Why in the world would anyone become an NALC Steward you might ask? Especially right now when the climate is against Unions in general? It seems we've gone backwards in time when it comes to the rights of workers and women.These are rights that have been so hard fought by civil rights activists such as Cesar Chavez in the past.
Wages and hours have been negotiated with the intent to prevent abuse and 3rd world factory like conditions.Just take a look at countries like China and Korea where no standards exist for worker's safety and and to establish a living wage.They have no Unions there, they have no voice, no recourse or hope to advance in the company.Wealthy American companies manufacture products abroad which consumers will trample others to buy.
It plays itself out in politics everyday.Congress turns the other way when state officials launch their attacks on the bargaining agreements that have previously protected workers rights.Both state and city officials attempt to balance their budgets by changing the terms of negotiated bargaining agreements.They want to reduce work hours, raise health care premiums and retirement contributions in the middle of a Contract term.The word furlough almost always comes up.
In a democracy like the US we have the ability to speak freely and object freely without the fear of repercussion. This is how Unions came to be.Our National Association of Letter Carriers is an open shop union.What this means is that letter carriers voluntarily join or do not.Within the membership there will be volunteers that step forward to protect the letter carriers and go on to become Stewards. If there is more than one volunteer for an opening, members will vote for the Steward of their choice.He or she will serve a term of 2 years.For these two years the Steward will be trained on the Articles of the National Agreement and will represent all letter carriers, Union member or not, within their assigned station.They will always keep in mind that ” an injury to one means an injury to all! “.
Many of the strongest Stewards started off with mentors that were willing to guide them through the Grievance procedure. Many have gone on to become Formal A Stewards or Union officers. All that is required at the beginning is the willingness to learn and the effort to follow through. The confidence comes later with the experience.Most Stewards get proficient at filing grievances on certain Article violations of the Contract.Some will specialize in work hour violations while others will favor tackling discipline letters.The Union is always recruiting members that can help out in the various aspects of representation.They need Food Drive Coordinators, Safety Captains, Route Inspection Co-Leaders and Alternate Stewards among other things.Most duties will be carried out on the clock, but some may be paid as lost time by the Union.Sometimes there will be a need for unpaid volunteers, such as a phone banking night.
The Union needs good Stewards that are willing to work to protect letter carrier's rights into this era of challenges.Please contact the Branch 214 Union officers with your desire to represent or help in other ways.
Si Se Puede!
Twenty five years in
I’ve put in twenty five years, I say, and people ask, “In what?” “In where?” Was I in the pen? Was I in the military? Hmm. “Yes, both I guess, but it’s called the US Postal Service.” I started as a mere babe, barely 21 years old. Yes you can do the math I’m minus 4 now, if you count the other way.
Proud to wear my uniform
I spent my PTF-hood as a collection driver before becoming a regular carrier and being sent to Diamond Heights for my initial training and then to Bayview, where I got another couple of days of following the T6 around. I felt proud of the fact I was a federal employee, the way I walked in my uniform said so to the customers. They would ask me for their checks and their mama’s check, they waited for me at my jeep with their IDs. Sometimes they would drive by and ask me when I was going to deliver their block. I was clearly important to them, a figure of authority; they needed me. I was proud to be a letter carrier. I was in the Postal Service and I was there to serve the customer.
Customers and then customers
Over the many years I ran across different types of customers. There were the needy ones, the mean ones, the lonely ones, the perverted ones and the little old person customers. The needy customers, always needed their mail before anyone else, which was plainly annoying having someone expecting me to dig through tons (yes tons back then) of mail to hand them theirs. I quickly learned to say no in a firm, yet nice manner.
The mean customers always had some sarcastic remark to make about how late their mail was. I would apologize and go on my way.
The lonely customers would love to wait for the mailman just to have some kind of interaction with another human being. I’d be friendly and chat for a minute about the weather or some other polite subject.
The perverted customers would come to the door in a just a t-shirt or towel. Whether or not they did it on purpose is beside the point. (Maybe I should have introduced them to the lonely customers).
The little old persons were probably my favorite customers, because they really appreciated having a carrier who would ring their doorbell to pick up their outgoing mail or redeliver their package.
Part of the scenery
As a letter carrier I saw many things while delivering mail, but the interesting thing is that I was invisible to the general public, unless they particularly needed a mailperson. I saw kids cutting class with their friends, people doing drugs, people painting graffiti, gang initiations and people peeing in the street. In my younger days I got pretty spooked by the fact I was a walking target all alone out there.
A scary moment
One of the scariest moments I can recall was, once when I was crossing the street and I heard a screeching sound of a car turning a corner, and out of the corner of my eye I saw it coming straight for me. I jumped with my heavy satchel about a yard forward! God must have lifted me out of the way. It was so close, I felt the wind the car made blowing by my backside. My legs wobbled as I went to the curb and just sat there shaking for ten minutes. The driver came back around and yelled “I’m sorry mail lady; I’m so drunk, I’m sorry!”
We all have a dog story
Of course I’ve also had scares with dogs while delivering unfamiliar routes. One time I had just delivered to a house when I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck and heard a patter of feet behind me. I turned around and saw a boxer coming towards me; apparently he had come out of the side of the house I had passed. He didn’t make a sound, he just stared and was coming my way. I froze in my fright mode. As he came closer, something in my mind said, “Do something!” (I decided not to pee in my pants.) My arm extended up and pointed to the stairs of the house, then I yelled in my big girl voice, “GET UPSTAIRS RIGHT NOW!” As I swallowed my gum, I watched the dog turn around and run upstairs! Again, my legs were like butter for the rest of the day. To this day I am always wary of side doors.
Veteran with seniority but with no respect
After 25 years I now have decent seniority, hard earned I might add. I think I’m what is considered to be an old timer to the newer people. Been there, done that, is what I thought. I thought this hard earned seniority would entitle me to an easy job, like it did my predecessors at this stage. I was wrong. With the declining mail volume every day is now a battle with the supervisors who expect pivoting from me. “It’s like squeezing water out of rock”, I say or, “I can’t walk any faster.” Nor would I want to go any faster, not if I want to preserve my body into my retirement age. By the way, yes I was offered early retirement but since I can’t afford it (nor do I have a sugar daddy with health care coverage), I’m going to pass.
My anniversary date was in April this year but did the supervisor, manager or Postmaster say a word of appreciation to me? Take a guess. “Not”. When I worked for a bank they had announcements for everything from birthdays to retirements. Yes, it could be embarrassing I suppose, but in a nice way. At least they made a person feel good for the day. Maybe 25 years is not enough for a party but at least a handshake would have been nice. “Thank you for your years of proud service Cathy, we hope to have you around for many more”. Those would have been sufficient words to make me feel appreciated. I might have stood up straighter and taller, if only for a day.
Unfortunately, management at the Postal Service is not inclined to make employees appreciated; rather they are good at criticizing and disciplining. I guess if I wanted appreciation I should have stayed at “the bank” and earned minimum wage.
I appreciate my co-workers
To those that left before me, I bow my head down in appreciation for all the years of hard work you put in with little acknowledgment. To those who are behind me, don’t take it personally if you don’t get the thanks you deserve, it’s just not in the Postal Services’ culture. I appreciate the hard work you put in every day as my fellow letter carriers. One day you will say the same, “Here I am, twenty five years, come and gone”.
This article was published in “The Voice” four years ago.My 29th year anniversary at the Postal Service is at the end of this month.I have to work another 6 years to reach my minimum retirement age.
By Cathy Simonson, Letter Carrier and Union Member
Resolve Employment Disputes Reach Equitable Solutions Swiftly
REDRESS®, which stands for Resolve Employment Disputes, Reach Equitable Solutions Swiftly, is the Postal Service’s alternative dispute resolution mediation program. It is a voluntary program available to all employees as part of the Postal Service’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint process. REDRESS is offered at the EEO informal counseling stage.
REDRESS is recognized as one of the country’s leading conflict resolution programs. The Postal Service has received global recognition from the conflict resolution community and positive feedback from employees, supervisors, and their representatives for resolving disputes without the need for litigation.
Note: EEO complaints are not accepted through this site. You must request EEO counseling by calling one of these TOLL- FREE numbers:
When calling the toll free number to request counseling please provide the following information: your name, Social Security/Employee Identification number, address, telephone number, finance number, and office location.
The NALC National Food Drive is the country’s largest one-day food-collection effort. Last year, we picked up more than 70 million pounds of non-perishable food donations, which brought our grand total from more than two decades of collections to 1.2 billion pounds.
“Such a massive effort is nearly impossible for us to pull off alone,” Rolando said, which is why NALC is extremely grateful for the support we receive from our national and regional food drive partners:
The National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association
United Way Worldwide
Uncle Bob’s Self Storage
AARP and its “Drive to End Hunger” campaign
Source Direct Plastics
Letter Carriers across the United States deliver for you, and on Saturday, May 11,2013 we will also collect non- perishable food from your mailbox location.Please leave food out in the paper bags that will be provided.Your mail carrier will pick it up during his or her regular rounds. Thank you for your donation!
If called to a meeting with management, postal inspectors, or an Office of Inspector General (OIG) agent, read the following statement to the person you are meeting with before the meeting starts:
“If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meet- ing. Without my Union representation present, I respectfully choose not to answer any questions or participate in this discussion.”
Federal labor law gives each employee “the right to representation during any investigative interview which he or she has reason to believe may lead to discipline”. These rights are known as Weingarten rights. Many letter carriers do not know about their Weingarten rights. If you do not know about this right, please read this carefully. It is simple, yet many fail to exercise this powerful right.
An employee has Weingarten representation rights only where he or she reasonably believes that discipline could result from the investigative interview. It is important to remember that it is the employee who must reasonably believe that discipline could result, not the manager. Whether or not an employee’s belief is “reasonable” depends on the circumstances. Some cases are obvious, such as when a supervisor asks an employee if they discarded deliverable mail. Generally, if you are asked a question concerning something you allegedly did wrong, you should reasonably believe that discipline could result.
Management is not obligated to inform you
of your right to representation. The steward cannot exercise your Weingarten rights for you. You must ask for representation. If you do not ask for a steward, you have given up your right to have representation present. No matter how smart you think you are, no matter how innocent you are, you should never under any circumstances participate in an investigative interview without a steward present.
If called to a meeting with management, postal inspectors, or an OIG agent, remain respectful and calm and read the paragraph in italics at the beginning of this section to the person you are meeting with before the meeting starts. The manager, inspector, or OIG agent conducting the interview is then required by law to provide you with your steward. Please remember to take advantage of this right.
If you are interrogated on a matter that could possibly lead to criminal charges, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in addition to requesting your shop steward.
If you are a Steward in your station please take the time to inform the new CCAs of these important rights.