BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
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.
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, her 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 by 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.
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.
Religious bigotry: It’s not that I hate everyone who doesn’t look, think, and act like me – it’s just that God does.
Eric L. Wattree is a writer, poet, and musician, born in Los Angeles. He’s a columnist for The Los Angeles Sentinel, The Black Star News in New York, and a Staff writer for Veterans Today. He’s also the author of A Message From the Hood.