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Assault on Post Office 14
By A Concerned Carrier, 15 January 2005
Photo (right): Southwest Area photo shows a standardized case with all wicket dividers the same size.

I am a letter carrier at the Deadwood Post Office, a medium-sized post office in Texas. I don't like to complain, or maybe I do, but it would be nice just once if management could work WITH carriers, instead of against them. This is my story of what happened today:

This morning when I arrived at work there were five "suits" standing around waiting for the letter carriers to clock in. The "suits" are actually station managers at other post offices in the area. The reason I say "suits" is that these guys were dressed in suits, not their normal everyday manager (work-casual) clothes. Even our station manager, who normally dresses in disco clothes (no joke) was wearing business attire. These guys, Level 21ish managers, probably make $60,000+ each.

When the carriers clocked in, the suits were ready. Already the suits had found a carrier who had cased up his ADVO cards on undertime the day before. Never mind that this carrier was trying to get a head start on the next day - this carrier had committed a horrible sin in the eyes of the suits. You see, according to SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) ADVO cards are to be cased last. This is official since this team of five guys were actually at the station to establish SOP among all stations in the area.  This was an SOP team, and SOP they were going to have.

Well, casing ADVO cards last was news to us. Even the station manager and floor supervisor thought that ADVO cards were to be cased first, since once the casing (sorting) wickets are filled, it's hard to case the razor thin, flaccid ADVO cards into the case. This glaring deficiency had been noted separately by each suit, as each wandered aimlessly through the station taking their little notes.

A couple of minutes later, the carrier for Route 29 was called to the office. There stood the suits, the station manager, the delivery supervisor, and the union steward. The carrier was immediately informed that this was a pre-disciplinary hearing. It seems that the carrier had left the window on his LLV cracked, a clear violation of safety procedures that could enable a mad bomber to slip a very thin bomb through the window. The carrier didn't know that the window had to be all the way up. (Let that be a lesson to the rest of you.) After some thoughtful deliberations, the suits let the carrier off with an Official Discussion.

Later in the morning, the suits caught a carrier cleaning up his work area by placing his empty mail trays into the empty mail trays APC. The suits descended on the APC and found trays with the sorting tag still in the sleeve. This was also duly noted.

After the carriers left to deliver their mail, the suits thoroughly examined the carriers' sorting cases. This thorough examination revealed that many cases had tall wicket dividers to separate cased mail, instead of the medium-sized wicket dividers. This is also a clear violation and was also duly noted. There WILL BE NO MORE TALL WICKET DIVIDERS USED. Some cases were also found to be marked with a marker, so that different walk segments of the route were identified. The supplementary marks are designed to help letter carriers not familiar with a route (new carrier on route) to separate mail into delivery blocks. These marks were also found to be against SOP, and local management was ordered to order new plastic sleeves for the address labels on the case. The team also discovered a few personal items in the drawers of the cases. Among the prohibited items found were a couple of packages of crackers. This was also duly noted.

In a related development, the Hot Case case was found to be not painted red. After all, it is a Hot Case, and I guess it must look hot. Somewhere, a manager with apparently not much else to do, came up with the bright red idea to have all of the Hot Cases painted red, so that carriers will be sure to get their Hot Case mail every morning. Now, all Hot Cases in the region must be painted red. The PM supervisor was immediately tasked with this important project. He was dispatched to buy red spray paint, and upon his successful return he spray painted the entire damn Hot Case. (In the process, he got red paint all over the floor - he didn't think to protect the floor with cardboard or paper. He said that the janitor could scrape the paint up in the morning.) The carriers, who were working all day actually delivering mail, all had a big chuckle when they returned and saw the bright red monstrosity. In the spirit of the project, some of the carriers now want to add flames to the Hot Case to make it really hot!

As we clocked out for the day, the red-handed PM supervisor told us that we would be having a VERY BIG MEETING in the morning to address all of  these issues.

This all seems much ado about nothing - and that's the point. Obviously the Post Office has a surplus of managers who have enough time to dissect the minutiae of this station. I am sure that in a year or two, a gaggle of managers will descend on the station once again and discover "OHMYGOSH, the carriers are casing their ADVO cards last! That is against SOP. They MUST be cased up FIRST."

There are many aspects of postal reform that need to be addressed. In that, there are many substantial issues that need to be addressed specific to carriers and carrying mail. Proper pay incentives, fatter workloads (less First Class, more BULK(Y) mail), the adjustment of routes and DPS problems are some of those issues. Red Hot Cases, tall wicket dividers, and cracked LLV windows aren't.

Hopefully, upcoming postal reform will address the overpopulation of middle management too!

And if the Post Office wants to standardize the minutiae of letter carrier operations, then fine. But  a little more nicety and a little less Storm Trooper tactics might help the overall process.


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