Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Impact of Postal Service Corruption on Customer Service


Did Your Lost Mail Fall Into One of the Postal Service's 'Black Holes?'

On Thursday, April 22, President Obama went to Cooper Union College in New York City and lectured the financial community on the need to curb its corrupt business practices.  He pointed out that their business model led directly to this nation's financial crisis, and brought severe hardship upon millions of American people. But ironically, if one applies his words to another audience, they also serve to condemn the business practices of his very own United States Postal Service.

The president said:

"[This] crisis was born of a failure of responsibility -- from [local districts] to Washington. . . I believe in the power of the free market. I believe in a strong [postal service] that helps people to raise [revenue] . . . But a free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That is what happened too often in the years leading up to the crisis. Some [in the postal service] forgot that behind every dollar [taken from employees], there is a family looking to buy a house, pay for an education, open a business, or save for retirement. What happens here has real consequences across our country."

And indeed it does. The U.S. Postal Service's current policy is to maintain its viability and enrich its top executives with large bonuses - in spite of atrocious performance - by placing its liabilities on the backs of its employees. That's completely analogous to the scam that took place on Wall Street. High paid executives enrich themselves on short-term gains, then place the resulting consequences of long-term loses on the backs of the poor and middle class, or in the case of the postal service, its employees and the public. And let there be no doubt about it, yet again, the American people are paying a heavy price for what is, literally, criminal behavior.

In spite of the fact that according to the United States Code the postal service is routinely engaged in criminal behavior, all of the law enforcement agencies in the federal government, including the Office of Inspector General, who has primary responsibility in this area, just as routinely turn a blind eye to this activity, and allow it to go on with impunity.

It's important for the American people to understand that this is not just an issue that affects postal employees. This behavior represents a fundamental change in the American business model that affects everyone - from coal miners and postal workers, to the elderly who lost their retirement due to the Corruption on Wall Street.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 of the United States Code is unequivocal. It 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" (Emphasis Added).

Dr. Stephen D. Musacco, organizational psychologist, author of Beyond Going Postal, and thirty-year veteran of the postal service, says the following:

"Time fraud has been prevalent in the Postal Service, especially in the last year. The OIG defines time and attendance fraud as follows: “Complaints involving timekeeping and payroll issues” (including complaints that clock rings were inappropriately changed). Despite this definition, the OIG ostensibly has not “pushed” for the arrest and conviction of responsible managers involved in this fraudulent practice. There is ample evidence to suggest that Postal Headquarters’ top management has condoned, “played down,” and/or ignored these widespread and nefarious practices."

He goes on to point out an arbitrator's remarks on the matter:

"In Milford, New Hampshire, on December 23, 2009, an arbitrator ruled that city letter carriers were repeatedly and flagrantly victims of time and attendance discrepancies. The arbitrator awarded in excess of $25,000 to the grieved city letter carriers. Prior to the arbitration, at the request of U.S. Representative Paul Rhodes, the OIG conducted an investigation and later concluded that three managers at the two postal installations in Milford manipulated time sheets causing employees to be underpaid."

But in spite of the OIG's findings, no criminal prosecutions were sought:

"In most cases, those postal management officials who reportedly committed these fraudulent acts, ostensibly were following the tacit directions of their “superiors” and are still allowed to supervise and manage the employees that they defrauded of their due momentary compensation."

While the assault on the rights of postal employees' are horrific enough in themselves, what impact are these crimes having on the public at large?

The Impact of Post Office Management on Customer Service

The entire corporate mechanism of the postal service is geared exclusively to saving money. That's how postal managers are evaluated, promoted, and obtain their bonuses. A station manger with a record of efficient service with few or no customer complaints, but repeatedly goes slightly over budget, will soon find him or herself the subordinate of his counterpart who never goes over budget, even though the latter has a record of providing horrible service and is deluged with complaints. That's the post office culture.

As a direct result of that policy, the efficient movement of the mail is all but ignored. The primary goal of most managers is to get through one day at a time while spending just enough money to avoid any MAJOR customer uprising. Then in those cases where there is a customer uprising, the manager is simply sent to another station and replaced by a another manager until there's an uprising against the replacement. But the policy doesn't change. The manager is simply moved to another station instead of being disciplined, and the new manager is going to pursue the exact same policy. By moving the manager the customers are deluded into believing that the postal service has taken action to correct the problem, but that's just smoke and mirrors.

It's simply a case of musical chairs, and if the complaining customers remain in the same location long enough, they'll eventually find themselves back at square one, with the initial manager back in place - that is, if he hasn't been promoted. The only way that's going to change is for the customers to go after the people at the top of the food chain - area managers and above.

Mr. Alex Shabun has a business called Phoenix Auto Body at 7950 Beverly Bl. He's been in business at that location for 17 years, and he says that he can't figure out what's going on at Bicentennial Station. He said he once had excellent service, but for the last three or four years his mail is being delivered to other locations, outgoing mail is not being picked up, and on many days he doesn't get mail at all, which is a severe hardship for not only him, but his neighbors.

"I need my mail - I can't do business without it. The problem is, we never have the same letter carrier. We have several who are very good, but we can't depend on them being on the route from one day to the next. I've asked some of the good ones, 'Why don't you take the route, I'll even do your oil changes for free.' They tell me that they would love to, but they're not allowed."

Mr. Shabun goes on to say, "When I call the post office, no one has any answers. Then when I do get someone who says they can help, when I call them back I'm told that they are no longer at that post office. One manager told me that she was coming out to investigate the problem, but I never heard from her again."

Monique Jones is another customer who's having problems. She's part of the management staff of a thirty-one story business complex at 5900 W. Wilshire Bl. She says they have a multitude of various business concerns in her complex, including several legal firms, so it is essential that they receive their mail on a timely basis. But now that her regular carrier is out on medical leave, they often receive their mail after 5 p.m., after the businesses are closed, and on many days they don't receive any mail at all.

There are also complaints from tenants who have been served with eviction notices because their rent, which was sent by certified mail, was never received by their landlords. And the reverse is true of landlords who went through the time and expense of filing eviction proceedings as a result of disputes with their tenants over rent checks that were not received.

But this is not news to the vast majority of people who live in a large city. Virtually all of them have at least one horror story to tell about the consequences of not receiving their mail. But the problem is particularly severe in the Los Angeles area - and the Los Angeles Sentinel, it seems, is not immune. One retired post office supervisor indicated that she stopped subscribing to the paper in lieu of picking it up at the newsstand because she never receives it on a timely basis, or at all.

And with the current Postal service business model the problem is not likely to be resolved any time soon.

This writer was contacted by Ms. Debbie Washington, vice president of the Southern California Bay Branch of the National Association of Postal Supervisors. She was absolutely livid over the fact that she feels this series of articles are laying the post office's dysfunction at the feet of her membership - Marci Luna in particular. She takes the position that the problem is systemic in nature. While she wasn't prepared to say that Marci Luna was guilty of anything that's been alleged in this series, in general terms, she said that her membership is not doing anything that they're not being either ordered, or pressured to do.

While this series of articles is not an attack on Ms. Marci Luna, per se, she represents a loose thread that must be pulled in order to unravel a severely flawed system. The United States Postal Service was initially established to serve the needs of the American people. But as it currently functions, the needs of the people are seen as secondary, if indeed, considered at all.

Currently, the postal service's primary function is to save money at the expense of customer service.  So actually having to deliver the mail is looked upon by many in management as an inconvenient, but necessary nuisance in order to obtain their bonuses.  In fact, due to the bonuses and the upward mobility awarded managers for saving money, in effect, the entire system is geared to enhance the enrichment of high level post office executives.  As a result, the postal service's primary mission  is no longer to efficiently deliver the mail, but rather, to serve as a federal welfare system for high paid government bureaucrats - and just like on Wall Street, every lower level employee is being forced to contribute a part of their earnings to the executive welfare fund.

It is a direct result of this business model that has led to the complaints of the customers above. Since the post office delivers the mail six days a week, and the carriers only work five days a week, the carriers have rotating off days - one week they're off Monday, the next, Tuesday, and so on. The way the system is suppose to work is that a relief carrier is assigned to a given group of routes to step in for regular carriers on their days off. And since the relief carriers carry the same group of five routes every week, they're as familiar with the routes in their group as the regulars, so the customer is suppose get seamless service.

But now, when a relief assignment becomes open, even though the union contract mandates that it be placed up for bid immediately, it's often left unassigned to save money. Instead of placing a carrier on the route so he can get to know it and deliver it efficiently, it's thrown up haphazardly, broken up into one and two hour pieces, then the various pieces are left sitting around on the workroom floor to be carried by part time flexible carriers when - and many times, if - they return from other routes on time.

In many cases the PTFs know absolutely nothing about the route. That accounts for why the mail is often mis-delivered, and in many cases is not delivered until late in the evening, or not delivered at all. In addition, if it's late, they don't have any incentive to do a good job, because they know that the chances are good that they're not going to be paid.

The same is true when regular carriers are on vacation, out sick, or the carrier is off for some other emergency - in some cases they can have as many as sixteen vacant routes due to one of the above. Instead of allowing a carrier who is familiar with the route to come in on his or her off day to case and carry the route as was the case in the past, now they just grab anyone to case and pull down the route. They then break it up into pieces, and as in the case above, have someone who is equally ignorant of the route to deliver it.

The problem with that is when they have a person who's unfamiliar with the route case it for delivery, the person doesn't know what mail should be forwarded, and they often case mail for 350 N. Orange Dr. in the slot for 350 N. Sycamore. The regular wouldn't have that problem because he cases by name, and even a person who is familiar with the route is less apt to do so.

But the most sever problem with trying to save money in this way is that the mail is often mis-delivered to the wrong address, and when that happens, unless the regular carrier returns the next day, the mail is very unlikely to ever reach it's destination, or even be returned to sender. It could, literally, fall into one of the postal service's 'black holes.'

When mail is mis-delivered or the addressee has moved and there's not a regular carrier on the route, it is either thrown away by the person who received it, left to languish in an overstuffed mailbox (in the case of large buildings), or if is brought back to the post office, it's left to languish in 'go-back' tubs - sometimes for months. Managers and supervisors are so much under the gun to save money that they're focused on the mail that's yet to be mis-delivered, so they don't have any time to be bothered with old mail - even if it's been properly addressed.

The mindset of saving money at any cost also has a negative impact on accountable mail. Postal regulations require all accountable mail to be listed by number and signed for by the carrier. Then at the end of the day the carrier is suppose to account for every piece - that's why it's called accountable mail.

But now, in spite of the fact that postal clerks are being excessed in droves as not needed, certified mail is no longer listed. The carrier simply goes to the cage and the cage clerk gives him, lets say, ten certified letters, then simply writes ten on the sheet. Now, all the carrier has to do at the end of the day is return with ten slips, or if he loses one, just go to the 'go-backs' and find one there. The problem with that is if someone's court documents come up missing, no one can be held accountable because the post office doesn't have a signature indicating the person who handled that particular document.

It wasn't so long ago when the United States Postal Service was one of the most trusted and efficiently run organizations in the United States government. But now, due to greed, ignorance, and cronyism - in spite of the fact that it still has some of the most dedicated and professional workers and managers any where in the world sprinkled throughout the system - it is severely dysfunctional.

While this writer has heard some very encouraging comments about the new district manager, Ed Ruiz, we look forward to seeing how he's going to address what Dr. Stephen Musacco calls this 'toxic environment.' While we're all for equal opportunity and upward mobility, you simply cannot run a viable operation with people whose only qualification for management is that they're someone's sex toy - rather they be man or woman - and increasingly, that's becoming the general criteria for promotion in the Los Angeles district.

It's gotten to the point where knowledge, competence, and integrity have become a liability. Those qualities are a threat to the status quo, not to mention the new breed of incompetent managers.

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.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The United States Postal Service: An Assault on the American Middle Class


The United States Postal Service: An Assault on the American Middle Class

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.

If that is indeed the law of the land, then why did the postal service and the Office of Inspector General allow Station Manager Marci Luna to falsify Ms. Joann Snow's clock rings and insert three hour lunch breaks that she didn't take? Then, when it was reported to the OIG, instead of the appropriate action being taken against Ms. Luna, Special Agent Reid Robbins of the OIG interrogated Ms. Snow. He treated her like SHE was the criminal for allowing it to be reported (Who is the guy who reported this? (Me). How do you know him? Didn't you know that working without pay goes with the job?).

They placed so much work on this employee that by the time she was finally ready to close the station, she didn't have to because the morning tour was showing up for work. And instead of going home, she checked into a motel across the street from the post office.

Then, while still at the motel, she received a conference call from Station Manager Marci Luna and Area Manager Tyrone Williams wanting to know why she hit the clock to be paid. When she told them that they had placed too many additional responsibilities on her, Area Manager Tyrone Williams is alleged to have told her that she simply wasn't using her time wisely - this, to an employee that's been doing the same job for twenty-one years with nothing but praise for her efforts.

I ran this contact from one of her former managers last week, but I think it bears re-visiting:

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.

Joann 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.


Eugene Jeffries

A reader contacted me last week and asked, didn't Joann set herself up by setting a pattern of working off the clock? So I asked Ms. Snow about that, and she was quite pointed in her response:

"I take pride in everything I do, because I feel like anything worth doing is worth doing well. So if I have to give a little of my time to make sure I've dotted my I's and crossed my T's, that's up to me, and no one else. In the past, professionals like Mr. Eugene Jeffries and James Barnett understood and appreciated that, but we've got a new breed of managers here now who seem to take kindness for weakness.

"I might be all bubbles and smiles on the job, but that's only because I understand that a smile goes a lot farther than a frown in keeping our employees motivated to do a very difficult job. I know what the employees are going through. When I first came into the post office I was poked in the nose by a manager, and he paid a very severe price for it, as will these.

"They've made a very serious error in judgment. I may sound like a valley girl, but I didn't raise two successful kids while living in the ghetto by being weak. Beneath the surface I'm a very strong Black woman who is as hardcore as they come. I just know how to pick my fights, and now that I've chosen this one, I guarantee you, they're going to have their hands full.

"I believe that everything happens for a reason, and so has this. I've watched postal employees being abused for years. I've never liked it, but up until now I didn't think there was anything that I could do about it. But now, through no fault of my own, I've been placed in a position to try, and I have no intention of passing it up. Although I feel hurt and put-upon that the postal service would treat me this way, I'm almost excited to be placed in a position to strike a blow for every postal employee across this country.

"I'm not worried about this situation a bit, because these people can't hurt me. When Tyrone Williams told me I sounded like one of the carriers, his arrogance let me know just how they feel about our employees. Saying that I sounded like a carrier was supposed to be an insult, but that wasn't an insult to me at all. What's wrong with sounding like a carrier? Letter carriers are carrying me, him, and the entire postal service on their backs to every home in America six days a week . If he was half as productive as any letter carrier, the postal service wouldn't be in the shape that it's in today.

"I'm proud to be back among carriers, and if I have any chance of helping improve their lives in any way, I'll be more than happy to stay here until I retire. Tyrone Williams thinks he's punishing me, but that just shows me how shallow he is. All he's done is given my life purpose."

I was struck by Ms Snow's statement. Tyrone Williams' statement regarding carriers relates directly to the managerial arrogance that's destroying the postal service. What people like Mr. Williams fail to realize is that they don't run the post office, the employees do. And as long as they don't respect the people who actually touch the mail, they'll never meet their goals.

Eventually the powers that be are going to realize that they need true professionals in these positions - people with common sense and insight. The cronyism that has landed many of the people running the Los Angeles district in their positions of responsibility simply has to be abolished. They have people trying to run the district who aren't even qualified to run a supervisor's desk, and everybody in the district know it.

A prime example of that is what's happening with Marci Luna. For years, before she was demoted from area manager, she was on the third floor passing down edicts and telling people what they need to be doing. But now that she's in the position of having to run a station, it's one of the worse run stations in the district.

These people are not managers - they're dictators. Instead of assessing the district's customer service problems and coming up with viable strategies to address them, they're simply calling the stations and saying fix it or we'll find someone who can - but whatever you do, don't spend any money. In other words, move the building over six inches to the left, or else. That's not managing; that's absolving yourself of responsibility by passing the tough problems down the chain of command.

I understand that they just walked a manager out of Village Station, in Westwood, over delayed first class mail. I don't even have to hear the details to know that it's not that manager's fault. The reason that the mail was delayed is because they ordered the manager to get the mail delivered while not providing the resources to get the job done. "You can do it - just steal whatever you need from the employees." That's the dysfunctional management style that led to Marci Luna's problems with Joann Snow. Now, Ms. Snow hasn't been gone a week, and I understand that they've had a zero bundle (missed connection) already.

So the irony is, the tail is wagging the dog - with twenty-one years of proven excellence in management, it is Ms. Snow who should be running the operation. Having her deliver mail is not only a gross waste of one of the postal service's most valuable resources, but is prima facie evidence of Tyrone Williams' incredibly bad judgment.

Dr. Steve Musacco is a Ph.D. in organizational psychology and the author of "Beyond Going Postal." He also worked for the postal service for 30 years. He says the following:

"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."

Dr. Steve Musacco

Well, I guess that just about says it all - except for the impact that this 'toxic environment' has on your mail delivery. I'll address that issue next week.

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.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The United States Postal Service: "What's Wrong With Plantations?"


The United States Postal Service: "What's Wrong With Plantations?"

As a United States government agency the U.S. Postal Service should be at the very forefront of the fight to protect employee rights. For decades U.S. presidents and government officials have been lecturing countries all over the world regarding the need to protect human rights. Yet, the evidence shows that our very own United States Postal Service is running what can only be described as a latter-day plantation, with the Office of Inspector General, the agency directly mandated to protect the employee, in direct collusion.

But what makes this particular case even more egregious is, as mentioned in part I of this case study, the victim is the mother of a master sergeant in the United States Air force. So while this young man is off defending this nation, his own government is robbing, abusing, and victimizing his single mother that he's left behind at home.

In part I of this series, A Thief is a Thief - Even When They Work for the Government , I describe how the Los Angeles District of the United States Postal Service blatantly, and repeated, falsified government documents to literally rob employee, Joann Snow, of rightfully earned wages. Ms. Snow was routinely coerced into working between four and six hours per day without pay. Then after Ms. Snow had the audacity to hit the clock her manager, Ms. Marci Luna, used her government provided access to the time system to falsify the records and inserted three hour lunch periods that Ms. Snow hadn't taken.

Then when Ms. Luna's activity was reported to the Office of Inspector General, the agency charged with investigating internal crimes, Special Agent Reid Robbins contacted the employee in an aggressive and unsympathetic manner, which only served to further intimidate Ms. Snow. He indicated to Ms. Snow that having to work overtime without pay went with the job, which was in direct contradiction to all employee contracts, the law, and postal regulations.

Agent Robbins also indicated to this columnist that the OIG doesn't generally get involved in time issues. Thereafter, I contacted his office to inquire as to whose office would investigate the "time issue" if the situation was reversed, and Ms. Snow was only working eight hours and managing to pay herself for twelve. At that point he cut off contact, in spite of the fact that I left six messages on his voice mail.

Further indication that the OIG is in collusion with the post office was that Ms. Snow's manager later repeated words stated in the complaint that was suppose to be held in strict confidence by the OIG.

That led directly to Ms. Snow being demoted by her manager - who, by the way, didn't become  a postal employee until six years after Ms. Snow was an active and productive supervisor, but that's grist for another mill. In addition, while informing Ms. Snow of her demotion, she said, "I just want you to see how it feels when the postal service doesn't appreciate all that you've done for them." The manager had just recently been demoted from area manager herself, so her words seemed to indicate that she was penalizing Ms. Snow for her own demotion, which the employee had absolutely nothing to do with.

But is it possible that Ms. Snow was demoted for an infraction or incompetence and her manager's actions are being misinterpreted?

One of Ms. Snow's former managers contacted me and 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.

Joann 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.
Eugene Jeffries

The irony of this situation is that Ms. Snow's problems arose as a direct result of her competence and dedication to duty. As closing supervisor it was Ms. Snow's responsibility to follow up behind all of the supervisors that worked during the day to make sure that all of the mail was delivered, and to ensure that all mail collected during the day was dispatched to the general mail facility for processing in a timely manner. That included checking every route and every vehicle for "sleeper mail" that might have been overlooked during the day. She was also responsible for seeing that the mail in every collection box in the area was collected on time, but not before the time indicated on the box. In addition, she returned calls and addressed all customer complaints that had been overlooked, or, more often than not, shunned by supervisors during the day.

In short, it was Ms. Snow's job to check behind every employee, and supervisor, each day to make sure that they'd carried out all of their responsibilities, and according to Mr. Jeffries and her unprecedented longevity in her position, there was none better at what she did.

Protecting the interest of the postal service, its employees, and customers was, literally, Ms. Snow's life. She worked seven days a week for two years, and she came in on Sundays for nine years to ensure that the Express Mail for several post offices was delivered to the customers in a timely manner - and most of that time was without proper compensation.

As Mr. Jeffries pointed out, she would often volunteer her own time to make sure she carried out all of her responsibilities efficiently. But instead of thanking her for her dedication, this new breed of less than insightful managers felt that "we've got a fool here," and began to load her down with even more responsibilities, to the point that she would still be in the post office when the morning shift arrived (she comes in at 12 noon). At that point she had no alternative but to start hitting the clock to be compensated for the time she was being forced to work. That's when her problems began, even though a knowledgeable source indicates that since she's been on vacation her responsibilities are currently being carried out by two supervisors.

According to Ms. Snow, after she started hitting the clock - as she was supposed to have been doing all along - she was contacted by Mr. Tyrone Williams (the new area manager who replaced Marci Luna after her demotion) and asked why she hit the clock. When she told Mr. Williams that she was being loaded down with so many additional responsibilities that she couldn't get them all accomplished in a reasonable time, Mr. Williams told her that she sounded like one of the carriers. She was told that she simply wasn't managing her time wisely, and if she couldn't do any better she'd be returned to delivering mail - this, after twenty-one years of dedicated service as a supervisor.

Thereafter her manager, Ms. Luna, stayed with her to assist her with her responsibilities, and even with that it still took them nearly twelve hours to complete the additional responsibilities that had been placed on her. So Ms. Snow stuck to her guns, and just as Mr. Williams threatened, on Monday, April 12, 2010 she's scheduled to be "retrained" to carry mail.

Several managers who are familiar with Ms. Snow's work ethic and competence as a supervisor has offered to bring her aboard their operations as a supervisor, but Mr. Williams has refused to release her out of his jurisdiction. Allegedly, he claims that retraining her to carry mail will help him hold down his overtime.

Mr. Williams' action can only be seen as punitive. Even though Ms. Snow is the victim of a crime, she's the one that's being punished with demotion. At this writing, Ms. Luna, who falsified Ms. Snow's clock rings, is still in place, while I've been advised by a knowledgeable source that another manager in a West Los Angeles station has been walked out of her station for a far lesser offense. So it is clear that Ms. Snow is being punished for nothing more than having the audacity to want to be paid for her labor. She's also being used as an example for any other employee who has the audacity to insist on being paid.

This issue illustrates why the 'service' in postal service has diminished to such a pronounced degree. Mr. Williams' action in this matter has shown both poor executive judgement, and a propensity to place vindictiveness and a motivation to save money above customer service. He's made the incredibly unwise decision to return a supervisor, in her fifties, with a proven track record of twenty-one years of excellence to carrying mail. The shortsightedness of Mr. Williams' decision could very possibly be physically injurious to the employee (which could cost the postal service additional revenue against its bottom line in the long run), and it certainly turns a blind eye to customer service, since the postal service is losing one of its most efficient supervisors. But due to the dysfunction of the postal services' business model, Mr. Williams' only concern is how he personally looks on paper, instead of customer service, or what's in the best interest of the postal service.

Anyone who has ever been in the military understands that the most important component to any kind of leadership is to have the respect of your subordinates. They don't have to like you, but they must respect you - and this is something that is sadly lacking in the postal service, especially in the Los Angeles District. And in the long run, that's what is going to bring the postal service down.

We all know that the postal service is under the gun. So the only way that the postal service is going to meet its goals is for every employee to give 110%. But the approach that the Los Angeles District is taking is undermining its own efforts. Due to clumsy and shortsighted managerial skills like those indicated above, postal employees hate the people in their chain of command. And while many in the top echelon lack the insight to recognize it, that hatred is shared even by their own staff. So the only thing they're going to get from their employees is the bare minimum that it takes to keep their jobs.

For the most part, they're seen as shortsighted, selfish, and  incompetent boobs. And both the craft employees, and many of their managers, would do anything to undermine their success. Evidence of that is a memo that one of the managers sent to me that was allegedly sent out by Joe Digiacomo to all of his managers and supervisors:

Sent: Monday, February 01, 2010 11:28 AM
Effective Tuesday, Feb 2, 2010 all delivery supervisors will be required to stay until all their carriers are back. Unless specifically documented and requested, no extra time will be given without my personal approval. No exceptions!
Any questions, call me.
Joe Digiacomo
Los Angeles District
7001 S. Central Ave Suite 307.
Los Angeles Ca 90052-4200

Since most supervisors arrive between 5:30 and 6 a.m., and many carriers are out until 7 p.m., the above memo requires many superviosrs to work without pay for four hours and more per day. Thus, along with the memo I received a comment: "How stupid can you be? If you're going to violate the law, at least be discrete about it."

So stay tuned, there's much more to come, including information on the following contact from Don Bradshaw, a recently retired TACS (Time and Attendance Collection System) technician, from Oklahoma City, OK, saying the following:

The reason I'm contacting you is that, nationwide, there is a conspiracy to pay craft employees less than they are deserving to be paid. In the new, improved Time and Attendance Collection System, (TACS) all first line supervisors have the ability to change employees begin tour (BT), end tour (ET) and lunch (OL - IL). I am a retired TACS technician and at one time I was responsible for documenting all of the instances of employee's losing time because of inappropriate changes to rings. I discovered it went on every tour, every location.

Several years ago in Florida there was a lawsuit to recoup monies for this atrocity (I say atrocity because previous to this the mantra at my workplace was Pay them right the first time ). After the lawsuit was filed we were instructed to pull reports showing the severity of the infraction in our location and hold the documents. I retired in November 2009 and to date no one from the OIG or the Postal Inspectors has ever requested to see our list of violations . . . it proves that the issue is widespread and those responsible for investigating are not doing so.

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.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Pandora's Box


Pandora's Box

I've received such a huge response from unions, manager's (both active and retired), and postal workers from all over the country regarding last week's article on post office corruption and employee abuse (A Thief is a Thief - Even When They Work for the Government) that I need the time to sort through all of my email and documentation (Milton Allimadi of the Black Star News asked me if I had a staff to help me with the task. I could only laugh).

But with all of the contacts and pleas for help that I've received from postal employees all over the country, I'm beginning to recognize that what started out as an article, then a series, needs to become a crusade - and as a former postal employee myself it's a crusade that I'm more than happy to wage. The public has no idea how hard postal workers work to provide them with mail service - and much too often they have to fight their managers (who are rewarded exclusively on how much money they can save) to do it. But in the weeks to come we're going to lay it out for you.

There's more than one side to this story, however. While most postal employees are hard and dedicated workers, they're not completely blameless in the condition that they currently find themselves. I recognized long ago that the United States Postal Service was a microcosm of America as a whole. Just like the American people, the apathy of postal employees have allowed too many of the people who are suppose to be representing them to become more aligned with those who have a vested interest in their exploitation. Also like the American people, postal employees were much too willing to turn a blind eye while their fellow employees were being abused. Now they're all under the gun, and the very system that was supposed to protect their interest is geared to promote their exploitation. As a direct result, it's now going to take an extraordinary effort just to regain their rights, but the thrust of the coming articles will explain why it's incumbent upon the American people to help them do just that.

Thus, while I'm sorting through all of the information that I'm receiving I think it's appropriate to place what's going on in perspective. In order to do so I'm revisiting an article that I wrote several months ago regarding the attack on the American middle class, because it's important that we recognize that what's going on with Ms. Joann Snow is not just an assault on the rights of one postal worker.  What's happening to this employee is actually an assault on America, and the American way of life as a whole. If we don't put a stop to it now, the business model that's currently victimizing Ms. Snow will eventually consume us all:

The Role of Poor, Minorities, and Middle Class in the New World Order

The phrase New World Order says it all. But in our blind naivete' and the belief that it can't happen here, the vast majority of American people believe the phrase refers to the reshuffling, in terms of importance, of the various nations around the world. We fail to understand that the change is much more profound than that. The new world order not only applies to a geo-political reshuffling among nations, but the reshuffling of the internal economic structure within individual nations as well.

That means that as the world moves from many separate national economies to one global economy the class structure of the various nations of the world must be adjusted to accommodate the new state of affairs. In turn, that means that the high standard of living enjoyed by the American middle class since WWII can no longer be sustained in an economy where many of America's competitors are paying their workers less per week than many of us spend on lunch per day. That accounts for why American jobs are being outsourced to other countries, and Walmart, one of the largest retail corporations in the world, has based its business model on purchasing most of its merchandise from China in order to undercut the price demands of its competitors.

Walmart is a microcosm of the revised American business strategy under the new world order. One can look at Walmart's business model, and the socioeconomic profile of its employees, and see exactly what direction American business, and our society, is headed as a whole.

Walmart's business strategy is to hire easily replaceable and low skilled employees who are at, or very near, the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. It then takes advantage of their precarious economic condition to squeezes every dime of profit out of the company's operation . They aggressively fight organized labor to hold down employee wages and benefits, and deny their employees anything approaching affordable health-care. That, essentially, is the American business model under the new world order.

Business is no longer a friend of the American people. Where business was once our partner in a symbiotic relationship, it is now a predator to consumers and employees alike. Our parents could pull into a gas station and a guy in a white shirt and bow tie would run out to check their oil and water, then put air in their tires as he pumped twenty-two cents a gallon gas into their tanks. I know - gas is no longer that cheap, but what happen to the service?

It was once considered unseemly for a woman to have to pump gas - I don't think my mother even knew how to operate a gas pump. But now it's become so routine in our culture that if you're a passenger it's no longer politically correct to even offer to pump the gas for a woman ( What, you think because I'm a woman I don't have sense enough to squeeze a nozzle? ). Now my mother would not only have to pump her own gas, check her own oil, and put air in her tires, but they'd make her pay extra for the air. Think about that. They charge us for air!

The reason for that is greed. When the United States had a thriving industrial economy one class complimented the other. Labor was well paid and given the security of knowing that they had a job for life, so they had the confidence to purchased goods that the corporations produced. That allowed the companies that sold the goods to prosper, to the benefit of the investor class.

But now, in a global market, in order to remain competitive with countries that pay their workers just above slave wages, corporations have to squeeze every penny and every concession out of the labor class that they can get. And since the heads of these corporations must make huge profits to justify their unconscionably oversized bonuses, they prey on their workers by undercutting their benefits and outsourcing the very jobs that the economy is dependent upon to sustain the corporation, and the nation. But since these corporate heads live from bonus to bonus and only think about themselves, they never stop to consider the negative impact of their irresponsible behavior on the economic viability of the nation.

So when Wall Street or the Fed announces that the economy is thriving, they're not talking about the American economy as a whole - they're only talking about the monetary return of the investor class. A thriving economy means they're successfully squeezing the American worker to the limit, and gouging the consumer of every penny that he can afford to part with - and a few that he can't. It is that kind of greed and irresponsibility that led to last year's economic disaster, and nothing has changed.

In the global economy of the new world order, corporations no longer need the American worker to sustain their profits. Now that they can outsource their labor, and purchase and sell their goods overseas, the American worker is no longer a partner in the corporation's viability. the worker has now been relegated to the status of field hand. The only time they need us is when they want to tap the treasury for our tax dollars to pay off their gambling debts.

And this is the very same group that the Republicans and Liebercrats are trying to protect. This is also the group that the wingnuts are fighting so hard to keep between them and their doctors. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Republicans are protecting the very same insurance industry that victimized us in Wall Street bailout. They took our money, now they're using it to block affordable healthcare for the American people.

They were paid billions of dollars by large corporations to cover corporate gambling debts. AIG accepted corporate funds, knowing that they didn't have the resources to cover the debts if the corporations got into trouble. Then when the corporations rolled snake eyes, AIG simply turned to the American people and said, you've got to cover these debts, or else. We and our clients are much too big to be allowed to fail.

An article in Wikipedia points out that The AIG Financial Products division headed by Joseph Cassano, in London, had entered into credit default swaps to insure $441 billion worth of securities originally rated AAA. Of those securities, $57.8 billion were structured debt securities backed by subprime loans. So not only did the American taxpayer pay off this insurance company's debt, but we paid off a debt that originated in another country.

Now your money is being taken once again, but this time, they're taking YOUR money, to pay YOUR representative, to block an attempt by President Obama to stop them from cutting YOUR throat in a time of crisis, just like they did the corporations on Wall Street. But there's one very big difference - you and you're family are not too big to fail, so without the benefit of a robust healthcare reform, you're simply gonna bite the dust - and with the corrupt and able assistance of many of your very own representatives.

I'm sure that many are going to call me a crazy socialist, and continue to tear up as Boehner, Lieberman, and the various other demagogues shuffle out and look into the camera with the solemnity of the pope. But just remember, when they tell you that they're fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, the real truth is so glaring that sometimes it slips through in some of the most unlikely places. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said the following:

So this may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap and trade and climate change and talk now about the essentials, the war and money.

So there you have it - war and money. That just about sums up your place in the new world order.

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.

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