Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Has the United States Postal Service Become a Criminal Enterprise?


The behavior of the United States Postal Service has become intolerable. The agency's gross abuse of its employees has come to rival that of a third world country. It's essential that we bring the following example of citizen abuse to an end in this country, because postal employees are just the beginning. If we simply sit around and quietly allow this kind of  corruption to go on, in time, the entire American middle class will be reduced to the status of field hands.

In the new global economy, businesses that were once American corporations are now multinational. They no longer depend on the American middle class to either buy or produce their goods. They can now send our jobs overseas and give them to foreign workers who earn less per week than many of us spend on lunch per day. So the American middle class standard of living has become a liability to the corporate bottom line. 

We used to be able to depend on our government to protect out interests, but what's currently going on in the postal service clearly demonstrates that's no longer the case. The behavior of the U.S. Postal Service clearly indicates that our government has begun to embrace the very same abusive business tactics as the private corporations that they're suppose to protect us against. Thus, it's time to use our political clout to push back.

The interest of the American poor and middle class will never be secure until we make the jobs of the political class insecure.

"A citizenry of sheep begets a government of wolves."
Edward R. Murrow

October 20, 2010

JoAnn Snow
City Carrier
Los Angeles District
Official Statement in Response to Notice of 14-Day Suspension

In accordance with Article 15 of the USPS/NALC National Agreement, I, JoAnn Snow, hereby file this official statement in response to the Notice of 14-Day Suspension issued to me on September 27, 2010 by the United States Postal Service. The document reads in part:

All Postal employees with time-keeping responsibilities are required to maintain time-keeping and pay records in strict compliance with postal regulations. When acting in a management position, employees with time-keeping access are aware that coworkers are to be compensated appropriately for work performed. Our regulations also require that clock rings accurately reflect the pay and work status of our employees. The postal Service has recently become aware that you have made time record entries for coworkers that were improper.

Postal Records reflect you entered numerous clock rings for craft employees Terria Clausell and Barbara Elzie that were improper and may have reflected the employees worked fewer hours than they actually worked. You made the entries for these employees which did not report directly to you.

I'm challenging the above action on the grounds that it is nonprogressive, punitive, untimely, and the facts as presented are ridiculously contrived. In addition, the charges brought against me are a blatant and unconscionable exercise in reprisal within the meaning of 5 USC 2302 (9) (a) of the federal code, which reads as follows:

Any employee who has authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action, shall not, with respect to such authority take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, any personnel action against an employee or applicant for employment for the exercise of any appeal, complaint, or grievance right granted by any law, rule, or regulation.

Falsifying Clock Rings

The charges indicate that I entered numerous clock rings for craft employees that didn't report directly to me. What they didn't say, however, was that it was the station's policy that 204Bs (acting supervisors) not hit the clock. In addition, 204Bs were also instructed not to enter their own time. Thus, the facts will show that the above notice of suspension has been issued to me for nothing more than the egregious offense of following instructions, and having the audacity to complain when my time was stolen. The matter that actually needs to be investigated, therefore, is why 204Bs are not allowed to hit the clock in the first place. Every 204B in the district clearly understands the reason why - because any time worked over 10 hours constitutes penalty overtime which requires the agency to pay the employee double time, and 204Bs routinely work between 12 and 16 hours a day, time that the district demands, but refuses to pay for.

In addition, the charges seem to indicate that when I entered a 204Bs time, it was my intent to deprive them of compensation that they were entitle to as a result of gainful employment. But the fact is, as the evening supervisor, I didn't get in until after 12 p.m., so I had no personal knowledge of how many hours the morning supervisors worked. I simply had to rely on the information that they provided me, so if they worked 14 hours and told me that they only worked 10, I entered 10 hours.

And further, the charges lodged against me lack both intent and motive. If the postal service's policies are indeed as laid out in the complaint, what motive would I have to deprive any employee of wages earned through gainful employment - it's not my money? Thus, if the employees were cheated out of hours, they cheated themselves as a result of the intimidation leveraged against them to adhere to the district's illegal policy of time fraud - and that is routinely the case.

Clear evidence of my contention is indicated in a memo sent out by Area Manager Joe Digiacomo to the supervisors in his area. It states the following:

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 SOM-2

Delivery supervisors are generally in the office by 6 a.m., and carriers are often on the street until after 8 p.m. So the above memo is instructing delivery supervisors that they must work that overtime without pay. Therefore, the above memo is grossly inconsistent with management's contention that "When acting in a management position, employees with time-keeping access are aware that coworkers are to be compensated appropriately for work performed." This clearly shows that while the postal service is preaching integrity out of one side of its mouth, it's threatening its employees not to hit the clock out of the other. So after getting such a memo, if a 204B worked 16 hours, what are the chances that they're going to tell me that? Yet, after the gross intimidation of its employees not to report the time they actually worked, the postal service now want to hold me responsible for the employees under-reporting their time. Thus, the action taken against me represents the very height of hypocrisy.

The Postal Service's History of Time Fraud

The theft of employee time that's going on here in the Los Angeles district is far from an aberration. The postal service has clearly adopted time fraud as a national business strategy. One law suit against the postal service alleged that time fraud against its employees is so rampant and widespread that it constitutes a criminal enterprise. The attorney in the case actually tried to charge the postal service with violation of the RICO Act (The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), the law passed by congress to go after the Mafia - and the postal service didn't deny the charge. Instead, it simply petitioned the court to throw out the allegation based on the fact that a government agency can't be charged with engaging in a criminal enterprise:

The USPS has petitioned the District Court to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses postal officials of intentionally deleting parts of employees' Time Records to Avoid Paying Overtime. The suit alleges USPS violated the RICO, Privacy and FLSA Acts. However, USPS argues, " The Postal Service is not Subject to RICO liability As Part of the Federal Government; and "Postal Service Officials Cannot Be Held Criminally liable for Acts Committed in Their Official Capacity." Donahue vs FBI (pdf) . The petition further states "the Supreme Court observed ( in USPS vs Flamingo Industries (pdf) ) that while the Postal Reorganization Act of 1971 may have waived the Postal Service's immunity from suit, it...did not strip it of its governmental status."

In New Hampshire, 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. "

On December 2, 2009, Arbitrator Sherrie Rose Talmadge said in her decision against the postal service for time fraud that "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.”

And finally, just this past week Barbara Stickler, president of Branch 1100 of the National Association of Letter Carriers, led her branch in picketing the Long Beach postmaster for harassment, intimidation, and time fraud, and another round of picking is scheduled for early November.  Ms. Stickler said the following:

While Management everywhere is pushing Letter Carriers to do their routes and part of another route in an impossible time frame, Long Beach management has taken it to new heights. Long Beach management is consistently violating the parties collective bargaining agreement with their abusive remarks and creative discipline. Management is on a rampage destroying its very own employees. Letter Carriers are brought into the office and threatened with discipline if they do not make the delivery times arbitrarily created based on projected times and inappropriate deductions, and have been disciplined for not making these illegitimate standards. Additionally, the union is investigating several cases of management falsifying clock rings for the entire office. 

Background on Previous Complaint and Reprisal

The current action is in reprisal for a complaint that I filed against the postal service after becoming the victim of  time fraud. This is an accurate portrayal of what took place thereafter, as related in an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel:

I recently found out that a friend of mine was the victim of repeated instances of forced labor and time fraud committed by her manager in the U.S. Postal Service. When I first became aware of it I was shocked, but not alarmed. I thought I could simply contact the OIG's office and have it, and the manager involved, taken care of. I was certain that the OIG would be anxious to investigate the matter and get the offending culprit out of their midst. But to my amazement it not only took two reports, but over a month before I was even contacted on the matter.

Then when I finally was contacted and explained to the OIG inspector, Special Agent Reid Robbins, that a postal manager, Marcie Luna, was forcing an employee to work between four and six hours a day without pay, and was committing fraud by falsifying a government document and changing the employee's official clock rings to reflect a three (3) hour lunch that the employee wasn't permitted to take, I was essentially met with a yawn: "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. Marci 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 agencies mandated to protect the rights of the employee is clearly revealed through the facts in this case.

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? 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 sounds like a carrier and 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.

The following is a letter from her former manager:

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

I was demoted immediately upon speaking to the Office of Inspector General regarding having my time stolen. Yet, Area Manager Tyrone Williams indicated in his statement that I filed a grievance because I was demoted, or in his words, "because she was informed that her higher level detail would be ended because the four supervisor vacancies were filled at this office."

His reason for my demotion might have rang true if it were not for the fact that Barbara Elzie, the other 204B in the station remained in place, and is still a 204B at this writing. In addition, while I was issued a Notice of 14 Suspension on September 27, 2010 for entering Ms. Elzie's time, at this writing, a month later, she hasn't been issued any corrective action for entering my time.

Punitive, Nonprogressive, and Untimely Action

About three months after I file my grievance for time fraud I was contacted by Labor Relations Manager Steve Marney. I assumed the investigative interview was to get clarification of my complaint, but it turned out that he wasn't investigating the time being stolen from me at all.  Instead, he accused me of doing the same thing to Barbara Elzie and Terria Clausell that I was complaining about, but I wasn't having that. I told him that I'd been a supervisor for 21 years, and in all of those years I had never stolen a penny from any employee. I also told him that if he could show where I had stolen from an employee, he wouldn't have to bring corrective action against me, I'd leave the postal service on my own accord.  So his attempt at intimidation didn't work.

Then he offered to pay me several thousand dollars in back pay because, he said, "It was the right thing to do." But there was a quid pro quo - I had to drop my demand that Manager Marci Luna and Area Manager Tyrone Williams be fired for conspiring to steal my time. But I refused to accept that remedy because this is not just about me. I represent thousands of postal workers across this country. While I'm not a crusader by nature, now that I've been placed in this position I'm not going to turn my back on that responsibility. Somebody has got to stand up and say enough is enough, so I guess I've been chosen by fate to be that person.

The resolution that Mr. Marney suggested is how the postal service has been getting away with this corruption for so long. Whenever any employee refuses to succumb to intimidation, they offer them money to sweep the matter under the rug. Giving me eight or nine thousand dollars wouldn't be anything but a business expense to the postal service, because the agency is stealing millions of dollars a day from its employees. So I made it clear that I wasn't going to go for that. The only way that we're going to stop managers and supervisors from stealing the hard earned wages of employees is to set a precedent that makes it clear to all management personnel that if they engage in time fraud and falsifying government documents they're going to lose their jobs, go to jail, or both, just as the law prescribes.

So that's why I've received this untimely and punitive action - it's yet another attempt at intimidation. I had my investigative interview on June 17th, yet I didn't get a notice of suspension until September 27th. That's untimely. In addition, I've never had any previous corrective action, so it's also nonprogressive. And finally, everything I've said in this statement clearly demonstrates that this action is punitive.

In closing, I'd like to predict in advance that the postal service is going to leave no stone unturned in their attempt to avoid providing me with the TACS documents that I requested in discovery, because they're under no illusion that those documents will prove beyond a doubt that they're robbing their employees blind.

JoAnn Snow
Regular Carrier
Los Angeles district

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