Mel's Musings on Mail Malfeasance - Reflections on a Postal Injustice
A Message for the Ages
If lately I am beginning to sound like some fire-breathing labor advocate I apologize. In the ongoing, eternal battle between labor and management I stand firmly in the middle. I recognize the need and the moral justification for businesses to make a profit, and I also recognize the role that the competent working man plays in helping a business to make a profit, as well as the moral obligation to be compensated accordingly. Now, I understand that we are dealing with the Postal Service here, so profits are generally not an issue, but hopefully you catch my drift. Anyway, the particulars of one recent unfortunate incident in the San Diego District leads me to decry the abuse of power by postal management, and once again I must take the side of the employees affected by this incident. I try to be fair to both sides of the feuding fence but I have seen this type of abuse time and again. It is simply another example of pure human arrogance at work, the kind that dictates that I shall survive at the expense of others and regardless of the truth. It is a marvel that a society governed by laws suffers these sort of abuses to continue, but continue they shall, I am sorry to report, until human beings in their present form no longer trod upon the planet.
To begin with, a little explanation is necessary regarding the postal policy of not having any letter carriers out on the street past 6 pm. At least this is the longstanding policy in the San Diego District the last few years, probably stemming from a state of affairs in which severely undermanned stations sometimes had letter carriers out delivering mail until midnight or later. The 6 PM policy is a very strict one, and any violation of it must be reported to the Area Manager immediately. In order to avoid this sometimes unpleasant confrontation, delivery supervisors jump through hoops to get their people back on time, sometimes by doing things that violate the union contract or even worse, the law of the land. The latter is what seems to have occurred in this particular situation being discussed.
At the risk of alienating my non-postal friends out there, I am afraid I am now going to have to engage in postal-speak again by mentioning that there were two TEs (Transitional Employees for you non postal types) that were regularly arriving back at the post office after 6 pm with the complete complicity of their supervisors, probably at their direction. In order to avoid a dressing down by the Area Manager, the supervisors were clocking in these employees from the street before 6 pm. In return for depriving the TEs of the overtime, possibly penalty overtime, that this late arrival entitled them to, the supervisors struck up a "sweetheart deal" whereby the TEs would be allowed to leave early on Saturdays with a full day's pay. Come Saturday the supervisors would have to go into the system again and perform fraudulent, falsified clock rings in comply with their end of the bargain.
Apparently this situation was favorable to all parties involved until a new supervisor arrived on the scene and caught wind of it, most likely from the TEs, who explained to the newbee that this procedure had been their modus operandi for some time. It appears that the new supervisor was unwilling to go along with the program, perhaps because he or she (names were withheld in the Branch 70 story) understood the consequences of falsifying clock rings, or perhaps simply out of conventional morality, if you can imagine something that silly and anachronistic in this day and age! At any rate an investigation was launched and all guilty parties were dealt with according to long standing postal policy.
Here is a rundown of the dispensation of punishment, as summarized by the Branch 70 newsletter: In the first place, the TEs were unceremoniously removed from the postal service. Compared to career employees, TEs have few if any rights, and can be removed at the discretion or more often than not the whim of management. I know of one case in which a very good TE merely defended himself against a manager for calling in sick one day and was removed shortly thereafter. TEs were often connived into joining the Union using the faulty premise that the Union could somehow protect their jobs, but this was not the case. The fate of the TE was subject only to the continuing good humor of management. I use the past tense here because the TE is gone now, a fossilized relic that has been replaced by the CCA, which you can read about in a number of my other blogs.
So what about the Supervisors, you ask? The TE's' only sin was ignorance in believing that the clock ring "fixes" were a normal and natural part of postal procedure, and perhaps fear in thinking that if they did not go along with this program they would be axed. The Supervisors, on the other hand, were fully aware of the illicit and illegal nature of their actions, and for that reason were probably punished more harshly than the TEs, a judgment which would be perfectly justified. But surprise surprise! This is not what occurred at all. The Supervisors were merely moved to other stations, more out of consideration for the embarrassment of having to face the music for their bad deeds then for real disciplinary reasons. So once again blindfolded postal judgment came to the rescue and weighed down the scales appropriately.
Upper management in the postal service often makes bombastic, chest-thumping proclamations about integrity and honesty, but when it comes down to my butt getting spanked versus yours the annoying little angel of integrity weighing down on one's managerial shoulder is often stashed away in the hazardous waste locker. Time and time again I have seen the "good old boy network" triumph over that meek little angel of integrity. Not only are foul deeds such as sexual harassment, throwing away the mail, and other grave sins committed by managers covered up by friends "upstairs", the wrong-doers involved are often promoted once the heat has blown over. Integrity does not matter nearly as much as connections, and violating the law of the land is often interpreted as "resourcefulness," or a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if "whatever it takes" is illegal or immoral.
I am certain that this type of malfeasance is not limited to the Postal Service, but when a business is a giant, megolithic monopoly there is not as much of a need to keep one's image clean. Corporate America frets and fusses about maintaining an unblemished facade because the competition will certainly exploit any deviation for moral purity for its own financial benefit. But since the Postal Service really has no competition many times these infractions, or dare I say "crimes," go unpunished.
And so I have now finished venting my frustrations for one day. If any of you out there in postal land have anything to comment upon in this regard please feel free to do so below. But since corruption such as this is not strictly a postal phenomenon by any means, those of you in the non-postal ranks always have an open invitation to express your views as well.
Until next time,