Danielle Smith
Second Vice President,
Financial Secretary
Outlook November / December 2019

Be an Active Participant

Let me begin by mentioning that it was a pleasure to hear, more than three days later, that those in attendance are still excited about the great time they had at the Vincent R. Sombrotto Branch 36 Dinner Dance. The turnout was huge, as well as the “turn-up”. I saw nothing but smiling faces on that dance floor. Great job President Heege and Branch 36 Dance Committee Members in gathering letter carriers and their families to celebrate along with us and to applaud our retired officers.
Active Participant
Letter Carriers, I need you to understand that while your steward is here to protect you from unjust disciplinary actions, you must also play an active role in your own defense of any potential discipline as well.

On the off chance that you are issued any form of discipline, be it in person or by mail, your initial reaction and responsibility is to contact your steward or the Branch Office immediately to ensure that the Union is aware of management’s actions. Recently, carriers have received disciplinary action via their home address and the steward has not been notified that the discipline was issued. If the steward is unaware of the issuance, it places your grievance rights and time limits (14 days to grieve) into a dire position.

Whenever you are having any type of discussion with management and you have a suspicion that it might lead to some form of disciplinary action, you must STOP the conversation immediately. You must exercise your Weingarten Rights. That means you must ask for your Shop Steward to be present for the discussion. No matter how innocent you are or how friendly you are with a supervisor or manager, you should not participate in any conversation or interview that can lead to disciplinary action without exercising your Weingarten Rights. Keep in mind, if a discussion begins and you believe it is leading to discipline, it is not too late to exercise your Weingarten Rights. You may stop at any time the conversation becomes uncomfortable. You should also ask the supervisor if the discussion will lead to any form of discipline. If the reply is yes, request a steward. One important concept to remember is that the Weingarten Rights mean you have a right to representation. You simply need to say, “If this discussion will possibly lead to my being disciplined or affect my personal working conditions in any way, I respectfully request that my union representative or steward be present at this meeting. Without such representation, I choose not to answer any questions.”

If you are still denied a steward, stay in the room, take notes and DO NOT RESPOND to any more questions. When the questioning is over, contact your steward and give him a detailed explanation of what transpired. Always protect yourself first, but let the steward step up for you as well.

I would like to thank all letter carriers who served and protected our freedom, rights and country. We wish all U.S. Veterans a Happy Veterans Day!

Outlook September / October 2019

Preserving the Collective Bargaining Agreement

I am sure everyone is well aware by now of the COLA allowance, which was made possible through the Collective Bargaining Agreement and our current agreement. I am confident our union brothers and sisters are working hard to protect our rights as always. If you know the history behind how the Branch and the NALC fought to preserve our Collective Bargaining Agreement, I think you would all agree it is pretty impressive.

It was almost 50 years ago when Vincent R. Sombrotto led the the Great Postal Strike which was far-reaching and quickly spread across the country. This occurred at a time when the letter carriers’ wages were not adequate. In certain parts of the country, letter carriers were eligible for welfare because their postal wages were so low.

The Carriers went on a Wildcat Strike in March of 1970. Their bravery led to the passage of The Postal Reorganization Act. The result of that strike gave the Letter Carriers’ Union the authority to negotiate wages, hours, benefits and working conditions rather than Congress authorizing those wages, benefits and conditions.

Here we are almost 50 years later, and our current Presidential Administration has created a task force designed to retrogress the Postal Service. In my opinion, it sounds as if they are trying to create a fiasco. Before the strike, Congress controlled the postal service overseeing wages and conditions. In the early years prior to the strike, Collective Bargaining was referred to as Collective begging

Some of the Task Force on the Postal Service recommendations would include raising the employee pension contributions and eliminating COLA’s, in addition to changing the Social Security regulations for FERS when you retire before age 62. The task force also wants to align letter carriers pay with other federal workers.

The union has earned us the right to fight against all injustice. Through the hard work letters carriers do for the public and postal service, the right for Collective Bargaining is well deserved. The past and present union leaders have upheld that right for 49 plus years and have been successful fighting for us through Collective Bargaining.

One thing I cannot say is that I never received a wage increase in all my years as a letter carrier. Nor can I complain about the benefits I have received. We do not want to lose our wages and benefits. We are all well aware that our NALC Executive Staff is currently at the bargaining table negotiating the terms of the new contract. We are confident that they will fight for our rights as always.

I highly suggest that every member from Branch 36 look into the history of Vincent R. Sombrotto and the Great Postal Strike, as well as the history of the NALC. You can also view footage of the strike on your computer. Please ask your steward for any and all information or resources regarding protecting our Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NALC app is full of updates and resources as well.

Outlook July / August 2019

Form 3971

I would like to impress upon all letter carriers the importance of Form 3971. I receive plenty of phone calls during the course of the day from carriers complaining of management’s failure to pay them correctly. However, when I ask the following question: Did you fill out Form 3971? The answer is typically the same, “No”. Most reasons behind that answer concern me, especially when that particular carrier rarely calls out and management chooses to pay them incorrectly. The carrier may have called eRMS and requested sick leave or annual leave, but unexpectedly and without prior notice that leave was changed to leave without pay. In a majority of these situations, the carriers were unaware that they were not paid until the paystub was in their hand two weeks later. By that time, it is too late and an adjustment must be made. We all know how that goes; management is never eager to make an adjustment.

I need each and every one of you to understand, when you return from any type of leave you must ask for Form 3971, as soon as you get your timecard. The main reasons are it will confirm the actual type of leave you have requested when you called out and will also confirm how you should get paid. One other reason is that management will notify you whether the leave is approved or disapproved, making it easier for you to know if you must grieve the fact that the request was not granted. There may be reasons that management deems you desirable and it may be improper. Management seems to think there is a list that they can place you on called, “deems desirable”.

The 3971 is a vital component of that grievance working in the carrier’s favor, assuming that carrier is of course, correct. Some supervisors like to manipulate the computer to not pay carriers regardless of whether the leave request was for a legitimate emergency or not. Some have told carriers to grieve it in order to get paid, which is not a fair practice. Perhaps, you may need to file a grievance in reference to being charged AWOL improperly. That Form would validate the type of leave you requested, versus the type of leave the supervisor or manager decided to give to you. Again, in that case, it would need to be grieved.

I have had carriers call to ask if management can attach the pre-filled 3971 on their timecard. Yes, they can because it will do no harm. The question should be do I have to fill it out. I, myself would completely fill out a Form 3971 to establish what leave I am requesting. There is no harm in letting them know what type of leave you are requesting rather than relying on what type they think it should be. Please feel free to use that comment section on the Form as well.

With all that being said, don’t be intimidated by filling out the 3971. That Form is for our benefit, as employees. Feel free to call me with any questions or concerns.

On another note, I hope everyone is coping with the heat this summer. Please keep in mind if you are affected in any way by the heat regardless of whether inside the station or out in the street, take as many breaks as necessary during the course of the day. Your safety is our #1 concern. We recently had to step in and visit a station where the AC was not working. Management had actually created an unsafe working situation and was slow in addressing the problem. Speak to your steward if there is a safety concern regarding the climate in the station. Please do not just walk out. The proper way is to take a cooling break, in the event that you are feeling extremely hot. Again, if it causes you any type of discomfort and do not feel well. Fill out the 3971. It’s more important for you to be safe than sorry.

Now that the contract talks have begun, please make sure you all download the NALC App. It will keep you abreast of what is going on with the new Collective-Bargaining Agreement. I am sure we are all interested in what the National Officers are fighting for and management’s response to those requests. Keep checking in, negotiations are underway.

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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