Charlie Heege
Outlook November / December 2019

Branch 36 Honorees

This year, I had the distinct honor and privilege to recognize five individuals at our 43rd Annual Dinner Dance. I have only the highest praise for their dedicated years of service to the branch and our members. It was not only my pleasure to work with them, but also to honor and wish them all a very happy and healthy retirement. Three of these men were Shop Stewards and Formal A Grievance Representatives as well as part-time Branch Officers over the years.

Mike Kelly of Cooper Station had been actively involved in Branch 36 matters for many years and served as a Shop Steward and the Director of Education. I must say it was wonderful seeing Mike and his wife, Jeannie, at the dinner dance since they now live in Florida.

Mike D’Angelo of Gracie Station, although retired as an officer and shop steward from Branch 36, is determined to hold onto his spot of fourth in seniority in Manhattan. He said he will not retire from Gracie until he is number one. Mike also served as the senior Branch 36 Trustee for a very long time. He was an asset to the branch and will be greatly missed.

Frank Perez earned his initiation into being a Shop Steward at Throggs Neck Station where he began his career before eventually branching out to other stations that needed representation. It wasn’t long before Frank’s talents became apparent and he was assigned as a Hearing Officer to handle Formal A Grievances in numerous stations. His wife, Virgen, was also in attendance at the event. She is a retired letter carrier as well. I wish them both a happy, healthy life and retirement!

We also honored two full time officers who retired this year, Harold Hillard and Patrick McNally. Harold has an immense history with the Postal Service, 50 years of service to be exact. Harold became a letter carrier right before the Great Postal Strike of 1970. He was a carrier in Manhattanville Station before being elected as a Shop Steward. His abilities stood out and he was assigned to handle the second step of the Grievance Procedure. He was also active in other stations as a Hearing Officer. Eventually, Harold got involved with the Empire Branch 36 Credit Union and was elected to the Board of Directors, and later as the president. His potential earned him much throughout his career including the title of First Vice President/Treasurer. Have a happy, healthy retirement Harold!

Pat McNally also had a vibrant career in the postal service. He served as a carrier in Vincent R. Sombrotto Station back when it was still called Grand Central Station. Pat followed in Vince Sombrotto and Frank Orapello’s footsteps, and just like them was elected as a Shop Steward. He served in other stations as a Shop Steward and Hearing Officer as well. Pat has earned many sources of pride throughout his lifetime; one very important position he held proudly was as a Sailor in the U.S. Navy. He served his country well and anyone who knows him knows he is a proud U.S. Veteran. Before taking on the role of Second Vice President/Financial Secretary, Pat also held many part time officer positions. Pat, through his own merit, was asked to take charge of the Grievance Department -aka- the Contract Administration Unit. Have a happy, healthy retirement Pat!

Each of the five honorees was given a Commemorative Plaque for their years of dedicated service to Branch 36 and its members. Each individual plaque epitomized their contributions to our great union. For example, Pat and Mike D’Angelo were thanked for their impressive fundraising efforts for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

We had a sixth plaque for Daphne Cain, who retired as a carrier and shop steward from Vincent R. Sombrotto Station. She couldn’t attend the Dinner Dance, so we put her plaque in the mail. On behalf of Branch 36, we wish Daphne a happy and healthy Retirement and thank her for her contributions!

During each Dinner Dance, we recognize carriers who go above and beyond by representing and helping Branch 36 members. Believe me, there was no shortage of candidates this year. Karla Navas of Co-op City Station and Melinda Hammond of Williamsbridge were honored for their outstanding representation of carriers throughout the Bronx. We also recognized Mike Perdomo of Hellgate and his wife Mille. Mike along with Millie, many family members and Hellgate volunteers serve a Turkey meal with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day in East Harlem to people who do not have the means to prepare their own meal. They welcome everyone to sit down and enjoy their meal and oftentimes offer them meals to take home. We are all so proud of Mike, Mille and the volunteers’ contributions as well as the difference they have made in the East Harlem community over the last 13 years. Pascual and I volunteered last year and we will be back again this year.

We had record numbers this year at the dinner dance with 592 attendees, one of the biggest so far. I would like to thank Carmen Flores and Committee Members Melinda Hammond, Sheila Mitchell, Helen Amill, Patricio Montenegro, Karla Navas and Tayry Vega. Great job again this year!

Open Season
I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Open Season for your Health Benefits begins on November 11, 2019 and ends on December 9, 2019. If you do not have the NALC Health Plan then you are probably paying too much out of pocket be it premiums, co-pays or deductibles, or perhaps even all of the above. Do yourself and your family budget a favor and check out the NALC Health Plan. On the OPM website, you are able to compare three health plans side-by-side. Far too many people sign up for the health plan with the cheapest premium and unfortunately don’t find out until they become sick that many things are not covered by their plan.

Keep in mind, our NALC Health Plan does not have a CEO earning a million-dollar salary. Money taken into the NALC Health Plan is used for additional benefits for the members. Sign up during Open Season, it is in your family’s best interest.

I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving filled with many blessings and a joyful Holiday Season.

Outlook September / October 2019

Summer 2019

What a strange summer it has been in the New York District Postal Service. Gigantic white hoses dangling from post office windows line many of the streets across Manhattan and the Bronx. The general public must be very curious as they pass by these stations because they actually resemble giant octopus tentacles. These white hoses are connected to portable air conditioners, being used whenever those antiquated air conditioners break down, which apparently happens more often than not.

My familiarity with the New York District Leadership Team leads me to believe that these gigantic hoses hovering over our stations will be an eyesore for many years to come. The New York District “Leadership” team believes in Band-Aids instead of feasible solutions. Many of these air conditioners and boilers are way past their warranty date and need to be replaced

Our shop stewards are well aware that these portable air conditioners have their own set of safety issues and therefore have been filing 1767 Safety Hazard Forms whenever necessary. Besides hanging out the windows and occasionally spraying water on people passing by, these hoses are also draped across workroom floors causing real safety concerns at the stations.

In Riverdale Station in the Bronx, you cannot see one side of the workroom floor from the other because the portable units and connecting hoses block the view. The portable units in this station are very loud as well and definitely not a welcome sound effect for the carriers working in the station.

In Cathedral Station in Manhattan, to cool off the first floor, hoses are hooked up to a unit in the loading dock. The hoses are so massive that they block the garbage dumpster and it can no longer be emptied appropriately. What a nice way to attract unwanted rodents! One cannot make this stuff up! Yes, these portable air condition units make it cooler on those hot summer days; but they are only a temporary fix - a Band-Aid, not a solution for a longstanding problem waiting to be addressed.

The New York District is one of the top grossing income districts in the country, yet many stations look like they belong in a third-world country. They have broken down air conditioners and boilers and many haven’t seen a paintbrush in decades. The USPS NY District Leadership Team needs to pull their heads out of their laptops and take a good look at their employees’ working environment. A safe and healthy work floor makes for a happy, productive workforce.

September Events
There are a few important events coming up this month. One event that I look forward to each year is the Retirees’ Brunch. We have roughly 1500 Branch 36 Retirees and only 10% attend our Annual Retirees’ Brunch, which is held in Times Square’s Hard Rock Cafe. Vincent R Sombrotto (aka Grand Central Station) and FDR Station once held the lead with the most attendees. But nowadays, Murray Hill Station has taken over and become number one. Murray Hill typically averages about 30 attendees. The newly retired and long term retirees make up that group. Everyone enjoys catching up with long time coworkers/friends. In many cases, this is the one time each year these retirees get to see each other.

There is always a national officer in attendance ready to update us on pending National Legislation, significant to retirees. Our State President George Mangold also gives us an update on important State Legislation.

Another important event that starts at the end of September and concludes at the beginning of October this year is the Shop Stewards’ Elections. Shop Stewards are an integral part of our branch and their duties are varied and many. One very important shop steward responsibility is to keep the station membership informed on important issues. The only way that can be done properly is by attending the Membership and Shop Stewards’ meetings each month. Branch 36 also has Quarterly Shop Steward Seminars.

With today’s management, stewards will be filing grievances on behalf of their station membership quite regularly. Many times it is the same grievance over and over again because management continues to violate the same contractual provision.

This has been an unusual year for me because I had to remove more than one shop steward from their position for failure to fulfill their responsibilities. Please only run for shop steward if you are willing to attend meetings and seminars and uphold the language in our Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you are ready, we will give you all the necessary assistance you need.

Letter Carriers Political Fund / Rap Sessions
Branch 36 Officers have been asking for suggestions for offsite locations within close proximity to stations to have Rap Sessions about the Letter Carriers’ Political Fund. We cannot have LCPF discussions on postal property due to the Hatch Act. I would like to extend a big shout out to Shop Steward Carmen Flores. Carmen called and asked if Applebee’s (on 117th Street and Pleasant Avenue) would be appropriate for a Rap session. Pascual and I made plans to meet her there to check it out. We soon realized it was the same neighborhood where Vince Sombrotto, Frank Orapello and Mario DeLuca grew up. It felt like a sign to both of us and we knew it would be the perfect neighborhood to have our first LCPF Rap Session. Applebee’s did a great job hosting our very first LCPF Rap Session.

The Rap Session was held on Sunday, September 8th. Carmen brought carriers, regulars and CCA’s from three stations and also asked Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to attend the event. Carolyn said she would be honored to attend and she did. NALC Legislative and Political Organizer Marc Ashmon and Sonny signed all the carriers up for the LCPF payroll deductions. Shop Steward Kathleen Kirton was there to take photos, which can be found in this issue of the Outlook. Pascual, Danielle, Tony and I answered many questions and together we all enjoyed the appetizers.

It looks like Bronx GPO and Highbridge Stations will be next on the list for LCPF Rap Session. We have another offsite Rap Session set up with carriers from Baychester Station on a different topic. It seems management has decided to implement Consolidated Casing at Baychester Station. Management mistakenly thinks that because this is a test that they do not have to abide by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. They are ready for a rude awakening and many grievances will be filed.

Outlook July / August 2019
Recently, a call came into the Branch from a distressed shop steward, who explained how before he even hit in on the clock, the unbearable heat at his station made him realize immediately that he had a real safety concern on his hands. It was not a good day to hear this bit of news with the blistering heat expected to soar outside in the same way it did the day before. I made a few phone calls and through several conversations confirmed what I already suspected; the temporary air conditioners weren’t installed properly. A few thoughts ran through my mind as we made our way over there. How was that simple task mismanaged? And how would it be dealt with and fixed?

It seems to be common sense that a productive workroom floor happens only when humane conditions exist for the employees. Standing in a sweltering room with no relief in sight does not make for first-rate productivity. Casing and tying up mail is a physical activity, which ordinarily in the proper conditions, is not too difficult to complete, but in the stifling heat it becomes more of a challenge.

So if the ultimate goal is to perform well, why would you build unnecessary obstacles for your employees?

The temperature outside was nearly 90 degrees when the carriers began their work the day before, and the same was expected on this day. Providing cool water is essential in these conditions so you could imagine our dismay when the official response came down that it would be provided later when the carriers hit the streets. Common sense seemed to be lost on that one and all we could do at the time was shake our heads in disbelief.

Excessive heat and the remedy to avoid it is not a new problem for the postal service; it’s actually common in certain stations. With that in mind, one would think that the problem would be solved before the temperature begins to soar outside. Maintenance and repair should be of the utmost concern to avoid such inhumane working conditions and should be done long before summertime. The real slap in the face aside from the sweltering heat in the station was that there was no cool water at the carriers’ disposal while they cased and tied down mail. It seems at least that would have been provided and come as some relief.

There are many things that make no sense in the way the Service manages certain situations in some stations. For instance, why do they wait until the carriers arrive to turn on the portable air conditioning units? It takes at the very least an hour to cool off a large workroom floor space. Why is water not provided when carriers tie down their routes? Why aren’t measures taken earlier to ensure that equipment works properly? All we want in reality is a safe, working environment for our letter carriers. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask for, even on a hot day.

It seems upper management was under the impression that all issues were fixed as soon as they happened, which obviously was not the case. Where does the finger pointing lie or does it even matter at this point. The only things that really matter are that the issues are resolved quickly and in the future things are done correctly. If it means taking supervisors and area managers to task to protect our carriers in all circumstances then that is what must be done.

The branch has been running full speed ahead in regard to arbitration for the last couple of years. Philosophical differences based on contractual language and remedies have contributed to a surge in disagreements at Arbitration. The National Contract will soon expire on September 20th of this year. National has begun the negotiation process with the USPS on a formal basis. They look forward to settling a contract without having to go to arbitration; but they will of course do so if it’s warranted.

There are no plans to give anything back or to make any concessions. Although trying to ensure that the Service gets a win out of it as well (if possible); that is as long as letter carriers don’t take any kind of loss in the process. Standards of living, COLAs and wages will be concentrated on as much as narrowing the gap between CCAs and past career compensations. They look to pursue a mechanism to shorten CCA terms and ultimately head on to a path of a full-time workforce. Our National President-Fredric Rolando will be steadily holding the reins for the third time with his many years of experience. We have great faith in him and his team’s ability to secure the essential and key items that provide for fair and dignified living standards for our members from coast to coast. Updates will be forthcoming.

Fortunately, the branch doesn’t have any installation-wide precedent settling cases to deal with at this current time. We’ve been fortunate to stop management in their tracks in attempts to impact carriers in wide reaching manners such as eligibility for carfare during duty, or ways to bump and assign routes to carriers correctly, and even their attempts to changing Begin Tours.

We hope to impress upon our membership the importance of being successful at Arbitration for our members. One half of cases have to do with someone being severely punished in a disciplinary action. The other half deal with how contractual disagreements could impact an employee or maybe even all of them. There is much importance on a branch-wide level.

Management tried to take away the right for foot routes to use public transportation and be compensated for it while performing duties but lost. They tried to tell us how to bump and align carriers in light of excessing and were told, “Stop right there!” They tried to tell us how to do business when changing tours and were met with a brick wall. They keep trying and we keep stopping them (by winning).

FYI: The Postal Service is performing another kind of test. This test has to do with employees injured on duty with accepted OWCP claims. They will be partnering with One Call Care Management and providing transportation to eligible employees for appointments associated with their work-related injuries. You can call the branch or speak to your shop steward regarding questions or concerns. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Outlook May / June 2019

Grand Jury Duty

My civic duty is complete, four weeks of Grand Jury Duty, and a wish to never be called again. Well, at least for another eight years, or so I have been told.

My absence was a true test for our Branch 36 Officers and I must admit they passed with flying colors. I am happy to report that the right team is in place. Several challenging situations arose, but were met with professionalism and expertise. Two events, which I look forward to, took place during my Civic Duty stint, the Annual NALC Food Drive Kickoff and the NYSALC Legislative trip to Washington, D.C. I am happy to report both went off without a hitch. Many thanks to acting president, Pascual Ortiz, and our team of officers.

Many thanks also go out to our food drive coordinators: Tayry Vega from Audubon Station and Melinda Hammond from Williamsbridge Station, who exceeded last year’s results by 22,000 lbs. of food collected. I am proud to announce that this year we collected 140,806 lbs. of food. Melinda and Tayry were responsible for over 2,300 Branch 36 Food Drive t-shirts being worn by our members. They were also able to secure the Westside Campaign Against Hunger Pantry for our kickoff. Many thanks to the Director Greg Silverman for allowing us to have the food drive kickoff at this very active pantry once again.

We were honored by the four Proclamations, which we received from Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Melinda Hammond, Tayry Vega, Carmen Flores and Helen Amill each proudly read a Proclamation at the event. Governor Cuomo sent a representative who shared some remarks at the kickoff. We were also honored to have Bronx Postmaster Scott Farrar and Ruth Lindner from City Harvest, who both shared some well received thoughts as well. Pascual Ortiz welcomed the group and was followed by Sonny Guadalupe’s Spanish welcome interpretation. I thank all involved on an excellent job and outcome. What a team!

NYSALC President George Mangold calls for a legislative trip to D.C. every May. Unfortunately, I was still on Grand Jury duty and unable to attend. However, I am proud to say Branch 36 was well represented on the Hill. The entire NYSALC group met with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. Afterwards, Pascual, Sonny and Carmen met with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s staff and representatives from Congressmen Jose Serrano, and Adriano Espaillat’s office were met by Tony Ortiz, Mike Perdomo and Helen Amill. Pascual and Sonny met and shared some thoughts with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez while Carmen Flores and Natan Sheyer spent time with Congressman Gerald Nadler and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. What a productive visit on the Hill. This visit ensured that our New York Members of Congress are updated on all issues pertaining to letter carriers and the postal service.

The best way for Branch 36 members to stay up-to-date on all pending legislation and issues concerning letter carriers is to download the NALC app on their smartphone. You will receive notifications of pending Congressional Bills and/or notified when issues are being appealed to arbitration on a national level.

During May’s Shop Steward Meeting we discussed our interest in having meetings/seminars with possible CCAs. We asked the stewards to reach out and inquire and to share that information with us regarding possible CCA interest. Branch 36 officers believe in education and being an educated letter carrier makes the job a whole lot easier. Knowing your rights and responsibilities eliminates the need for guessing, which happens to be an everyday occurrence on the work floor.

Stewards were also asked to reach out to see if there was an interest in a Retirement Seminar. We are aware that many questions pop up when carriers are about to retire and we have a dedicated staff ready, willing and able to help. Our Director of Retirees Joe Ramos and his Assistant Denis Rhoden are experts on the retirement process.

Another meeting we are considering is in regard to the Letter Carriers Political Fund. We are well aware of the need to sign up more members for payroll deductions and its importance can be understood better in this kind of presentation. These meetings/seminars can be held in the Branch 36 meeting hall or even at a nearby pizza shop, close to the station.

We had close to 200 carriers in attendance at the April Membership/ Installation Meeting. Let’s continue to remain involved and attend even more membership meetings, which are held on the second Thursday of every month, except in July and August. Every third Membership Meeting is held in the Bronx.

Outlook March / April 2019
Installation of Officers
On April 11, 2019 Vincent R. Sombrotto Branch 36 Officers were installed at the April Membership Meeting. Close to 200 members including some family and friends were in attendance. Many thanks to the staff of F & J Pine Restaurant on a job well done; everything went off without a hitch.

The following is my acceptance speech given directly after we were sworn in by NALC President Fred Rolando.
Welcome Everyone.

Many thanks, first and foremost, to the members of Vincent R. Sombrotto Branch 36 for having the confidence in electing the Charlie Heege/Pascual Ortiz Slate of Officers. Secondly, many thanks to Fred Rolando for taking time out of your very busy schedule to be our Installing Officer today. And many thanks also to Assistant Installing Officer, Orlando Gonzalez, for always stepping up when called upon. And last but certainly not least, Cleveland Morgan, who flew in from Georgia to celebrate with us today. I am sure you would all agree it certainly wouldn’t be an Installation without Cleveland giving the Invocation.

Branch 36 is not a one man show. It is a team effort. For this reason, I would like to call up our full-time officers because each one will play a major part moving Branch 36 forward: Executive Vice President Pascual Ortiz; First Vice President/Treasurer Anibal Guadalupe; Second Vice President Danielle Smith; and Recording Secretary Tony Ortiz.

There have been some changes since our last Installation three years ago. John Springman’s untimely passing over a year and a half ago left our team with a lingering question that had to be answered unfortunately. That question was, “Who could possibly ever replace John?” Unknowingly, John actually had made it an easy decision for me. You see many times over the years, John sat in my office and spoke of the many accomplishments of his protégé Pascual Ortiz, whom he had mentored. Today, you have all confirmed that I made the right decision back then by reelecting Pascual as our Executive Vice President.

Another Ortiz, but no relation to our Executive Vice President, is Tony Ortiz. Tony and I have worked together for many years as full-time officers and he has been a valuable asset to Branch 36 and its members. Two key players, Harold Hillard and Pat McNally, paved the way for the two new faces you see here today by retiring as Branch 36 Officers. Today is actually their last day and both Harold and Pat are here with us this evening. Please give them a round of applause on a job well done and for years of dedicated service. We will be honoring Harold and Pat at this year’s dinner dance in the Marina Del Rey on Sunday, November 10, 2019. Let’s make it the biggest dinner dance ever! Thank you for having the confidence in electing Anibal aka “Sonny” and Danielle. Each one has put in endless time and energy working for our Branch 36 members and I have no doubt that energy will gain even more momentum in the future. Together our team is ready, willing and able to represent Branch 36 members proudly.

We have attended at least 6 labor management meetings in the last two months. We put management on notice that we are willing to meet, but have no problem taking violations to the grievance procedure if it’s warranted. Our Branch has three Arbitration Advocates that can go up against anyone and rest assured the outcome would be favorable. Pascual, Danielle and Helen Amill have proven themselves over and over again, and are an amazing team of arbitration advocates.

It has gotten back to us that management has nicknames for two of us so far. I won’t say who earned these nicknames. I will let you guess. The nicknames from management are “Rude” and “Mean”.

As a team, we believe in education and will continue with our Quarterly Shop Steward Seminars. We do have one particular goal that we want to share with you all today. Our goal is to get more of you to sign up for payroll deductions for the Letter Carriers Political Fund. In looking around this room, I estimate that around 90% of you donate to the Letter Carriers Political Fund, formerly known as COLCPE. Our goal is to get you to give the same amount, but through payroll deduction or checking debit instead. For the 10% of you who are not onboard yet because you were never told of the importance, we have asked NALC Legislative and Political Organizers Tony Perconte and Marc Ashmon to prepare a short presentation stressing the importance of donating to the Letter Carriers Political Fund. The easy answer is we need to elect our friends to Congress and the White House. How do we determine who our friends are, you might wonder? Our friends are those Members of Congress who want to preserve the US Postal Service with six day delivery, door to door delivery, collective bargaining, retirement and health benefits and so much more. We actually have friends in both parties and therefore support bi-partisan candidates. In Fred’s own words, “The US Postal Service is a microcosm of the US.” The NALC has carriers on both ends of the political spectrum and everywhere else in between. But the common denominator is the desire to preserve the US Postal Service. The American public is deserving of our unwavering resolve to preserve the United States Postal Service as written in the US Constitution in the proud tradition of our forefathers.

Thank you all for sharing this day with our team and especially to those of you who traveled long distances like: John Kennedy Rivera from Puerto Rico; Stacy from Florida; Cleveland from Georgia; and Fred from Washington, D.C.
And now it is my distinct pleasure to turn it over to NALC President Fred Rolando.

It was a bittersweet experience at our Installation. The bitter feeling stems from the realization that I will no longer be working with Harold and Pat on a daily basis as full-time officers like we have for many years. The sweet feeling stems from knowing they now get to relax, kick back and enjoy the good life without the worries of Branch 36. Harold and Pat were true assets to Branch 36 and I hope they visit us often.

Branch 36 is very lucky to have fully qualified people to replace Harold and Pat. Anibal better known as “Sonny” and Danielle will do an excellent job for our members and round out the full-time officers’ team with Pascual and Tony.
Together, I have no doubt we will be a well-oiled machine and ready at the get-go to take on all challenges and problems we may face for Branch 36.

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