Divide and Conquer
One of the more insidious but effective tactics that Postal management uses on the post office work floor has its origins in a social and political strategy that is as old as human history. Commonly known as “divide and conquer,” its intent is to divide employees among themselves and by doing so weaken the ability of employees and their representatives to address workplace injustices and inequities. For example, “you wouldn’t have to work this overtime if carrier X hadn’t called in sick,” or “the reason you
can’t have the day off is because carrier Y can’t get their route done on time,” as well as similar nonsense that is routinely spewed by some in management.
However, here’s a newsflash: Carrier X and carrier Y are not responsible for properly staffing a USPS Installation. Postal management is. Carrier X and carrier Y are not responsible for properly adjusting letter carrier assignments or for competently planning and assigning work. Postal management is. But sadly, for some it is just so much easier to blame their coworkers for ongoing problems caused by management’s inability to properly staff and to schedule, or to competently evaluate and assign workload.
It is also so much easier for some letter carriers to point fingers at others such as their injured coworkers than it is to hold management accountable for creating a safe working environment and encouraging safe work practices. It is management that relentlessly attempts to intimidate and micromanage letter carriers into working in a manner that inevitably leads to on the job injuries. Additionally (and we have all known this type of person), there is the coworker that is always far more concerned about what everyone else is doing than with their own work.
Fortunately, “divide and conquer” tactics can be easily rendered as ineffective simply by choosing NOT to listen to anything that management – or anyone else has to say that does not involve your own work. First of all, it is actually none of your business. Additionally, if you feel that management’s actions or decisions in the workplace have violated your contractual rights, then request to see your steward and the union will investigate to determine the facts and circumstances of the situation. Finally, for those that always just have to know what everybody else is doing, try finding something useful to do with your life.
A somewhat startling statistic, at least to me, is that about 50% of the current active members of the NALC began their work for the Postal Service as City Carrier Assistants (CCAs). Add in some former Transitional Employees (TEs) that became CCAs following the January 10, 2013 Das Contract Arbitration award and it is clear that our Union’s membership has changed very significantly during the past six and a half years. This has presented some representational challenges for the NALC and for Branch 2184, as the Postal Service has sought to manipulate and to intimidate the newer carrier force. However, the profound changes within our active membership have also created some unprecedented opportunities.
The current membership of Branch 2184 spans more than three generations, with about 75 years separating our youngest CCA and our oldest retired member. Some of our retired members participated in the legendary strike in March 1970, and it would still be another 30 years after the strike before our youngest current members were even born. The changes within our membership have also brought us an unprecedented level of diversity and perspective, not just culturally but also in personal life experience.
Contrary to those who foolishly fear and resent the vast diversity and different perspectives that exist within our membership as well as those that exist (in a much larger context) within our entire nation, this wide-ranging diversity is the true source of
our union’s as well as America’s strength and potential. Everyone’s ideas, everyone’s talents, and everyone’s contributions make us immeasurably better, but only if they are welcomed and heard. Unionism is by nature born of inclusiveness, and bringing together
those of diverse backgrounds and experiences results in a richness and a vast potential for the betterment of all.
The scope of diversity within our membership is already reflected in Branch 2184’s steward and officer corps. We also are fortunate to have a vast breadth of experience within the “union business,” ranging from just a few months to more than 46 years of service to our membership in various representative capacities. It is this continuing infusion of representative talent and dedication that enables our Branch to maintain its customary level of excellence year after year. The work is by nature challenging and is not for everyone, but it is ultimately very rewarding. Seriously consider this question – what about you?
The Challenges and Rewards of Leadership
There is undeniably no more challenging job in the union business than that of a NALC station steward. However, there also is no more effective way to make a difference in the workplace than advocacy on behalf of the union and our members.
Know in advance that there are no shortcuts; it takes patience and many, many hours of experience and training (and at times, a lot of frustration) to learn the art and the science of effective union representation. However, the NALC at the Branch level and above will provide everything that you need to succeed.
Those that wish to “move up” in the union business will quickly find that there is only one path for success. There are no finer examples of this than Branch 2184’s very own NALC Leadership Academy graduates, Walt McGregory and Michele Szafran. Both Walt and Michele have put in the time, they have done the work, and they continue to do even more work, ever increasing their skills and effectiveness.
Also be aware that prospective union representatives must check both their egos as well as any personal agendas at the door, and they must leave them there. Our labor contract with the Postal Service is not open to selective or personal interpretation, and our representative duties cannot be tainted by personal bias or opinions about other employees. Above all else, NALC stewards represent our members by representing and consistently enforcing the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement.
If you are interested in finding out more about the uniquely rewarding challenges of union representation, please feel free to talk with Branch President Mark Judd, Executive Vice-President Walt McGregory, or Vice-President Joe Golonka anytime, or attend one of our steward meetings as an observer. Although our station stewards are normally elected every three years by the members in their respective stations, the Branch President can appoint alternate stewards as well as fill steward vacancies where they exist. Additionally, there are many other ways for everyone to contribute to our collective cause as Union activists. Don’t wait, because the future has already arrived, and that future is you.
-- Joe Golonka