Pascual Ortiz
Executive Vice President e-mail
Outlook September / October 2019

Steward Elections: A Perfect Storm

It isn’t that hard. It isn’t that easy. But it can be done. To what degree and how much effort it takes, is all up to you. The following three ingredients are needed to become an exceptional shop steward: dedication, integrity and passion.

The Steward Elections will have been decided by the time this article reaches your doorstep. Becoming a steward is entirely about helping people and making sure every carrier is represented to the fullest degree by Branch 36.

This help comes in many ways, both big and small, at all times of the day and every day of the week. Stewards’ main responsibilities include ensuring that the contract is upheld, and that the carriers on the work-floor are made whole and don’t suffer any losses.

We hold quarterly seminars, which are dedicated to grievance handling procedures and informative updates known as Rap Sessions. The help we offer ranges from educational seminars, to developing and honing stewards’ skills, to answering stewards’ and members’ questions when they call the branch.

One particular question CCA’s frequently ask is, “What number am I on the list and when will I become a regular?” I remember asking that same question twenty-two years ago. If you do call us to find out your number be sure to have the month and year you were hired as a CCA handy.

Meetings
I’d like to thank the members who showed up for the Mini-Rap Session. Branch 36 Carriers met together with Branch Officers at an offsite location to discuss the importance of the Letter Carrier Political Fund. Director of Compensation, Carmen Flores, was able to gather carriers together from several stations to meet with Branch Officers. She did a fantastic job and we greatly appreciate her involvement and dedication. I would also like to thank the membership who attended as well. We are open to meeting with other stations, stewards and hearing officers in the same way we did with Carmen. Feel free to reach out to your steward or the Branch to inquire about setting one up in your area of the Bronx or Manhattan.

September’s Membership Meeting was loaded with energy and enthusiastic members. Attendance was high and there were many questions to be asked and concerns to be addressed. The Committee Reports were informative and the officers did great job of sharing information. We take great pride in being able to help our members.

Contract Negotiations
The National Officers anticipate a tough negotiation process for the upcoming contract. As recently as July, the Postmaster General went on record suggesting reduction of pay and benefits triggering shockwaves felt by letter carriers everywhere. She announced this just as contract negotiations opened up with the NALC.

The National Officers do not intend to extend any bargaining time limits if postal management is not willing to compensate carriers’ pay, benefits and rights in a fair and acceptable manner. The NALC has been preparing for contract negotiations around the clock since the signing of the last contract. They are ready to negotiate a contract with the Service or to justify one in front of an arbitrator.

The NALC also seeks to end a non-career workforce, along with decent and fair wage increases for all employees. Preserving the COLA is critical and of great importance. They are seeking to establish a National Safety Program where letter carriers are part of the process. CCA uniform payments along with uniform-weather technology is another big item on the list.

The NALC recognizes the need to update the technology of our letter carrier uniforms. Certain prominent weather conditions require clothing technology that has been developed for hot and cold conditions, ranging from footwear all the way up to protective gear for the head. Our carriers are spread across the United States and often face all kinds of weather conditions while performing their duties. The Northeast is known for hot summers and cold winters. The Hurricane Season oftentimes affects us as well, so we need gear that protects us against severe snow, rain, cold and heat.

Protect Yourself
Be sure to use the PS Forms that are available to you. Report all undeliverable mail on PS Form 1571. This form documents any mail that you may not have been able to deliver but does not include beats. PS Form 3996 officially notifies management that you need overtime or help to finish your assignment. PS Form 3971 officially notifies management of the Annual or Sick without Pay you may need to use on any given day. All of these forms and many others ensure a successful grievance procedure if it is necessary.

Be smart! Physical altercations at work are not worth risking your income and career. This job brings decent and steady paychecks, raises, vacation and sick time. A good annuity and health care are also entitlements of this job as well. Please note, you can’t file a grievance against criminal charges, you’ll need a lawyer for that. Things get even harder if you have to put those kinds of issues in front of an arbitrator. Sticks and Stones is the way to go with anyone at work.

Holiday Season
Get ready for things to become more demanding. E-Commerce is at an all-time high. Parcel volume continues to increase with the push of a button on consumer phones and gadgets. Hopefully, the Postal Service will be ready with a sufficient workforce to avoid excessive mandatory overtime for the employees, who don’t care for overtime. Parcels will be demanding; last year’s numbers were astronomical in the New York District. The carriers did and continue to do a fantastic job delivering parcels.

The Postal Service has been working with Target for Sunday Delivery and expanding its role with other vendors in e-commerce. Hopefully, things expand to a point where we can do voluminous business with Target and other vendors, in the same way we do with Amazon. The more work we get the more assignments will be created.

Branch 36 Officers and stewards have been busy around-the-clock helping to convert Y-Assignments into actual and real assignments posted for bid throughout the Bronx and Manhattan.

Lastly, I’d like to say welcome back from your summer vacations. I hope everyone enjoyed a great Labor Day. Have a great Halloween and a wonderful Thanksgiving as well. Until we meet again in the November/December Issue.

Outlook July / August 2019

So Much Happening

Now that summer has finally kicked in and things are moving at the speed of lightning, keep your eyes and ears open because management has plans to change the way we do business drastically. Much has been going on Branch-wide. There have been heat related safety concerns in the Bronx and Manhattan, and Branch 36 proudly attended the New York State Convention to name a few. Before you know it, our Fall events will be in full swing.

Strange and ambitious plans have come down the pike recently. We met with the membership at three stations to discuss management’s plans to test a new business plan. It’s likely more will be lost with this test than gained. The Postal Service could easily lose customer confidence as they implement then fumble with on-time-delivery with this new method. How will the businesses in those zip code areas react to late mail or no mail at all? It stands to reason the outcome would be devastating.

This new plan is called Consolidated Casing, a new and different attempt to try and split office and street duties. We are ready to stand arm in arm with our membership should the Service decide to implement this test in our area. THIS IS NOT A JOINT PROCESS. The NALC and Branch 36 are not a part of this implementation. Grievances are being filed on a national level and Branch 36 stewards will soon be filing grievances as well. We will be sure to follow National’s advice and strategies on the local level to ensure contract compliance. We will always make sure our membership’s rights are not violated; and should they be, get them restored immediately.

The test has already been initiated in one station, and the plan is to be expanded throughout the country in a two-fold program. The first is to eliminate Fixed Office Time to eliminate assignments and the second is to create space for parcels on the workroom floor. Today’s parcel environment requires much more space within the station than it has in the past. Our understanding is that three of our stations have been selected as a possible test sites. Currently, there is no commitment guaranteeing that the station will take part in this test. However, this does not mean they won’t be selected. Only time will tell. Our stations are expected to be introduced during Phase III of the project. At this time, that phase has been pushed back until September of 2019.

The basic idea of this program is to rearrange the way we do business, predominantly in casing routes and delivery. The carriers would be split into two basic shifts and responsibilities. “Casers” case routes and tie them down. Each Caser would be responsible for casing/tying down six routes which would eliminate the need to house space for those six routes in our current conventional manner. “Streeters” will deliver those routes.

Casers will case mail as the name suggests. Each carrier will face three cases in an upside-down U shape. Each wing will represent a route, meaning the U is three routes. The first route is the left wing, the second route is directly in front of the carrier, and the third route is on the right-hand side. Each case will have six shelves and all are one separation apart from each other. The Caser will case and tie down those first three routes. Once those three routes begin to come down, the Streeters will walk in and grab the mail, keys, accountables and head out to the street to begin their delivery duties. When those first three routes are down and out of the way, the carrier will flip the labels on the case and start all over again and case three more routes. Once the latter of the three routes is cased and comes down, then another set of carriers will be scheduled to come in and take the mail out to deliver it.

The next set of duties would be the Streeters’ set. The Streeters’ time will begin when the Caser is anticipated to have the mail ready for delivery. The time delegated to the Streeter is intended to have them on the street for seven hours and forty-five minutes with fifteen minutes of fixed office time to handle office deliveries in the morning and evening. Good luck with that!

The Streeters begin their tour by retrieving the accountables, keys, scanner and pushcart before heading out to the street. The carrier is on the street for the rest of his or her day.

There are many questions raised with the implementation of this program. One of them would be, who is responsible for the maintenance of route information such as the AMS book? Another is how will Streeters keep up with the customers who have moved if they don’t handle the change of address orders?

One notable remark: Nothing has changed in our contract. Grievances will be filed if this test is implemented and will be heard in front of an Arbitrator if and when it comes to that. WE WILL BE READY. You can be sure of that.

During the recent heat wave, safety concerns sprung up as expected. We continually stress the importance of Safety and Health issues regarding the summer heat at our membership meetings. There is no one answer to fit all of the different circumstances that may arise from an air conditioner malfunctioning. The first place to begin is with management’s responsibilities as it pertains to this issue regarding Safety and Health. If a letter carrier were to feel sick or physically overwhelmed due to unsafe conditions caused by the heat, then the right answer is always to make sure that ailment is addressed as soon as possible. Do not try to tough it out. An unsafe workfloor should not impact the health and safety of our members. The tougher part of this equation happens when a member is not immediately overcome by the heat, but rather over time. In that instance, the branch urges carriers to make sure they take as many comfort breaks as needed to hydrate and cool off and to do so even if it doesn’t seem urgent. Better safe than sorry. The number of permitted step-offs with the intent to cool to be safe and remain safe in this kind of situation is unlimited. Safety is always first! If you do not need comfort breaks and/or cool-off breaks, take some anyway as a precaution. Our Safety Officer, David Velazquez, has been busy all over the city during the month of July speaking to letter carriers, and relaying their concerns to upper management as much as we have here at the branch.

Branch 36 has posted OSHA’s Safety App regarding heat, which is promoted by the NALC on our Instagram and Facebook pages. The post will help you find the app and help to recognize it easier in your phone’s app store. There are safety procedures and steps laid out on National’s website from OSHA as well. The following is a quote from the website:

OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in hot environments. Nonetheless, under the OSH Act, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards. This guide helps employers and worksite supervisors prepare and implement hot weather plans. It explains how to use the heat index to determine when extra precautions are needed at a worksite to protect workers from environmental contributions to heat-related illness. Workers performing strenuous activity, workers using heavy or non-breathable protective clothing, and workers who are new to an outdoor job need additional precautions beyond those warranted by heat index alone.

In addition to the above training material provided by OSHA, the USPS has issued a number of instructions as follows:
In May of 2014, the USPS distributed a Mandatory Stand-up Talk for Supervisors, which required that they train themselves on heat safety, train their employees, monitor the weather, acclimate employees to the heat and have a plan in place to respond to the needs of employees during heat advisories.”

Branch 36 Officers recently attended the New York State Convention along with our delegates in July. The convention was informative regarding what direction the New York State Delegation is looking for the national parties to pursue when the time arrives during the next national convention. Branch 36 delegates are always eager to take advantage of the trainings offered before and after the convention is called to order. We appreciate the effort and time invested by all of our delegates and any work they may do to contribute to its overall success. I thank them all.

The summer will soon zoom by and the Annual Retiree Brunch will be held at the Hard Rock Café on September 22nd. We hope to see many new faces at this event. Our quarterly Comedy Show will follow in October of this year (date pending) and is always a fun time. The branch plans to revive the Texas Hold’em tournaments as well, tentative date is sometime in November of 2019. Once those dates are pinpointed, FLASHES will be sent to the stations and posted for the membership. Remember, you heard it here first!

Outlook May / June 2019

Happy Summer!

“12 hours today! You’re doing a pivot on route such and such!” That’s the first thing you hear as you clock in at the time-clock. Today’s work floor can be demanding. Routes, truck assignments, pivots and all kind of technical jargon rule the airwaves all morning long. Some things have changed, yet others have remained the same. Letters and flats, once the heavy hitters, now get some serious competition from the parcel industry. That’s no small feat by the way. The country still relies on first class mail, even though the driving force of the postal service is adjusting to current times and technology.

The things that have changed are countless. The heavy hitters were once letters, flats and foot routes. The new heavy hitter is without a doubt, parcel delivery. In the past, there would be ten to twenty tubs of flats, and numerous trays of mail waiting to be cased up while parcel delivery and parcel volume were nearly a quarter of what they are today, sometimes quite less. (Hold your horses, my old-time brothers and sisters, I know you dealt with much more casing mail than I ever did. However, this happens to be my story and article though). There was so much mail to case up that you would tie your route down, send it out and stay behind to case up mail for the rest of the day. Only to tie it down again before you left for the day or get it ready for next day delivery. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Parcel delivery is slowly beginning to dominate the work day. The amount of parcels and parcel assignments in current times far supersedes what was available when I came on board in the late 90’s. There seems to always be a post-con of parcels waiting to be delivered at all times of the day, every day of the week.

Things that have remained the same are quite evident as well. The overwhelming pressure to perform hasn’t changed one bit. Huge expectations are routine. Carriers often come across a person who gives them the hardest time when submitting a PS Form 3996 for overtime and or help. Or maybe a route or truck assignment requires submitting a 3996 on a daily basis and you run into a supervisor that seems to want to nickel and dime you for every minute of approved overtime and or help.

The pressure to complete an assignment and a pivot is huge enough, never mind the parcels and or undelivered routes that still may need to be delivered when you return from finishing your assignment. Before you know it, you have a route, a pivot, and a ton of pressure to solve the management’s daily dilemma of staffing the operation. The pressure to do a ton of work, in a limited amount of time, has translated into what seems to be an unending and torturous adjustment of having to work six days a week, at twelve hours a pop. Rest days are cancelled excessively it seems since the peak season began and there appears to be no relief in sight. Frankly, I’m sick of it! I loathe the fact that our brothers and sisters are being dogged daily in both mental and physical capacities. How do we balance the appreciation of an abundance of work along with trying to have a real sense of purpose when it comes to enjoying the fruits of our labor on our day off?

One way to beat that is to try to remember to look at things in a practical manner. I know there is nothing easy about the kind of demand you are facing on the job. I beg to ask you “What’s your angle? How do you cope? What makes the pain or mental strains disappear?” I will offer some suggestions to help you see it in a different way.

Work safely. Don’t take shortcuts. Shortcuts never add up. They only lead to the unemployment line, or the Triage Unit in an E.R. Take your breaks. There are sixty six minutes total break time throughout the day. Take your comfort stops whenever needed. They happen to be unlimited. Hydrate consistently.

A couple of face rags always come in handy, especially on warm days. Treat your back, feet, tendons, and ligaments as if they are the only ones you own, because they actually are the only ones you own. Believe me, it hurts quite a bit to replace them. Treat your body and mind right. Don’t let the pressure get to you.

Do not allow anyone to force you to work at the heartrate speed of an Olympian athlete. It’s not that kind of race. Work at your own pace; simply put forth your best effort to make all possible deliveries. Practice the fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay motto. In doing so, you can’t go wrong. The public will love you and you will guarantee their business in the future.

Please feel free to reach out to me or to the rest of the team at the branch either by phone or email; we are here to help and more than happy to share information with the membership. Happy Summer everyone!

Outlook March / April 2019
I take great pleasure in congratulating President Charlie Heege and Recording Secretary Tony Ortiz on their re-election to the Branch 36 team. They have been working hard for letter carriers in Manhattan and the Bronx for a long time, so their reelection actually comes as no surprise to me. I would also like to congratulate Sonny Guadalupe and Danielle Smith who will be stepping into Harold and Pat’s positions. Each has earned this rite of passage and will follow in the same footsteps as their predecessors. Sonny and Danielle have worked hard for the membership in many different capacities for several years and are fully qualified to lead us into the future. Congratulations Sonny and Danielle!

I would like to thank all the members who attended the Installation of Officers; believe me, the support did not go unnoticed. We thank you all! The event was fantastic! NALC President Frederic V. Rolando personally installed, along with Regional Administrative Assistant Orlando Gonzalez of Cathedral Station, all 19 officers. New officers were installed and departing officers were celebrated. We are extremely appreciative of the joint efforts by the NALC and Orlando. The event was a happy occasion for everyone.

So many things have been happening and so much more is anticipated. Let’s go through some of the things headed our way such as Begin Tour Changes and Automated Delivery. One anticipation I hope you all are motivated by is the desire to contribute to the PAC fund which protects the rights and benefits of all letter carriers including YOURSELF

Staffing
A huge problem throughout the branch stations has been staffing. It seems the service has been cancelling rest days since the holiday season began. There hasn’t been any relief since and nothing in sight for the foreseeable future. You must file grievances whether you are or aren’t on the Overtime Desired List. The lack of staff results in a negative cycle for letter carriers. One of the cycles is undeliverable mail. Sometimes mail doesn’t even hit the street. Other times, it comes back to the station because a carrier is unable to complete the work within a 12-hour timeframe. If mail comes back to the station undelivered, we must fill out the PS Form 1571. Management has been scheduling work that cannot be done in 12 hours due to the staffing issues. If you can’t finish the mail and if you have to bring it back, then you have to fill out the 1571! You can and will be disciplined for it if a supervisor decides to push that agenda. Another occurrence that can result is that you may have to answer to Federal Law Enforcement for failing to deliver mail. You definitely want a PS Form 1571 receipt to show the delay in mail was approved by a supervisor. Without it, you will have much explaining to do. It has happened and it not based on theory.
Begin Tour Changes
Delivery Operation reached out to President Heege in the last month looking to change begin tours for some of the Bronx Stations. Some remained at their original tour, others were advanced by a half of an hour and still others were told they would be monitored for the next thirty days to see how things would move forward. This tour change issue has a rich history and the ironic thing about this round of tour-change discussions is that the service did EVERYTHING in the Bronx the correct way, vastly different than the way they handled the Manhattan Stations. We await the grievances from the Bronx Stations, but at least there is no contention with respect to the manner in which the service attempts to bargain in good faith with the union because they totally botched that issue with Manhattan. Grievances await arbitration over that matter to resolve the issue.
Carrier Academy
The Carrier Academy has been updated. The significance behind that statement is that Sonny Guadalupe will be the one taking charge of that operation. That knowledge delivers the utmost confidence because he will ensure everything about the academy will be from the branch’s perspective. The branch knows training and information are of the utmost importance to new employees and how it leads to professional behavior and habits. There is nothing worse than a customer seeing someone who apparently is uneducated and doesn’t know what they are doing. There will be five parts to the academy: orientation, driver training, shadow day, carrier academy, and on the job training. The update is intended to focus on practice with casing mail, a revised On the Job Training Checklist, along with safety information regarding vehicle fires. We will be ensuring all of the aspects are properly covered and administered to our new members. If there are any issues or conflicts with the training, then it is imperative for the branch to be made aware of them. We cannot remedy a situation without knowledge of it. The updated carrier academy manuals are being printed and will be ready shortly.
Arrow Keys
A too frequent concern that has come to the branch’s attention in recent days has to do with arrow keys. Why is it that these keys continue to find themselves in the middle of controversy? In my opinion, there is nothing special about this key and about the only door it opens is Pandora’s, if it is not utilized properly. There is no reason these keys should be allowed to be taken out of a Registry Cage without being accounted for. The only thing you can get from having this key is a headache, assuming the OIG and or Inspection Service decide to dig in deep on this. It seems that keys have been allowed to go home with carriers on Saturdays when a carrier is assigned to work on Sunday/Amazon Prime and the key doesn’t make its way back to the station until the following Monday. I firmly believe that management officials who condone this behavior should be put up for removal simply for failing to respect the sanctity of the key and mail. A complacent behavior toward the service and its integrity (key procedure) is nothing to laugh about. If a grievance were filed, be it discipline or contract related, I would make sure to include the complacent supervisor’s name in the Remedy Box to be held just as accountable as the carrier. Do not take any key that is not accounted for and never take any key home, unless you enjoy problems.
Impaired Hearing
National has made an effort to ensure that hearing impaired employees are addressed properly and appropriate accommodations are made for the employee(s). National can be notified of an employee’s condition by opening NALC’s website at NALC.org. Hit the “MEMBERS ONLY” tab and register and sign into your profile. Once you sign in, then you would check off the box indicating that you want to be identified as deaf or hard of hearing. If appropriate accommodations are not being made for you, notify the union and/or your shop steward(s). We will do whatever is needed on a local level and we will forward any issues necessary on a national level.
Autonomous Vehicles
No, your eyes do not deceive you. The Postal Service has reached out to the national parties to inform them of testing and interest in autonomous vehicles (self-driving). The service is determined to eliminate carrier office time as much as possible, if not entirely. This notion is one they have lurking in some poor districts within the United States. The service would like for the vehicle to drive while the carrier sorts and delivers the mail. There hasn’t been any commitment to the vehicles with respect to daily carrier duties but they are definitely committed to exploring the idea as much as possible. The service is entertaining proposals. There are major concerns with this technology and how it pertains to the safety of letter carriers. We are sure national will be all over this issue in the right way if or when the service decides to move forward with it.
Casers
Although the concept isn’t new, the service is looking for new ways to force an office time reduction on our craft. The service is looking for a “caseless” environment. As silly as that may sound, they are trying really hard to get something like this program started. The idea is to separate office time from street time for routes by one person casing a route or for a few carriers to case routes for the entire station. This would then leave the street deliveries entirely to the other carriers who would begin their tour after the projected casing of their respective routes. The begin times for each route to be cased would be staggered and once the mail is cased up, then the case is broken down to then be set up for the next route to be cased. I might be overthinking this but I do recall that the carrier-case has to be broken down and set back up with the new labels, and the new labels would bring new case separations with it. How economical is it to break down and build up a case for as many times as there are routes within a station? If time is money then isn’t the service losing time and money on the breakdown and building of the next route? They seem determined to spend money on everyone else in the office except the letter carrier. This testing is taking place at eleven locations so far.
Apps
The NALC has an app available for mobile devices to track work hours. The work hour tracker was created so letter carriers can input particular data such as hours worked and the app is going to let the carrier know what his or her paycheck should look like. All of the particulars have not been released yet, but you should be on the lookout for this app so it can help you keep track of your pay. Many times we are so busy and overwhelmed with work that we don’t blink at our paychecks as long as it is in the right range. This app will help you anticipate the right amount of dollars according to the hours worked with your particular pay rate and step increases and so on. Right now the app is only available for Android devices. Open the search engine in your application program within your Android device and type in NALC work hour tracker app and you will be on your way. You have to register with the app and sync it with your member profile on the NALC website. The effort is certainly worth it once you know there is an app making sure you were paid the right amount of dollars for the right amount of work you do and at the right pay rate. It is a crying shame on postal management that we have a need for an app like this, but make sure you use it. The union is hard at work to ensure its members are protected in every possible way!
Phishing Scam
The Postal Service has modified its collection boxes in response to the scams that happen in the city. They have modified the mouth of the mailbox to a sliver. It isn’t as open and wide, making it difficult for anyone to extract mail from the box.
Mobile Delivery Devices (MDDs)
The postal service is currently testing two prototypes for new scanners. They look to be touchscreen devices. A major concern for the service is the battery life of the device along with the performance of the scanner’s battery in extreme cold weather conditions. It is unknown whether or not the device will have a camera on it. There are currently four test sites within the US. Feedback has been positive so far, although there have been some problems identified with the devices as well. We don’t know the specifics yet, but as soon as they are made available to us, we will share the information with you.

Brothers and sisters please remain safe in your deliveries and make sure to inform the union of any issues that are occurring within your station.

I would like to thank all members of Branch 36 for their unwavering loyalty to our team. We are all appreciative for the confidence and trust you have placed in each and every one of us.




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