Black Star columnist Eric L. Wattree are on wattree.blogspot.com
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