July 2020 Update
To be sure, we are living in tumultuous times. The issues are well known. Most people have opinions regarding their cause as well as opinions regarding the solution. Of course, anytime someone expresses their opinion, they are immediately categorized as belonging to one camp or the other. Such is the nature of the divide which runs through our society. Moreover, some things never seem to get fixed, at least in a lasting sense. It doesn't seem to matter how many times the causes or solutions are identified.
It is not my job as your Local President to fix the problems of the world or to turn this website into a platform for societal change. Neither I, nor the Local Union, have ever endorsed a partisan candidate for office or taken a position on a divisive political issue. Considering that partisan politics create the government which oversees the Postal Service, maybe this approach is naive. Still, I prefer to limit our political activity to lobbying representatives of both parties on Postal issues. I trust that each Member can make up their mind on what issues are most important to them. But let’s turn our attention to one of those things that never seems to get fixed. Let’s talk about the Postal Service. I will start with a statement I made at last month’s meeting of the Local Executive Board, “I have never been more concerned for the future of the Mail Handler Membership, the Union, and the Postal Service, than I am right now.”
For the 35 plus years I've been a Mail Handler there have always been those predicting the demise of the Postal Service. Moreover, it has been well known for at least 50 years that there are those who wish to see the Postal Service transformed from a governmental establishment into a private company. There are several “think tanks” or “Institutes” advocating for the privatization of the Postal Service. These organizations are privately funded, and they usually rely upon a rallying cry of eliminating government waste to advance their agendas. They envision something resembling a European model, where postal services are provided by a private corporation which receives a government subsidy (i.e., taxpayer dollars) for the costs related to universal service. You don't have to believe me; you can Google “USPS privatization” and see for yourself.
We have all heard the announcements of no more overtime or no more details and we have heard many times that the Postal Service will be running out of money on some given date. All these things have repeatedly fallen by the wayside and each time we hear them we afford these statements less credibility. So, why should we be concerned now? What has changed?
Against the backdrop of the Presidential Task Force report and President Trump’s statement that “The Postal Service is a joke” we have a new Postmaster General. While the PMG has just started, he has already made a far-reaching change. In particular, the recent memo which directed that the late or extra trips required to deliver the mail “are no longer authorized or accepted.” This memo acknowledges that employees may see “mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor” and says, “that may be difficult for some employees.” This represents a significant change to the USPS culture. “Every piece every day” is no longer in place.
Your Union has been called upon for decades to represent Mail Handlers during an investigatory interview or “day in court” when mail has not gone out in a timely manner. This usually involved an allegation that a Mail Handler was responsible, by their actions or inactions, for a tray or tub not making it out for delivery. Management has often accused them of delaying the mail. That is a serious accusation because delaying the mail is a Federal crime. This is not a day on court for attendance and our Representatives have fervently pointed that out to Management. Now this type of investigation may be a thing of the past.
There are things that define our culture as Mail Handlers and as Postal employees. Whether they are obligations under the law or USPS policy, they become part of us, both on and off duty. The principles of loyalty, sanctity of the mail, conscientious performance of duties (a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay), serving on juries, and other forms of good citizenship, create the foundation for our service to the American people. Moreover, we have agreed to restrict our personal freedom by accepting employment with the USPS. The prohibition on being a candidate for partisan political office or engaging in political activity while on duty (Hatch Act) probably tops the laundry list of these restrictions. We all start our USPS employment by taking an Oath of office. That Oath, along with the principles of service, and the personal restrictions, provides a high standard and creates a noble aspect to our service. I believe that service to the American people is a noble undertaking that makes us proud to be Mail Handlers and proud to be Postal employees.
When the institutional standards of the Postal Service are diminished, the noble aspect of our service is diminished as well. It is particularly troubling to see the head of the Postal Service make such changes. In fact, the PMG’s memo recognizes that employees may see “mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor” and says, “that may be difficult for some employees.” This is nothing short of acknowledging that Postal Service standards and the noble aspect of our service have been diminished by his actions.
So, what comes next? That is hard to say. The only thing certain about the future is that the future is unknown; but the future always comes. Suffice it to say that I see a gathering storm on our horizon. Am I being alarmist? Maybe so. But, if that storm comes, the question will be whether we are united, or whether the divide which runs through our society has divided us as well. There’s this divide and conquer thing I've heard somewhere before.
Meanwhile, I am continuing to call and write representatives of both parties on Postal issues. And I trust that each Member can make up their mind on what issues are most important to them.