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Postal Service - Out of Control

April 2007 - from PEN Reader
Most of you will remember the murder suicide in San Francisco in 2006. A postal supervisor was murdered and a letter carrier committed suicide.
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The following is an update on the conditions for postal employees in that area - this article was sent to PEN by a PEN reader.

Reprinted without edit from PEN reader

During the February 2, 2007 meeting at Dan Bernal's office Winifred Groux;
San Francisco District Manager for the U. S. Postal Service stated the
problem at the Pacific Carrier Annex (PCA) as "a turn over in supervisors
that failed to keep up the goals of the Peace Team." The Peace Team was a
group of union and management people that worked with personnel at PCA for about two years to correct the problems with communication, trust and
dignity and respect.

The craft employees present at that meeting disagreed with District Manager
Groux's characterization of the problems at our worksite and stated that the
conditions did not improve after the Peace Team intervention, they got worse
and it would be a mistake to blame the three new supervisors for the five or
six years of abuse. The station manager is a full participant to the
treatment of employees at that facility. Upper management is aware of the
conditions at least through recommendations of the Peace Team (to remove
Station Manager Denton), the Voice of the Employee surveys and an
investigation conducted by manager Steve Santos in August of 2006.

District Manager Groux stated that after she found out about the letter
"petition" signed by 87 PCA employees which was sent to Speaker Pelosi, she initiated a "Postal Inspection Service intervention." That was not an
intervention in the dictionary sense but was basically an investigation of
the work environment.

District Manager Groux stated at that meeting on 2/2/07 that she would
address the employees at PCA because, "they need to hear that we agree that the treatment of employees there has not been appropriate."

That did not happen. Instead, Station Manager Denton who is responsible for
condoning the inappropriate behavior as well as participating in the actual
harassment and abusive treatment of employees was put in charge of
"debriefing" PCA letter carriers.

The following is a summary of what Station Manager Denton said to us.

This meeting is about the petition sent to Nancy Pelosi's office about
harassment. There was a meeting two weeks ago at Nancy Pelosi's office with the district manager, the postmaster and the union all there. It was
determined that PCA has a problem with a lack of communication and dignity
and respect.

There are going to be different classes to educate the supervisors and
manager about changing the way we do things. Station Manager Denton said in a very stern voice, "the yelling on the work room floor has to stop." She
paused and looked very hard and serious at each craft employee in the room
and then said, "The harassment, as it's called, has to stop on both sides."

Carriers are not doing their jobs the proper way and when the supervisors
try to correct them the carriers are saying things like, "I know my job,
I've been here for twenty years," and then the supervisors are not reacting
properly. This has to stop!

This was not an acknowledgement that employees have been mistreated, as
promised by District Manager Groux, it was just one more opportunity for the
station manager to accuse letter carriers of not doing their jobs.

Furthermore, Ms. Denton's statement is a gross mischaracterization of the
problems at PCA! The truth is that management's incentive pay (bonuses)
depends on increasing productivity (and other goals) and the local
management is using harassment and intimidation to do it. The place is run
like a sweatshop! Communication; forget it! Trust; long gone! Dignity and
respect; doesn't exist!

The Joint Statement on Violence and Behavior in the Workplace states;

We all grieve for the Royal Oak victims, and we sympathize with their
families, as we have grieved and sympathized all too often before in similar
horrifying circumstances. But grief and sympathy are not enough. Neither are
ritualistic expressions of grave concern or the initiation of
investigations, studies, or research projects. (my emphasis)

It goes on to say;

We openly acknowledge

that in some places or units there is an unacceptable level of stress in the workplace; that there is no excuse for and will be no tolerance of violence or any threats of violence by anyone at any level of the Postal Service; and that there is no excuse for and will be no tolerance of harassment, intimidation, threats, or bullying by anyone. (my emphasis)

We also affirm that every employee at every level of the Postal Service
should be treated at all times with dignity, respect and fairness. The need
for the USPS to serve the public efficiently and productively, and the need
for all employees to be committed to giving a fair day's work for a fair
day's pay, does not justify actions that are abusive or intolerant. "Making
the numbers" is not an excuse for the abuse of anyone. Those whose
unacceptable behavior continues will be removed from their positions. (my

The Joint Statement on Violence and Behavior in the Workplace address
exactly what is going on at PCA and at other stations in San Francisco.
. Ritualistic expressions of grave concern
. The initiation of investigations
. Harassment, intimidation, threats, and bullying
. "Making the numbers" is their excuse for abusing employees at PCA

The atmosphere at PCA is worse than ever. Threats, intimidation, bullying
and harassment are routine. There is no real communication, just orders and
instructions. Station Manager Denton continues her practice of micromanaging with an emphasis on control. We are treated like we are a bunch of two year olds out on parole and it is very frustrating to say the least.

Peter Shapiro, NALC Branch 82

The Postmaster's comment that "contracted mail delivery has always been part of the overall delivery process" is transparently false.

Contracting out has only been appropriate is isolated and extreme circumstances, such as delivery to camps at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Private contractors have not been utilized to deliver to residential areas, nor should they.

It's time for the USPS to contract out Postmasters, and every other layer of postal employee that doesn't touch the mail. Years of institutionalized mismanagement has caused the USPS to squander the monopoly it has been granted.

Here's an example of the waste:
USPS employs
- acting supervisors
- supervisors
- managers
- area managers
- Postmasters
- District managers
- Area Wide managers
- Area Vice Presidents

...and they recount the same mail several times a day. The delivery portion of a letter carrier's job is in some ways similar to the delivery worker driving a bread route, or a soda route... loading the truck and following an established pattern of delivery. The big difference is those workers do not have to face the daily micro management and in your face management of some pencil pusher with a tie. As a matter of fact, they work relatively unsupervised - just as a letter carrier should. Instead USPS employs an army of lazy postal managers who try to justify their existence by trying to squeeze five minutes more productivity out of a stone.

Letter carriers are already tracked by a computerized system (DOIS) as well as scanned bar codes along the route and on some classes of mail (Managed Service Points or Delivery Confirmation); how can any company justify paying for supervisors to duplicate and triplicate work already performed by computers?

Even private industry does not contract out their CORE duties. It's the administrative work, such as Human Resource work, that can be farmed out.
The issue is not about what's good for USPS management, it's about what's good for the American public. If the public wanted private industry to handle their documents, they would utilize the services of UPS, Fed EX etc.
Clearly, the American public seeks trusted Federal workers to enter their property daily, with the sensitive documents sent through the US Mail.

Editorial in the Beaverton newspaper
by Peter Shapiro, editor of NALC's Branch 82

The principle of universal service ­ equal access to the mail for all
Americans ­ has been around as long as this country. It has been
repeatedly upheld by Congress, most recently with passage of the Postal
Accountability and Enhancement Act late last year. Incredibly, it is now in jeopardy.

Across the U.S., the Postal Service is experimenting with hiring
cut-rate private contractors to deliver your mail. Local postmasters who
once had the authority to approve new addresses for delivery service
must now get approval from higher-ups. Here in Washington County, mail
service for 374 new addresses in the Arbor Park development near Bethany
are slated to be contracted out. Additional addresses are being
contracted out near Orenco Station.

I earn my living delivering mail, so itšs obvious why this is a concern
for me. Herešs why it should be a concern for you as well:

What a great article - If Peter is reading this please contact me at
teressa_lenkey@comcast.net. We are experiencing contracting out at our
local Post Office and would love to share any idea's you have. Thank you
in advance.
"Teressa Lenkey"
(Not verified)
Sat, Mar 10, 2007 at 06:33 AM

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

We love our mailman. He has consistently given us quality service for
the twenty plus years we've lived in our home. His daily rounds help to
keep our neighborhood vital and connected. I do not want to see the US
Postal Service get outsourced to the lowest bidders.
(Not verified)
Sat, Mar 10, 2007 at 07:26 AM

Continued Next Column

More Out of Control Issues

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

They say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Every day of the week i send 2 - 3 full tubs of mixed envelopes and packages all over the world using the mail service, and you know what ? Almost without exception, it all gets to where it is supposed to get to, and in good condition. At the same time, I receive 4 - 5 shipments a week via UPS, and although they all get to me, they frequently look like they were used in a football
game first.

My point is this : we have a mail service in this country that works, and works well. If you consider all of the infrastructure that keeps it working so well, you can also see that it really is more cost effective than most other things in our lives. Some things really shouldn't be changed.
"chris moore"
(Not verified)
Sat, Mar 10, 2007 at 09:41 AM

Over more than two centuries, the post office has built up an
infrastructure that extends mail service to every household and every business address in the nation. Unlike private shippers, it doesnšt pick and choose whom it will serve or charge more for out-of-the-way deliveries. Unlike private shippers, it has no stockholders to pay off. It charges enough to pay its expenses and no more. And it doesnšt take a
nickel of your tax dollars.

Those of us who deliver your mail are charged withmaintaining its security and privacy as well as making sure it gets where itšs supposed to go. At a time when identity theft has become rampant, it provides a means of communicating ­ and conducting business ­ which has proved far safer than the Internet.

If youšre sending something valuable, wešll provide extra protection. If you move, wešll forward your mail. If youšre out of town, wešll hold it until you return.

Wešre there for you every day, no matter how bad the weather or how heavy the mail volume. But we do more than put letters in your mailbox. We bring medications to the ill and housebound. We build up personal relationships with our customers, watch their kids grow, send their care packages to loved ones overseas in the military.

If we know youšre home and we notice mail piling up in your box ­ especially if youšre elderly and living alone ­ wešll check and make sure youšre OK. Hardly a week goes by when a carrier in some part of the country doesnšt intervene on behalf of a customer facing a life-threatening emergency who couldnšt summon help on their own.

Wešre considered first responders in case of a natural disaster or national emergency. Our access to every household enables us to collect 70 million pounds of food for the hungry during our unionšs annual food drive. Here in Oregon, wešre the backbone of the statešs innovative
vote-by-mail system, which has attracted national attention and praise at a time when hanging chads, paperless electronic ballots and long waits at polling places have undermined public confidence in the electoral process.

In short, mail service is a precious public resource. That portions of it could be auctioned off to the lowest bidder ought to elicit howls of protest, and not just from letter carriers like myself.

Because our countryšs steadily increasing population means a constant addition of new delivery points, maintaining universal service costs money. Since a machine has not yet been invented that can deliver mail, much of that money goes for labor costs. Therešs always the temptation to farm out the work to private entrepreneurs who claim they can do it on the cheap.

But doing so carries a price which none of us should have to pay. Existing standards of privacy, security, uniformity and accuracy would be virtually impossible to maintain. The letter carrieršs unique role in the community would be undermined.

More fundamentally, the principle of universal service, and the delivery network required to maintain it, would be gravely compromised.

My union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, is doing all it can to stop it. We need your help.

Wešre having an informational picket line at the Beaverton post office beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 15. Youšre welcome to join us. If youšre driving by but canšt stop, honk your horn in support.

When you get home, contact your elected representatives and let them know that you value your delivery service and donšt want it dismantled piece by piece. Itšs your fight too.

And here's some reader comments:

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

Privatization is not all it's cracked up to be. By the time you fix all the mistakes made by inexperienced people, you haven't really saved money after all. And now we are supposed to trust untrained contractors with our VOTES? Enough is enough.
(Not verified)
Fri, Mar 09, 2007 at 09:58 AM

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

We live in Old Orenco and our mail is contracted out. The mail service in this area is unreliable with neighbors often returning misdelivered mail.
"Tim Stout"
(Not verified)
Fri, Mar 09, 2007 at 01:28 PM

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

If you contract out the mail service, let's say something gets delivered broke, who's accountable? Where do I go to complain? Times that story by 100,000 for all the mistakes, breaks, tears, rips or lost mail items there would be if contracted out nationally and who do you go to for
compensation? Who pays for damage/loss? From state to state, who handles who's complaint, is it the hundreds of different "contracts" that will be delivering the mail? Don't wish to see privatization or "contracting out" This country would literally see chaos and pandimonium,,,,,.....really....
(Not verified)
Fri, Mar 09, 2007 at 04:07 PM

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

"there is nothing so expensive as cheap labor" (unknown)

Anyone who purchases a product or service based solely on price gets what they pay for. It is challenging enough for fulltime employees to deliver the mail accurately and in good time. To expect contractors or subcontractors to do so when they have little vested interest is just plain silly!
"Dennis Purdie (Rural Carrier)"
(Not verified)
Sat, Mar 10, 2007 at 03:00 AM

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

So you're saying another person, because he/she is not a USPS letter carrier, can't have the same principles as you. HE/she can't keep the mail secure, can't help people in distress they find on their delivery route, can't uphold privacy statutes, or be held accountable for their work. The USPS can and should hold a contrct delivery person with the same accountability as their own employees. Why not. The USPS currently has carriers being fired for not delivering mail and for stealing the mail. How are USPS carriers so different than others? Give me a break and stop blowing smoke up the publics A**

(Not verified)
Sat, Mar 10, 2007 at 05:57 AM

Re: Mail delivery shouldnšt be contracted out

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