The Way It Isn’t
Letter carriers that step up and serve their union sisters and brothers as NALC Union representatives quickly discover that one of the more important requirements of union work is that we must always tell letter carriers what they NEED to hear, not want
they WANT to hear. This responsibility becomes even more necessary because of widespread misinformation concerning work rules and contractual provisions that exists throughout the Postal Service. Although it is easy (and often justifiable) to blame management, some letter carriers are also culpable for feeding the postal misinformation machine.
Misinformation combined with mindless fear is responsible for nearly every poor decision made by a letter carrier as it pertains to their job. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes years to discover and correct erroneous beliefs, and in some cases this never
occurs. Moreover, “I heard that…” and “somebody said…” are NOT valid substitutes for authentic and documented information as it pertains to your job or to any other aspect of life. Additionally, not all misinformation is innocently passed on. All too often there is an underlying agenda to deceive and misdirect.
The dangers of misinformation in the Postal Service and with the letter carrier job itself have been especially magnified during recent years because of a large influx of new employees. In our 21st Century world we have endless opportunities to communicate – and to miscommunicate with others anytime, anywhere, and for any purpose. There is an intrinsic value to this modern era of instant communication that can and does serve both the individual as well as the common good. However, there is also a great potential as well as the realization of mischief and consequently great harm to the unknowing.
Social Media Misdirection
During the past several years I have served as an administrator as well as a contractual resource for a large Facebook discussion group of NALC letter carriers. My initial involvement in the group was spurred by the vast amount of bad information that
was posted in response to questions about contractual matters and work rules as well as requests for assistance with matters such as job-related injuries and dealing with USPS management misconduct.
The use of an Internet based forum for this purpose has both great potential value as well as great risk. On one hand, a NALC representative or an individual member can potentially ascertain valuable and immediately helpful information for contract enforcement purposes or for dealing with problematic work issues. Conversely, the information provided in response to many posted questions is all too often incomplete, unsourced, and just plain wrong. Bad information is in most instances worse than no information.
However, there is no point in merely identifying a problem without also proposing a viable solution to problem. Fortunately for all letter carriers, the antidote to rampant and potentially harmful misinformation within our ranks has always existed and is now more readily available to every NALC member than ever before. This antidote requires nothing
except a small commitment of time and a willingness to discover and learn factual information about your job. Authentic information is available and immediately accessible from several sources - first and foremost from your union.
Knowledge is Power
The world of information and our access to it has vastly changed since I began working as a letter carrier in June 1971. What has not changed is the critical importance of approaching your daily work with the confidence that is only attained through the acquisition of knowledge. This has never been easier to do. Each month every NALC member receives The Postal Record, your union’s official publication which is loaded with the information necessary for a letter carrier to effectively deal with the post office work environment. Every two months each Branch 2184 member receives our Branch publication, which is also filled with important and timely contractual and workplace information.
Additionally, the Internet provides a vast array of resources for obtaining accurate and official information about everything a letter carrier needs to know in order to proceed with knowledge and confidence. The two most essential of these are the
NALC National union’s website, NALC.org, and our Branch 2184 website, NALC2184.org. In addition to contract and work rule information, there is a wealth of information available concerning federal employee workers compensation (OWCP), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), health and life insurance programs, and retirement.
Most of all, NEVER rely on your supervisor or any member of USPS management to provide you with authentic information concerning any aspect of your job, especially work rules and contractual provisions. In far too many instances they lack sufficient knowledge of the job and in some instances, they will deliberately misinform you. Also beware of information received from coworkers, much of which is erroneous in nature. Instead, ask your steward or call the Branch 2184 office. We can and we will provide you with the correct information concerning all aspects of your job. When possible, take the time to read and learn from the publications and Internet sources listed above.
Make 2020 the year of working smarter; armed with the knowledge of your workplace rights and benefits and how to consistently enforce them. Year after year there is nothing that USPS management fears more than an informed and knowledgeable letter carrier. Give yourself the gift of power and control over your personal work environment, both present and future.
-- Joe Golonka