Danielle Smith
Second Vice President,
Financial Secretary
Outlook May / June 2019

Know Your Steward!

One very essential component to having an informative and productive experience throughout your career as a letter carrier is communicating with your station’s shop steward. When in doubt, always turn to your shop steward(s) for answers. He or she can be a valuable source of information and knowledge regarding the craft; and a springboard into unlocking strategies on any new policies and procedures the service may be trying to implement.

Time and time again, the daily workroom floor operation changes as management tries to enforce different types of delivery programs and procedures that simply put, just do not work. As this newspaper heads off to the printing press, management is set to put into operation a new pilot program. This new program will try to separate office and casing duties from street and delivery duties. These ideas and constant attempts to change things are most times: brutal, shocking and unsuccessful.

The one thing that does not change is the power of the National Agreement. The rules and provisions of this agreement are the letter carrier’s protective shield and will hold up throughout the test of time. On a local level, we have our own agreements as well. Our local agreement is the Local Memorandum of Understanding which is usually referred to as the LMOU.

One of the main functions of a shop steward is to represent letter carriers so management does not unilaterally change the language of the present National Agreement. On occasion you will encounter a management official who will try to make up his or her own contract provisions. One typical phony rule that I hear during my work floor visits is that a carrier can be taken off the Overtime Desired List when he or she refuses to work overtime three times or more. Don’t believe that tall tale. It simply is not true.

If management does not comply with the language of the National Agreement there are procedures in place that the steward must take. Your shop steward is trained to enforce the Agreement through those procedures. The steward is educated and armed with the necessary tools needed to enforce the contract. Bear in mind however, stewards are not there to verbally abuse or physically assault management into compliance. There is a procedure in place for such violations. Your station steward is there to dot the lines and make the connection between management and an agreement that both parties have, signed. The parties consist of the United States Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers. There will never come a time when management is allowed to violate the National Agreement because you are represented by the Vincent R. Sombrotto Branch 36 of the NALC.

A shop steward may have to remind management when they are violating the contract. Unfortunately, when management fails to acknowledge a steward’s advice or suggestion, the steward will have to go one step higher, the Grievance Procedure. Some violations are repetitive and violate the following rule “No employee may be disciplined or discharged without just cause.”

Keep the lines of communication open with your steward and address your concerns when contractual rights are violated. Stewards are well aware of issues in the station and the never-ending revolving door of unruly supervisors who enter in and out of our domain. Remember, the steward’s presence will linger much longer than the average supervisor’s length of stay.

Outlook March / April 2019
I am excited about my elected position as the 2nd Vice President of Branch 36. I look forward to representing all of the members of the Branch. I am proud to say, I have been a member since February 9, 1996.

In 2010, I was having issues of my own with the Manager of Williamsbridge Station in the Bronx. The station as a whole was dealing with a manager that ran it with bullying tactics. I must admit, I planned on becoming a shop steward to protect my own contractual rights. At the time, John Springman was the Executive Vice President of Branch 36. He advised me to become a steward and fight the fight. He also told me patience with the dispute resolution process makes a difference. He was correct. Once I became familiar with the grievance process, I totally understood how time and patience were key necessities when trying to correct violations of the contract against my brothers and sisters.

Surprisingly enough, I turned my own fight into an experience and actually changed the morale on the work floor for every letter carrier in the building. Whether I was protecting carriers from discipline or grieving a carrier’s contractual right that management egregiously violated. The joy of helping carriers was enough for me to understand how this symbolic fight would and could end up being something that I would love to do all day, every day. It began with me, trickled down and morphed into the station, and somehow found its way back to me. All I can do at this point is thank the membership for having confidence in me and allowing me to continue in the letter carrier’s plight and fight.

In 2016, I became a hearing officer and began to handle cases on a different level in various stations with different managers. Again, I was protecting carriers outside of my station with both discipline and contractual violations. This work throughout the Bronx was gratifying in many ways. Helping carriers on a daily basis brought joy to my heart knowing that someone could rest well because of my influence. A short while later with some Arbitration Advocate Training, I became an Arbitration Advocate for the carriers of Branch 36.

It feels good to help change the work floor atmosphere for all of the members of the branch. I am proud to be working with a team that goes above and beyond to protect our letter carriers. I look forward to representing the Branch 36 members in the position of 2nd Vice President/Financial Secretary as well.

On another note, I want all of our members to know that we will always file grievances when justified and address each and every concern. Please keep in mind that there are so many other resources and activities for our members.

In addition, we also do charitable activities for the general public. We have the Annual Scholarship Fund which provides four scholarships each year to carrier’s children. The Branch also actively participates in an Annual Food Drive by donating and collecting food for hungry individuals. We also have fundraising activities like MDA, which sends Children with Muscular Dystrophy to summer camp each year. Recording Secretary Tony Ortiz’s Comedy Night is always a hit and for a good cause. Let’s not forget about the biggest event of all, the Annual Dinner Dance. Every station should participate and get at least one table or even more. Ask around and I am sure those who have attended will tell you what a great time they have had with their co-workers.

All information regarding these activities and resources are in the Outlook. I would hope that all members open their mailbox, take the Outlook out and read it. A lot of questions and concerns are located in the articles there. It is very informative and keeps you abreast of what is currently going on in Manhattan and the Bronx.

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