Pascual Ortiz e-mail
Executive Vice President
Outlook July / August 2018
To Be or Not to Be
As I entered my office, fresh from the convention in Detroit in late July, I noticed a letter addressed to me. Upon further inspection, I noticed it had been Cc’d to several other officials, both Branch 36 officials and to the New York District Management. I didn’t think anything of it at first and didn’t pay it much mind. I just wanted to sip my coffee and let it all sink in: the convention, the traveling, the convention’s message, and the flight itself. I didn’t want to dampen the mood, not just yet.
I sat in my chair and started making phone calls to stewards and hearing officers. I wanted to narrow our space and distance by checking in, now that we were back from the convention. I ended up speaking to a longtime friend who is a well-respected hearing officer from the Bronx. He informed me that he received a letter. It was a resignation letter from a shop steward. If my memory serves me right, he was opening the letter as we spoke. The letter had been sent to a few officials, he said. Immediately, I thought of the letter on my desk, which was right in front of me. I stood staring at the letter on my desk, as my union brother read his copy of the letter to me over the telephone. My heart sank when I heard who was resigning, not only because he was always great person to me and an “all-around good guy” but because I had always considered him a voice of reason.

I didn’t fail to tell him either when I saw him later on in the week. I had to let him know that I felt bad that he was resigning. Initially, my heart sank into my chest and I worried if he was okay. Was it his health, I wondered? My hopes were that his own and his family’s health were okay and that had nothing to do with his decision. My own selfish thoughts then went straight to what’s going to happen to the station? Who would take over and be able to replace such a knowledgeable steward? I even wondered how the membership would react to someone new. Better yet, how would management react to the new steward; and ultimately, will the steward end up being any good for the station or the union as a whole. The questions kept popping up in my mind one after the other; moving nonstop like a conveyor belt. I always seem to have that same reaction whenever there is a change in leadership at the station level. When things are moving cohesively, you don’t have to change a thing.

When I stopped by the station that morning to speak with my good friend, we spoke of many things. One of them was about how thankless the job could sometimes be; however that was not the reason for his resignation. Those reasons were personal ones; so I won’t mention them. He did however want the new person to be forewarned and hear the truth well in advance: the job was at times, a thankless one. His thought was to arm and equip the new person with tough skin as soon as possible. I had a short-term memory lapse and forgot how thankless the job could sometimes be; it definitely takes a certain kind of individual to be a good steward.

Funny, I already knew what my article would be about this month and the timing couldn’t have been any better. I wanted to give everyone a rough idea as to what a person would need to do to be a decent shop steward. A clear idea of what they will walk into as a union delegate and shop steward.

First and foremost, you are dealing with contractual violations and disciplinary matters. Those issues are handled with grievances. Essentially, you learn to file grievances and support them with the right documentation. Stewards also do good work towards charitable causes such as: MDA; attend monthly Membership and Stewards’ Meetings (with the exception of July and August); find a way to collect money from the membership towards LCPF issues; have monthly meetings with their station membership; ensure a safe and hazard free workplace; hold periodic Labor-Management Meetings with their manager; and attend Quarterly Training Seminars located at Branch 36 Headquarters. The list goes on and on. It doesn’t stop with what is written in this article either. There are even times when you have to give someone an answer they are not looking for or ready to hear. Tough skin is mandatory. A tough shell is optional, but advisable. Are you ready for it?

If you like helping people, then you are in the right place. You can help someone make something in their life right. However if you need a pat on the back, you need to look elsewhere. One phrase that has always stuck in my mind while doing this whole representation thing is: “Today’s hero is tomorrow’s bum”. It’s easy to lose credibility if you don’t do the right thing by your membership. I have my own ways of getting pass the “this job is thankless part of the job.” I’ve learned that you do what you are supposed to do because it is what is supposed to be done and for no other reason. Nothing should be done because you like or dislike someone or done because you want something back in return either. File the grievance. Do your due diligence in respect to all of the arenas that I previously mentioned.

We are more than happy to welcome new stewards and to train them properly. There is nothing more gratifying than to see a new employee step up and get involved. There is no better way to know what’s going on in the new employee’s mind unless we actually get up close and personal with them and we can do so by sharing great conversation and dialogue. Those two ingredients spark interest and light a desire to get involved. It doesn’t get much better than that. Get involved!

Social Media
The branch has taken a keen interest in keeping up with the times by deciding to launch a social media website. The first step in that direction happened during the Detroit Convention with the launch of our very own Instagram page. Although we are excited by this progress, we are by no means social media experts. We do however expect to provide a clear vision of our brand and branch through these social media outlets.

Our aim is to keep letter carriers up-to-date with relatable issues pertaining to local and national level news, information and events. Anything of value to a letter carrier and within our sights will be relayed as quickly and accurately as it is happening.

You can find us on Instagram at Branch_36 or Vincent R. Sombrotto Branch. Take a look and remember to follow us on Instagram. Our Facebook and Twitter pages are still in the planning stages and have yet to be named, but will soon be under construction. So be on the lookout for further information on our social media progress.

Outlook May / June 2018
Good Energy Triumphs
Where do I begin, so much has happened since the last issue of the Outlook? I guess I’ll start with the good news. There are many good people in the world. Let’s rephrase that; there are many great people in the world. The Food Drive was a great success this year because of the great people who made it possible. Now on to the bad news, government heads have taken a swing at our retirement benefits. Good energy always triumphs dark energy and the Food Drive certainly outshines those negative forces at work against federal employees.
Branch 36 and its members participated in the Annual Food Drive; collecting nearly 120 thousand pounds of food this year (119,714). A special thank you goes out to all letter carriers who participated in the Food Drive. A huge thank you goes out to the Food Drive Coordinators: Tayry Vega and Melinda Hammond, who put in an enormous, exhausting effort this year by connecting all the necessary dots needed to have a successful and positive outcome. Thank you, ladies you both did a tremendous job. Your energy and efforts are greatly appreciated. An overall thank you goes out to any names that I have failed to mention as well.

Summer is winding up and soon we will be toasting in the summer sun; although it seems like just yesterday, we were just toasting in the New Year.

The New York State’s Congressional Representatives are made of many good people, who consistently have our backs on important issues relevant to postal workers and retirees. We are truly lucky to work in what I consider to be the best blue state in the nation. The New York State Association of Letter Carriers went to Washington D.C. in May. Proud to say, we showed up in full force with the intent of letting our officials know that not only do we need their support on the Hill; but that we will support them in their time of need as well.

I witnessed firsthand, Congressman Charles Schumer give his full support to the working families of New York, and specifically, to the men and women of the NALC. He has always supported us and pledged to continue that unwavering support for our cause as long as he is in office. Eliot Engel was another representative to promise a continued commitment to the NALC and its letter carriers. Carolyn Maloney is one representative who personally stated that she would support the NALC and the Letter Carriers of New York, as we literally ran into her, as we walked through the Halls of Congress. She has an awesome track record when it comes to supporting letter carriers and any postal legislation that may land on her desk. This is merely a handful of the many congressional leaders and supporters that the NYSALC had the privilege to meet and greet.

The Congressional District Liaisons for Branch 36 also work hard year-round. A huge thank you goes to Carmen Flores, Sheila Mitchell, Miguel Perdomo, Natan Sheyer and Tony Ortiz. They are always hard at work networking and communicating with our congressional supporters. They help to establish and maintain pivotal relationships with elected state representatives. Their efforts are fundamental to sustaining the great efforts and accomplishments of the NALC in Washington D.C. Their hard work comes to fruition, year after year, in Washington D.C. The relationship each one shares with their respective representatives is apparent to all. A special kind of gratitude and appreciation kicks in when you realize that Branch 36’s own CDL’s are able to greet and talk with elected officials so easily and gracefully. Thank you to all CDL’s for that special grind that you folks put in all year round to make this political goal the ultimate reality. As letter carriers, we should all appreciate the rewards of your labor.

I hate to shift away from the good people and vibes, but I must for a minute. Unfortunately, there is always someone who must push the card or burst the bubble. As letter carriers, it is a constant reality we face because we are federal workers and always at risk of losing our hard-earned benefits. During this one-party administration, we must be more the vigilant with the struggle. If you’ve been paying attention to my articles I’ve been saying the writing is on the walls. I’ve said that both literally and figuratively. And now the writing has made its way from the walls to the halls, The Halls of Congress. On May 4th, the Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon sent a letter to Paul Ryan recommending four legislative proposals which would affect current and future letter carriers directly. The attacks on federal workers that once began as whispers in dark and shady rooms have made their way to written proposals. This danger is as real as it gets. The bottom line, these proposals will affect your income and hard work. The proposals mean that you could be paying more into your retirement and working more years as well. The important thing to note here is that the proposals are no longer simply talk. They are now on paper and moving within the Chambers of Congress. Make sure you download the NALC app on your phone. Be ready to jump into action when the NALC phone app sends the message to make a call or send an email. Be sure to pay your fair share into the Letter Carriers’ Political Fund as well.

The summer of 2018 is upon us, brothers and sisters. Enjoy your well-earned vacations with friends and loved ones. We work hard enough throughout the year. In other words, work hard and party harder as the saying goes. Put that phrase into action as the summer progresses. Enjoy and stay safe in the streets of New York. Rock on letter carriers!

Outlook March / April 2018
A Dollar Out of Fifteen Cents
Would you believe me if I told you that you could make a dollar out of every fifteen cents you earned? Or would you think that was too good to be true? Or wonder if I had a bridge to sell you as well? It may sound odd, but there really is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. You have to wake up though. Remember, scared money doesn’t make money. If you ignore this message, then you are literally taking a gamble with your money and your hard- earned benefits. Money makes the world go around. I didn’t make the rules; I only know how to play by them.
Letter Carriers, must wake up, the writing is on the walls. Being uninformed keeps us powerless. This article is being written in the hopes of revealing the invisible ink. For the record, all of this invisible ink that I am hinting at really exists in the Halls of Congress on some paper within its chambers that holds the proposed bills and budget cuts. This is not a random thought or a casual conversation. These are actual proposals in the Halls of Congress!

I am well aware that nobody wants to just give their money away, especially letter carriers. Letter carriers work hard and that work can be backbreaking and unending sometimes. So why would you just be willing to give up your hard earned money? I truly feel that if you fully understood the legal thievery that Congress has in store for the hardworking middle-class workers such as us, then you would willingly give to this cause without a moment’s hesitation. Carriers are not dumb, they get it. Now is the time to pay extra attention to your dollars and paychecks.

You might wonder what can possibly be taken away from you. In actuality, they can take quite a bit from you and it all comes down to dollars and cents/sense. Would you allow anyone to go into your pocket and take cash out of it? Heck no, you wouldn’t! Don’t let Congress do that to you either! Do the research, google it. When the hatchet comes down, it’s going to fall on the backs of federal workers, and by that time it will be too late to avoid it.

I’ll make it easy for you. $3000.00 will be taken right out of your take home pay. How do you ask? The simple answer is with the swipe of a pen. There are plans to increase the amount of money we pay into our medical and health benefits while decreasing the postal service’s contribution. That comes roughly to a little over three thousand dollars in the course of a year. Is anyone really willing to give up three thousand dollars? Surely, letter carriers will not let anyone take their hard-earned money.

Who doesn’t want the right to retire early with 30 years of service, even if you haven’t reached full retirement age for Social Security? Are you aware of that right and how it can be taken away at any given moment? That entitlement and issue can sum up to about $10,000.00 per year. Let me explain. I can retire at 57 if I wanted to with thirty years of service. If this right is taken away then that means I can’t retire until I’m at least 62 years old (those numbers are dependent on the year of birth). That translates into 50k (10k per year) that the government would take away from me without even mentioning the five additional years of working hard. The government supplies us with a check (annuity) until we reach the age of 62 when we retire early.

Talk about adding insult to injury. They would not only take my annuity check away, but also give me a swift kick in the behind by making me work an additional five years.

These are just two financial horrors Congress is planning to dish out to federal employees and postal workers. Postal employees are federal employees and anything that happens to a federal employee can be fair game to a postal employee. The point being we must understand how to make a dollar out of fifteen cents like I stated earlier. Contributing to the NALC’s PAC is vital in protecting and keeping our benefits and hard-earned money. One dollar per pay period protects money from being robbed right out of your net pay. Giving pennies now will protect the dollars that you will earn in the future.

I just explained to you how twenty-six dollars a year (one dollar every pay period) can protect up to thirteen thousand dollars a year for the typical carrier. Thirteen thousand is a tiny number considering retirees are at risk of losing even more value on their retirement funds. By cutting or reducing the COLA to retirees and by increasing the high three to high five for people that plan to retire, that comes out to even more money that is at risk. We are in dangerous times right now being that we are in the midst of a one-party government. Every branch of government is run by just one party. It’s a scary thought. The checks and balances aren’t there the way the way they once were, and that is the main focus of this article.

These setbacks aren’t just abstract ideas. The issues I have raised are in actual writing and looming out there ready to be set into motion one way or another by someone who actually thinks that we are spoiled employees with too many rights and benefits. The issues won’t go into effect tonight or even this weekend. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone is pushing to enact a bill with one or all of the ideas/setbacks at this moment! The recent tax cuts that made huge headlines recently bring it all home and right into your living room. The future deficit due to the tax cuts will be paid for by your hard-earned sweat and blood if you don’t get involved and start participating in the Letter Carrier’s Political Fund. Make those phone calls to your local elected officials. Stay informed. Money always helps, but true power lies in knowledge. Do your part and contribute to PAC and educate and inform family members and friends to do their part as well. Let them know how you and your family’s finances can be hurt. Inform those fellow letter carriers that work side by side with you every day. Do your part. Pay your fair share and protect your benefits and hard-earned money!

Outlook January / February 2018
My First Time
Over the Holiday Season, I was initiated into some new experiences as a branch officer. One particular favorite was a humbling experience for me. I was able to personally meet and greet our membership during the month of December as we made our rounds station by station through Manhattan and the Bronx. It was great to have an actual physical connection with the members (even if it was just a quick handshake) it meant a lot to me. I was welcomed with open arms and wished good fortune by so many. I felt like the luckiest and most blessed person on the planet. What an awesome Christmas gift for me and a proud moment knowing that I represent such honorable people. I was wowed many times over by how many carriers were cheering me on, even though they didn’t know me. That feeling of appreciation still lingers on. I thank you all for the warm welcome and all of the supportive comments.
Another favorite moment happened when I heard the membership acknowledge their love and regards for the late John Springman with heartfelt words and condolences to the full-time branch officers. That was simply icing on the cake and a true testament to the character of our membership and for John as well. It was apparent to me that John was dearly loved throughout the Bronx and Manhattan.

Being a nerdy union guy, I had so much more to cheer about in the month of December. During the Quarterly Shop Steward Seminar, we were lucky enough to have the NALC Executive Vice President Brian Renfroe as a guest speaker. He discussed all stewards’ concerns and answered many questions regarding vital information in a Q and A. Many important topics were discussed such as: the new contract, current disputes at the national level, and legislative issues.

Those legislative issues raised the most concern, in my opinion, because ultimately those can be translated into dollars and cents. Several threats loom over our take home pay, which could mean less food on our tables down the road. Examples being: potential rising health care costs associated with the intentional attempt of the current administration to destroy the Affordable Health Care Act and a newly approved tax code overhaul. Both of these issues could mean an increase in health care costs and/or a need to fund a future budget deficit, off the backs of government employees, which would translate into less take home pay and therefore less food on the table.

The common denominators of some station issues seem to be supervisors and managers taking away time earned on the clock from carriers. Believe it or not, the Postal Service and their management team are actually stealing money from their workforce. I have seen it with my own eyes; the supervisor will change a Begin-Tour time to a later time to avoid having to pay that dreaded penalty time. Another way it has been done is by shortening the end tour or extending the lunch period. The lunch period is the one that actually amuses me the most. Imagine the calculated thought that went into that idea; to try and figure out a way to get away with it and hide under the radar. I have also seen a supervisor/manager extend a carrier’s lunch time beyond their allotted half hour. Carriers are entitled to a half hour lunch period (after the 8-minute wash-up time, of course)! Management officials are actually going into the computer and giving the carrier an hour lunch period or an hour and twenty-five-unit’s worth of lunch time. This essentially robs the carrier of at least sixty to eighty-five units of time. We all know carriers are not paid for that half hour lunch break and the same would hold true for any amount of time for lunch. Whoever came up with that racket is quite clever to say the very least. If one were to scan through a TAC report, it would be easy to miss that lunch issue because an “out to lunch/in from lunch” move doesn’t look too fishy on the surface. There is a way to catch this though. Carrier TAC reports don’t usually show a lunch move unless the carrier is taking that lunch in the office. When carriers hit the street the lunch move is automatic and shouldn’t pop up as a ring or move. Once the supervisor makes that move, it would signal something fishy is going on because carrier lunch moves should not pop up. They are automatic once the carrier hits the street and has been on the clock for more than six hours. So that’s a huge red flag for all of us to be aware of when looking into this matter. Make sure that any manual lunch move/swipe is for a half hour only. Anything more than that means the carrier is not getting paid for time that he or she worked.

Another pay concern is with the newly hired CCAs. Let this article be a warning to both shop stewards and new hires. As the CCAs have been making their way from being newly hired to stations they have not been getting paid for the hours they were on the clock before arriving at the station. Human Resources is failing to put in the time for hours the new hires were on the clock during the hiring phase and before the station phase. The station supervisor’s main concern is in making sure the carrier is paid for the time at the station. In the meantime, during the blame game, when everyone passes the buck, the carrier loses because he or she was never paid for the time spent on the clock prior to reaching the station. Don’t let that happen to you!

I look forward to sharing more news and information that occurs between this article and the next. Remember to verify that you are being paid correctly. Stay in tune with the legislative process to avoid a potential decrease in your take home pay and always remember the Officers of Branch 36 are only a phone call away.

Outlook November / December 2017
‘Tis the Season
Things can get mighty testy at times when the Holiday Season is in full swing. There are many moving parts, which must remain totally in sync, in order for the moving parcels, letters and packages to move seamlessly to their destinations. Things may fluctuate and range from the good, the bad, and the ugly, and believe it or not, it can all happen in a day’s work. Still, in spite of the season’s chaos, there is always glee and hope left behind in the end. That feeling of giving it your all is always a good feeling. This last month of the year can bring an entire year of sweat and hard work into perspective, leaving you with hope and a better outlook for the year to come.
Some good things to ponder, we have a new contract with some nice goodies to enjoy. CCAs can now bid for vacations. Vacation percentages have increased within our Branch for certain weeks in the new leave year. Retro-pay is on its way (if it hasn’t already arrived before this periodical makes its way into your mailbox). I am grateful and thankful for it all and for so much more as it pertains to the contractual protections we share as letter carriers.

Not all that glitters is gold, however. Many of you may think what I am about to say is similar to preaching to the choir. I only mention it with the best of intentions, hoping to save at least one person. Many of us would say that it makes no sense to jeopardize a career over a theft situation of any kind. Why would one jeopardize a career and good paying job? On occasion, a person comes on the job, sees how things operate, and thinks it rnay be easy to take one little thing and get away with it. I say, stop and think about it, is it really worth it? Trust me, it is not. Big Brother is always watching and electronically monitoring everything you do. Don’t take the chance.

Some of these situations make their way into the media, which brings us to the ugly part that I mentioned earlier. The ugly part happens to be the constant rainy cloud that hovers over letter carriers’ and government employees’ heads when one of us does something we shouldn’t. It attacks our bottom line mighty dollar along with an attempt to make us look bad in the public eye. Recently, a local New York City News Crew misrepresented one of our local stations in the Northern Bronx. In my opinion, they attempted to shed a dark shadow over the Postal Service. Why anyone within our own organization would allow that image to be casted upon us is a complete mystery to me. Unfortunately, this type of publicity doesn’t help the constant barrage on Letter Carriers’ rights, wages and working conditions. The ever-present threats from Congress, along with those who hate to admit we deserve what we have gained through collective bargaining, have not magically disappeared. Therefore, we must continue to support the labor movement, especially specific to our causes and concerns as letter carriers. We must remain informed and familiar with what is happening, and continue to support the Letter Carrier’s Political Fund. If you haven’t been supporting it, now is the time to do so.

There is more delight in being joyous than there is in being gloomy when the Holiday Season is upon us. We may not all enjoy the cold weather, but obviously we can’t ignore the beauty and vibrancy within our great city. Pine trees will soon line the sidewalks and the grit on the vendor’s hands and clothes will be a testament to the city’s grind! Clouds of steam will be roaring as the horses exhale along 5th Avenue, which will only add to the majesty of Midtown. Pelham Parkway and Allerton Avenue will illuminate the eyes of sightseers both young and old up in the Bronx. While Bay Plaza, Fordham Road and The Grand Concourse, along with other shopping centers, will be nonstop hustle and bustle.

It is my sincere hope that all members of this great branch enjoy this season and the last weeks of this year, celebrating in whatever way they choose. May the fruits of your labor reap the most bountiful harvest this Holiday Season. Best wishes to all stations and members of the Vincent R. Sombrotto Branch, and may you all ring in a great New Year!

Outlook September / October 2017
So Much in So Little Time
So many things are happening and in record speed; it seems in the blink of an eye. We have a new contract. Federal employee benefits are in jeopardy once again. Hurricanes have caused disastrous conditions and turned people’s lives upside down. All of these events have occurred in succession and in what seems like at the speed of lightning.

Our new contract is in effect; nearly eighty thousand members agreed and approved of it, which goes to show the overwhelming support of the membership for this contract throughout our nation. The new contract brings with it wage increases, COLAs, and other nice benefits. This contract addresses various CCA issues, which make modifications to the two previous contracts and benefits for CCAs who were once TEs. Contract information is out there and you can find it on your mobile app, NALC websites and station bulletin boards.

With the new contract, things are not as sweet as they seem. Congress is usually thinking about ways to balance the budget and unfortunately, one way of doing it is off the backs of government workers and letter carriers through spending cuts. With just the stroke of a pen in Congress, our list of concerns could increase and many benefits we value could be stripped away. Our growing list of concerns consists of higher contributions into the federal retirement system, the elimination and or reduction of COLAs for FERS and CSRS employees. When the wheels churn on Capitol Hill, many disturbances could be felt across the board from FERS employees to CSRS employees to Retirees as well. This is why the Letter Carrier Political Fund is so important. We must continue to pay our fair share in the fund to ensure that we keep vital benefits as federal employees. The political struggle never ends, just evolves from one monster to another with each Congressional cycle. That is why we must remain attentive to the goings on in Washington, D.C.

This Hurricane Season has hit hard once again and overnight many people have lost everything both literally and figuratively. Houston, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have been overwhelmed with recent hurricane systems, which ravaged the Caribbean and Florida as well. Many lives have been turned upside down and suffered devastating losses. The effects of these storms will be felt for years and years for many as they try to rebuild all that was lost. There are letter carriers in every one of these affected areas, who are just like you, hardworking individuals. Did you know that CCAs are not eligible for administrative leave? This fact is hard to fathom, but it’s true. You can help though! The NALC is directly involved with the PERF (Postal Employees Relief Fund), a fund designed specifically for dire times such as these. More information on PERF and its benefits are on the website or the mobile app, and within the link - https://www.nalc.org/news/naic-updates/carriers-encouraged-to-give-through-cfc.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to acknowledge and give thanks to the person who has given me the greatest opportunity of my lifetime when he appointed me to the position of Executive Vice President of Branch 36. There aren’t enough words to ever express the gratitude I feel towards my mentor, President Charlie Heege. The appreciation goes far beyond the obvious, the promotion, and straight to the pride in knowing that he has the faith and confidence in me to believe I could step into this role and be successful. I look forward to working side by side with him and for the opportunity to learn all I can from his great experience as a union leader. I am well aware that he has taken a large leap of faith in selecting me and I promise I will not let him down. From the bottom of my heart and with all the blood that runs through it, I promise to work one hundred and fifty percent to make you proud. Thank you for your decision, Mr. President!

I further promise to work hard for every member of this great union and I am fully ready to accept the challenge with all the strength and might within me. I plan to succeed just as much as I plan not to fail. Talk doesn’t cut it, but action speaks volumes. I will work hard to maintain this position and I will work even harder for our membership. Thank you all for the warm welcome and well wishes. Thanks especially to the man who made this possible for me, thanks Charlie.




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