A Fair Day’s Work for a Fair Day’s Pay?
A basic workplace principle that is applicable in all forms of employment is the time-honored adage “A Fair Day’s Work for a Fair Day’s Pay.” In fact, these exact words appear at the beginning of Article 34 of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining
Agreement to signify that they are recognized by all parties to the Agreement – the NALC as well as USPS management. This is all well and good, but what specifically constitutes a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay?
The literal answer to that question is quite straightforward. There exists a basic and twofold expectation that first, an employee should provide a reasonable and honest effort while performing their assigned duties, and second, in return the Postal Service should fairly and honestly compensate the employee for their work. It sounds so easy, right?
Shouldn’t workplace peace, love, and happiness easily be found, merely by applying that simple formula?
Unfortunately, that is not at all the case, because that “simple formula” is anything but simple in the real world of the workplace, and especially so in the Postal Service. This is because USPS management is actually not at all interested in the principle of a fair day’s work from craft employees, and especially letter carriers. Instead, the Postal Service wants more, and thus it fosters a culture and a core philosophy of antagonism and disrespect, of deceit and intimidation, and of cheating and outright stealing from its employees in ways that are both subtle as well as direct.
A One-Sided Relationship
For the vast majority of letter carriers, the principle of a fair day’s work in return for a paycheck is not even a matter for thought, much less analysis. Rather, it is simply a way of life. Letter carriers in the United States are by far the most productive and efficient delivery service employees to be found anywhere in the world. Committed and efficient work, consistent and respectful customer service, and dedication to the job itself is second nature to nearly all of America’s letter carriers. Because of this, the American people love their letter carriers, who the very reason that the Postal Service itself is consistently the most highly rated public agency in the United States. In return, the honesty and integrity that is consistently exhibited by USPS letter carriers in their daily work is all too often responded to with flagrant dishonesty and a disregard of integrity by postal management. Letter carriers will instinctively find the best and most efficient manner to perform any aspect of the job. Such is human nature; who wants to make their own work even more difficult? Yet, rather than letting productive letter carriers do what they do best, postal management creates and nourishes a childish and dehumanizing workplace environment that is ridiculously micromanaged and relies on
numbers-driven deceit and intimidation instead of respect and cooperation.
The obvious question follows. Just why is postal management so obsessed with micromanaging a straightforward job that actually requires little if any direct supervision? The answer is just as obvious, and it is the key to understanding what this is really all about. Letter carriers have real and very necessary jobs. Most of those in Postal management do not.
Ignoring the Elephant in the Room
Unfortunately, in the near term there is little if any chance of a substantive change is this unhealthy workplace dynamic. The NALC has long sought to actively and forthrightly partner with postal management to achieve a badly needed and wholesale revamping of the disrespectful workplace culture. However, decades have come and gone, and all the
happy talk about a respectful and cooperative work environment on the part of postal management has been fully exposed as pathetic and insincere BS, as it always was to begin with.
In a labor-intensive organization such as the Postal Service there is very little legitimate need for supervisory personnel to begin with, except to perform some administrative and scheduling tasks. Nearly every USPS craft level job can be and should be entirely or mostly be self-directed. There simply is no valid reason for endless of layers of useless management personnel as well as the ridiculous levels of micromanagement that exists with city letter carriers. And that is the “elephant in the room” that everyone knows is there but that is largely ignored. The Postal Service is bloated with tens of thousands of management “jobs” that simply aren’t needed and can’t otherwise be justified.
We ARE the Postal Service
Thus, while letter carriers continue to serve the American public day in and day out, providing a fair day’s work (and more) for their wages, USPS management consistently violates our labor contract, commits fraud by falsifying clock rings and other workplace data while stealing hard earned wages from letter carriers, promotes and rewards abusive management behavior, retaliates against letter carriers that sustain on the job injuries, and fosters a workplace environment of disrespect and intimidation. The sad irony is that the Postal Service could not even exist without the work and dedication of its letter carriers, whereas it could easily exist and even thrive without most of its management personnel.
The Postal Service has many problems, some of them caused by external political enemies, and some of them caused by its own refusal to aggressively compete and adjust in a competitive 21st Century delivery environment. But ultimately, even if and when these issues are successfully addressed, the USPS could still be doomed unless it seriously addresses and completely revamps its utterly failed management model.
A company that relies on a top heavy and authoritarian, arrogant, and disrespectful mode of leadership can never truly succeed. In contrast, a company that allows its greatest asset, its workers, to do what they do best without constant interference from hordes of useless and self-important management employees will not only succeed, but it will outshine its competitors, every time.
-- Joe Golonka