BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
What's so curious about this situation is that your administration seems to be totally accepting of this abuse, and completely in the dark about what it's doing to your image. While you're hanging onto Glenn Beck's every word, you're completely ignoring a federal assault on the people who voted you into office. Then, speaking of audacity, you have your collective lips poked out because workers have the audacity to complain about it. In effect, you're asking your constituency to accept your position that, "Okay, so they're destroying one or two families - but we got you some healthcare!" That's not gonna fly. We appreciate the healthcare. It was quite an accomplishment, but what about protecting our Constitutional rights? The way we see it is if you're willing to ignore these kind of atrocities, you're not the man we thought you were - people are DYING!
The federal law is clear. 18 U.S.C. § 1001 reads as follows:
"Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully - (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both."
Congressman Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) called on the United States Postal Service to present a plan to fully reimburse postal workers for the wages they have lost as a result of managers manipulating their timecards." The congressman went on to say:
“It has been weeks and the hard-working employees at these post offices are still waiting for answers,” said Congressman Hodes. “The USPS should immediately present a plan to ensure that workers are immediately reimbursed for their lost wages, and that appropriate disciplinary action is taken. Those individuals responsible for cheating New Hampshire families out of hard earned wages must be held accountable . . . In May of this year, I wrote to USPS Inspector General David Williams requesting that his office investigate claims that the United States Postal Service had altered letter carriers’ timesheets on an electronic time system for the last six years. "
And Arbitrator Sherrie Rose Talmadge said in her December 2, 2009 decision that “[USPS] Management’s violations were so egregious over a period of many years that punitive damages were awarded to deter the service from further clock ring violations.”
As I've mentioned previously, President Lincoln was willing to go to war to end slavery on his watch, while you have it in your power to emancipate over 600,000 American citizens with a simple phone call. Yet, in spite of repeated White House contacts and extended articles written and posted on the Democratic National Committee website, you've failed to make that phone call. We want to know why?
I've also previously mentioned how much pride I took in supporting your campaign, both in my column, and through my very meager bank account. While the historic nature of your candidacy wasn't lost on me, I didn't support you simply because you are Black, however - Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are also Black, but I didn't support either of them. I supported you because I was inspired by your pledge to usher in a change that I could believe in. Well, frankly, especially in the current matter, I'm not seeing that.
While I take great pride in your election, I vote with my mind, not my heart. So having a Black president is meaningless to me if he's not aggressively protecting the interest of ALL of the American people.
On the morning of June 2, 2009, a city letter carrier went to work and reportedly fatally shot himself in the head in the locker room at a postal facility in Gastonia, North Carolina. The Gaston Gazette online news report stated that the "Gastonia Police are investigating an apparent suicide this morning at the post office. . . . One of the employees is inside dead from a gunshot wound."
Prior to my retirement from the USPS, at a former district I worked for, there were three suicides within a two year period that I concluded were contributed to in significant part by how these employees were treated in the workplace. The third employee, a city letter carrier, fatally shot himself in a postal jeep and left a letter stating that he could no longer take the job. The night before he committed suicide he told his wife he did not know if he would be able to handle his job anymore. How do I know? His wife told me this one day after his suicide. He was one of the best employees in the office. The District Manager and I interviewed his coworkers after his death, and they stated he would urinate in a bottle while on delivery route for fear he would not meet an artificial deadline set by postal management. During the interviews, one of the postal supervisors told the District Manager and me that the day before the suicide she gave a letter to all the city letter carriers in the station, noting that any future over time used for their routes would be considered unacceptable performance. The suicide at the Gastonia postal facility was the second since December 2005.
Many people have asked: Why is there so much stress and workplace tragedies in the U.S. Postal Service? The answer to these questions is because the postal culture embraces and reflects core values that center on achieving bottom-line results with little or no regard for employee participation, respect, dignity, or fairness. Additionally, there is little or no accountability for the actions of top management in the Postal Service. Many postal facilities consequently have toxic work environments, and they can be a catalyst or trigger for serious acts of workplace violence, including homicide and suicide. The associated rewards system for behavior consistent with the postal culture core values, moreover, enables systemic organizational and individual bullying of employees at all levels of the organization.
I define a toxic workplace environment as a workplace where there is a high incidence of stress-related illnesses. These stress-related illnesses are manifested by psychological and physical deterioration. In other words, these types of environments seriously erode employees' health and well-being. The primary factors contributing to a toxic workplace environment are high job demands, low job control, and low social support. Low social support generally entails a lack of respect and validation of employees' dignity by their "superiors". It also oftentimes includes organizational practices and methods that encourage the bullying of employees to meet corporate goals.
The name of the city letter carrier who committed suicide in Gastonia, NC on June 2, 2009 is Steven Spencer age 60. According to his obituary, Steven was married and leaves two daughters and three grandchildren. He was a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers/ and state representative for Muscular Dystrophy Association. He was the founder of the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive for Gaston County. He was very active in Scouting, attaining the highest rank of Eagle Scout. He also was a member of the Order of the Arrow. Steven was a veteran of the Vietnam War serving his country proudly in the US Navy.
I find it highly improbable that an employee will kill himself or herself in a postal facility or while on a postal route unless it is to send a clear message that a toxic workplace exists and the person can't handle it anymore. Sadly, it also may be a tragic attempt to better the lot of one's fellow coworkers by drawing attention to the tragic event itself.
Prior to Steven's suicide, I was contacted by a relative of an employee at the Gastonia post office in April of this year. She was concerned because of what she reported as a toxic workplace environment at the Gastonia post office, lack of accountability to address employees' concerns, and that the situation may lead to another workplace tragedy. Unfortunately, her worst concern became a reality on June 2, 2009. She further indicated several employees have resigned their positions at the office because of the toxic workplace environment and others were suffering from negative psychological and physical effects because of this environment.
I was told employees' attempts, mostly city letter carriers, to have their concerns addressed over a two-year period included: filing of discrimination complaints and grievances, unprofessional workplace assessments, town hall meetings, contacts to congressional representatives both locally and nationally, contacts to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and petitions to Charlotte postal District officials as well as to national representatives of the Postal Service and the NALC. She further indicated that none of these measures contributed to fully addressing the workplace environment or alleviating its negative impact for the employees at the Gastonia Post Office.
In order for the U.S Postal Service to become a safe and healthy organization and thereby prevent future workplace tragedies, which have been at an epidemic level over the past three decades, there is an urgent need for congressional intervention and legislation to address its toxic postal culture. Dr. Gary Namie and his wife, Dr. Ruth Namie, along with their colleague Dr. David Yamada, have for years pushed for such legislation at the state and federal level. In order for national legislation for the prevention of workplace bullying to have the intended impact, it would require sanctions to employers or their representatives who are in violation of a new workplace statute that defines workplace bullying as a harmful and illegal activity.
With that, we'll let the victims speak for themselves. The following is the text of a petition that went to Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Appended to the petition was six double-columned pages of signatures:
We the employees of the Los Angeles International Service Center, (LAXISC) formerly the Carson International Service Center of the United States Postal Service humbly request your office to inquire about the horrendous behavior, sexual harassment and physical intimidation practices of named manager, Raul Corona. This manager has been exiled from the facility on more than one occasion for extended periods and was referred to anger management because of his actions and conduct. Recently, he allowed one of his acting supervisors to kick an employee, then slap them in the back of the head and make remarks about her body parts, stating that it was so tight that a quarter could bounce off of it. These actions were witness by other employees who either gave statements or were willing to testify to the office of the EEOC as to what was witnessed. Mr. Corona took no action against the 204B supervisor but instead displayed his true disregard for the employee by confronting her on the work floor about her complaint against the supervisor. This is just one of the many egregious actions of Mr. Raul Corona.
A complaint was made to the APWU, American Postal Workers Union and charges were also filed with the EEOC which is being handled by the APWU building facilitator Donna Williams who is representing this complainant and numerous others involving MDO Corona. While this incident is currently under investigation and review Mr. Corona has had at least one of the witnesses brought into his office and threaten them with disciplinary action if they did not personally give him a statement after they had already spoken with and given statements to the union representative, and when they requested that a union representative be present during his personal investigation, they were denied, which is a direct violation of the Weingarten Act. ( see attached )
This same witness who has FMLA and receives chemotherapy for her condition (lupus) was directed to his office by supervisor Erma Harris and when the employee would not cooperate with his request not only did he threaten her with disciplinary action, he directed his supervisor Brian Ta to go into the time and attendance system known as TACS to remove her pay three days later after she had called in for FMLA leave which had been already approved by this same supervisor. Because of the numerous grievances and EEO'S that are filed and still pending against this manager and conditions being so toxic, employees have bidded to other tours for fear of retaliation which we believe will take place to all of us who have signed this petition.
And if these circumstances aren't demoralizing enough we have observed Mr. Corona engaged in an improper and unprofessional relationship with one of his acting supervisors (204B), which violates the Postal code of conduct and ethics prohibiting this type of relationship between a manager and employee which is still ongoing. He personally assist her with her job duties in front of other employees when she is not supervising and she has been observed leaving his office with her clothes disheveled which had to be pointed out to her by a union steward, and they have also been seen by other employees in compromising situations. The most recent, being seen exiting the Postal Inspectors cat walk door located at the southwest corner of the building, he zipping up his pants as she was buttoning her blouse.
We are asking that MDO Corona be sent to another facility LAP&DC permanently and to be taken off of the work floor entirely where he can be under the watchful eye of his bosses as was done before, because he has waged his own personal vendetta against any and all employees who file charges against him. Employees on all three tours at one time or another have had to disrupt their family and personal lives by bidding to other tours just to get away from this man. Attached you will find a copy of just one of the petitions that were filed against this manager starting in 2003 and a recent EEOC discrimination and personal harassment case that was charged and awarded against this facility for these type of practices .
If any additional information or facts are needed we are sure you can get the cooperation of the APWU union representatives both mailhandlers and clerks at the LAXISC.
We feel if something is not done about this manager soon, the conditions here will deteriorate further becoming more toxic and possibly escalate into something which the public and news media refer to as "Going Postal" which we are fearful of. We all have families to take care of and do not wish to come to work in an environment having to look over our shoulders fearful that something will happen that could have been avoided.
All signatures in regards to this petition can be verified through the APWU building facilitator Donna Williams. We would deeply appreciate your office's assistance in this disturbing matter.
On Friday April 23,2010, employee Cloe Edwards was in serious physical distress having chest pains and requested 911. Mr.Raul Corona MDO told the employee he was not calling 911 for her because the Postal Service was not going to pay for the ambulance service and if she felt that bad, she should call herself which she wound up having to do. The paramedics from the Airport Fire Station # 95 on the corner of Century Blvd and International Road came and Ms. Edwards had to be taken out on a stretcher around 4:45pm.
Mr. Corona got belligerent with the paramedics telling them she was faking and started demanding her prognosis. The paramedics that attended to Ms . Edwards could not believe what they were hearing from this manager. She was taken to Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey where she was informed that her blood pressure had gotten so high that she was on the verge of either having a heart attack or stroke. She was then transferred to Kaiser Permanente in Bellflower.She was released Sunday evening April 25th. Ms. Edwards return to work Monday fearful that MDO Corona may try to take action against her.
She was given orders that she would not be allowed to perform her bidded duties as a general expeditor and would be working mail in IAAA. She is currently in the process of filing for leave under workman's compensation on the advice of the hospital.
"And who are you? How do you know this employee?" Then after we finally got past what felt like an interrogation to determine whether or not I had a right to NOT mind my own business, Agent Robbins went on to explain that the OIG's office generally doesn't investigate time issues - which was a blatant lie (they just don't investigate it when the government is doing the stealing).
Then after giving the matter further thought, I began to ask myself, "What kind of crime fighting organization doesn't fight crime?" It is my understanding that the Postal Inspection Service investigate external crimes against the postal service, and the Office of Inspector General investigate internal crimes within the postal service. So if the OIG doesn't investigate the intimidation and coercion necessary to force an employee to work six hours a day for free, or the falsification of documents necessary to steal an employee's wages, the OIG must not consider employee abuse a crime.
So I attempted to contact Agent Robbins at the number he provided, but he failed to return my calls, even after six attempts. So I decided to leave a message on his voice mail asking him the following questions: 1) Whose office would handle the matter if the situation was reversed, and the employee worked only eight hours and falsified her time to be paid for twelve? 2). Whose office would handle the falsification of government documents? And finally, is he going to investigate the matter, and will anyone be held accountable for the commission of this crime?
I have yet to receive a response.
But it doesn't stop there. The next day the employee involved called to advise me that Agent Robbins had contacted her. She went on to say that he seemed to be more interested in how she knew me than he was the crime that had been committed against her. She also said his tone was aggressive and intimidating, and he told her that when she accepted the job of acting supervisor, working overtime without pay came with the job - another blatant lie.
The National Association of Postal Supervisors advised me that a certified supervisor can be required to work a maximum of 30 minutes without pay (in emergencies), 204Bs (acting supervisors) who are covered under various craft employee contracts must be paid for every minute they work. We know this information to be accurate because if it wasn't, it wouldn't have been necessary for the manager to falsify government documents to achieve her objective, to rob the employee.
But even worse than giving the employee inaccurate information, and failing to investigate the complaint, Agent Robbins also revealed both the complaint, and the nature of the complaint to postal management, and that's supposed to be confidential information.
As a direct result, this highly productive employee who has held the same position for over twenty-one years - longer in the same position than any other supervisor, manager, or postmaster in the Los Angeles district - has been demoted by a manager who didn't even entered the postal service until six years after the employee was a productive supervisor. And even worse, while the manager, Ms. Marcie Luna, who had recently been demoted from area manager herself, was informing the employee of her demotion, she allegedly commented to the employee, "I just want you to see how it feels when the postal service doesn't appreciate all that you've done for them."
What!!? Is this manager actually saying that she wants the employee to suffer because she feels that she's suffered an injustice? How was the employee responsible for the manager's demotion?
In the interest of full disclosure, I became personally (but objectively) involved in this matter because I know it to be particularly egregious based on my personal knowledge of the employee involved. It also speaks directly to an issue that I've been addressing in many columns and is of particular interest to me - the negative impact of America's new business model on the middle class. So while admittedly, I know the subject of this piece personally, the facts in this case alone clearly demonstrate the business community's full-throated assault on the America middle class.
The character of the manager and the agency's complete failure uphold the law and to protect the rights of the employee is revealed through the facts in this case, but what about the character of the employee?
This woman was so highly depended upon by her superiors and dedicated to her job that for years she was working seven days a week just to cover their backs against any oversights. And since she had been in her current position for over twenty-one years - again, probably longer in one position than any other supervisor, manger or postmaster in the United States Postal Service's Los Angeles district - when the administrators needed any kind of information, or any issue addressed, in many cases they wouldn't bother with the station manager - those people would come and go - they'd wait until after 11:00 a.m. when Ms. Snow arrived so they could address the issue with her.
A former manager said the following:
"I was the Manager of Customer Service at Bicentennial Station in Los Angeles from 1997 until I retired in 2001. I was Ms Snow's manager during this time. Prior to coming to Bicentennial Station, the two previous managers, Lloyd Curtis and James Barnett had apprised me of Ms Snow's supervisory skills and total dedication to duty and company. Upon coming to the unit I was not disappointed and found all they had told me concerning Ms Snow was true.
"Ms. Snow was one of my closing and weekend supervisors. She had an exceptional knowledge of the overall operation and excelled at running a difficult unit and she required little to no supervision. She could be counted on to work beyond what was normally considered an average work day without complaint. She always finished her assignments no matter how long her day was extended and this included weekends. She has excellent interpersonal skills which you need supervising the diverse workforce at Bicentennial Station. Ms Snow exceeded my expectations relative to handling my business customers and resolving complaints. In addition to all of this, Ms. Snow would routinely call the office on her scheduled off day to see how things were going and offer her assistance if needed.
"Joanne Snow proved to be an invaluable asset and even now in retirement, I often think of her and thank her when I talk to her for helping make my tour at Bicentennial successful."
At this writing Ms Snow has voluntarily postponed a long needed vacation in order to train her own replacement so the postal service and the people they serve won't be negatively impacted by her departure. My response to that was to ask her if she was insane - but then, she lives by a different code of moral responsibility than I do.
So I think that answers the question of why our government, and particularly the postal service, is so dysfunctional. It's clear - because the wrong people are in positions of responsibility.
Regarding OIG Response
Agent Robbins handled this matter atrociously - both unprofessionally, and unethically. His actions in this matter is a perfect example of the government's gross hypocrisy in the way that it relates to the poor and middle-class in this country. While this government profess to be so appreciative veterans, Ms. Snow's only son is a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. Thus, while he's off defending this nation, his very own government is both robbing and abusing his single mother who he's left behind at home.
In addition, the OIG is thumbing its nose at the law of the land. 18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes the behavior of these managers a crime punishable by five years in prison, yet, while the postal service have offered to repay Ms. Snow thousands of dollars (the Labor Relations Manager said, "That's just the right thing to do"), her repayment offer was based on her agreeing to drop her demand that the manager and area manager involved be fired. Ms. Snow has refused the offer. She said that she wants to set a precedent insuring that any manager or supervisor who steals from an employee must be fired.
While an employee will be immediately fired, on the spot, by getting a coupon out of the trash and redeeming it at Walmart, managers who steal millions of dollars a day from postal employees across this country, do it with complete impunity. Currently, in spite of the fact that the postal service has documented evidence in hand, the manager involved stealing her time is still in place, and the area manager who Ms. Snow says she personally heard order the crime against her has been promoted!
So Ms. Snow said that allowing the agency to pay her a few thousand dollars to sweep her case under the rug will only serve to insure business as usual, and that's unacceptable.
So again, Mr. President, where are you, and where is that change that we're suppose to believe in?
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does. Sphere: Related Content