Wayne County, MI
AFL - CIO
Vice President's Report
The Contract, the Union, and YOU
Who OWNS The Street? In recent years, Postal Service management has adopted an aggressive strategy wherein they utilize their questionable computer-generated data as attempted means of “controlling” the amount of time that a letter carrier uses to complete their daily duties. Although these programs (i.e. DOIS, PET) are framed as management tools that are allegedly used to estimate office and street time on a letter carrier assignment, the daily application of this on the workroom floor more typically takes the form of an implied or even a direct instruction as opposed to a discussion of estimates or expectations. This is not by accident; the Postal Service knowingly engages in a willful attempt to intimidate and even bully letter carriers on a daily basis with inaccurate and nearly always incomplete workload information.
Many letter carriers, especially our newer letter carriers, are intentionally misled into believing that management determines the amount of time necessary to complete assigned duties each day, particularly the delivery portion of their work. However, this could not be LESS true. There is a very distinct difference between management‟s conventional authority to instruct a letter carrier on how long they are authorized to work each day, and management‟s entirely nonexistent authority to instruct a letter carrier to complete ALL duties within a specified amount of time.
This distinction is much more than just a rhetorical or semantic difference, or merely a matter of perspective. Instead, this is the very essence of what is most responsible for the antagonistic and frequently hostile work floor environment in many post office stations. Simply put, there is no aspect of letter carrier work that can be predetermined to the extent of certainty. Minimum casing standards do exist in the office (18 letters/8 flats per minute), but even this portion of the letter carrier workday is subject to varied and typically unpredictable factors. When a supervisor tells a letter carrier that “your leave time is 8:45” and at 8:45 parcels are not ready, accountable items have not been received, and the hot case is not finalized, it becomes rather clear that this will not be the carrier‟s leave time that day.
However, it is in the STREET where a letter carrier’s work becomes entirely self-directed. Always keep in mind some very important truths. First, there are NO established time values whatsoevernfor ANY letter carrier delivery function. This begins with all the time necessary to load your vehicle and continues throughout every aspect of street duties as they are performed. Letter carriers are expected to work in an efficient manner, but that also means working in a safe, sane, and always under control manner.
We on the union side of the business often will repeat the adage “it takes what it takes” when discussing street time. USPS management does not like those words, simply because they are true. They would rather have you believe that “it takes what we tell you it takes.” However, as just discussed, under no circumstances does management have an enforceable authority to tell any letter carrier that they MUST complete any delivery function within a specified time frame. Instead, it is ultimately the letter carrier that tells management how long his or her work will take. Initially, this often requires the completion of PS form 3996, and sometimes it will also require a call from the street. But in every case, it is ONLY the letter carrier who determines exactly how long the delivery portion of their duties will take each day.
Since that late 1970s I have been a volunteer severe local storm spotter (Skywarn) for the National Weather Service. The purpose of the Skywarn Spotter program is to enable Weather Service meteorologists to receive real time eyewitness verification of
severe weather hazards such as tornadoes, large hail, and damaging wind gusts. Although advanced weather radar is a valuable tool for the detection of severe weather, spotter reports are essential for providing actual verification of severe weather phenomena that are developing or occurring at a specific location.
A commonly used expression for this type of real time verification is “ground truth,” meaning what is really happening as opposed to what is indicated or appears to be happening. In a very real sense, the actual daily work of a letter carrier is the Postal Service‟s version of ground truth. DOIS and similar workload estimates utilized by management are just that – estimations not reality. However, objective
reality does exist, and it is ONLY the letter carrier who determines this reality each day.
So who “owns” the street? YOU own the street, because it is you that takes complete ownership of your daily work. Letter Carriers are the face of America‟s public postal service, and it is the work of letter carriers that defines its core mission. An empowering and affirmative way for every letter carrier to always maintain pride and dignity is to remember that without your work, there is no Postal Service to begin with. Always take pride in knowing this, because you are the ultimate truth of the Postal Service, and you are the iconic symbol of an American institution.
A note of thanks goes to our membership for allowing me to serve another term as Branch 2184 Vice-President. Just as the Postal Service is in a time of rapid transition, our Branch has also begun a transition that will bring us into a bright future of topnotch
representational services and continued leadership in every aspect of Union activism. During the past several years our future leaders have begun to emerge and this is continuing to occur on a consistent basis. It is my intent and my promise to our
members that I use the next three years to do all in my power to help ensure that our future leaders have been prepared in every possible manner for the difficult but enormously rewarding task that awaits them.
-- Joe Golonka