The average letter carrier should know what their duties and responsibilities are when it comes to the delivering of mail. However very few members know or understand all the provisions that are contained in our National Agreement. A contract is an agreement between an employer and a Labor Union that governs wages, hours, and working conditions for employees and which can be enforced against both the employer and the union for failure to comply with its terms. Such an agreement is ordinarily reached following the process of Collective Bargaining.
Besides the actual National Agreement most Handbooks and Manuals such as the M-41 (Letter Carrier Duties) are also incorporated into our agreement. It is safe to say that almost every aspect of our employment is contained somewhere within our National Agreement. What most carriers do not understand is the fact that our contract has specific provisions incorporated into it for a reason. Two of the most important general principles incorporated into our contract are its fairness and its protections. Our contract places all our carriers on the same level and does not allow for any individual carrier to have a benefit that all do not have. It also protects all of us from unfair demands by management.
Unfortunately, since I began my Postal career there has been a drastic reduction in the contractual knowledge of the average letter carrier. As a result the routes get longer every year, management is allowed to routinely break the contract and the carriers fail to utilize the benefits the union fought for.
Requiring a carrier to perform under time when it does not exist IS A VIOLATION of the contract. However most carriers won’t fill out the 3996 and most carrier will not file a grievance when the 3996 is disapproved. As a result they do the under time and when routes are adjusted they all get additions and the routes become longer. The union gets blamed. Carriers not on the OTDL work overtime and those on the list do not and dissension among our members increases.
There is also a very good reason why carriers are not allowed to work off the clock. We do not have evaluated routes. If every letter carrier worked off the clock for 5 minutes we would loose more jobs and the routes would become longer. When carriers leave past their leaving time and return in 8 hours the routes eventually become longer. The union gets blamed.
Routes are built on the demonstrated ability of the regular carrier who bid that route. For them it is 8 hours of work. Their pace cannot be used to establish your pace. When carrier bids a new route our contract requires that management allow for a reasonable amount of time for the carrier to become familiar with that route. Yet management places carriers in different routes and tells them they have undertime.
How many carriers have been told that they must schedule medical appointments on their days off? That’s a VIOLATION. Management routinely informs carriers to just leave all the mail at their case till the next day. That’s a VIOLATION. Carrier’s are allowed to switch out of their bid assignments. That’s a VIOLATION. How many carriers leave their accountables without getting cleared because there is no clerk available? That’s a VIOLATION. Mounted delivery carriers are instructed NOT to place the LLV in Neutral at each delivery. That’s a VIOLATION. When a carrier does fill out a 3996 and management does not respond, that’s a VIOLATION. The list goes on and on in an effort to give you more work.
As one can see management will only enforce those rules which will make you finish your route quicker but seldom instructs carriers on those procedures that will take you more time. The stewards that have been elected in each office are there TO ENFORCE THE CONTRACT and help our members who may not know about the contract. They understand why the routes are getting longer and are only trying to help prevent further additions to those routes.They are their to ensure that all carriers have the same opportunities and are treated equally. Unlike management they do not have their “favorites”. Our contract asks for no favors but demands fairness and equality among all our members. Being a steward is a thankless job but where would you be without them.
Over the decades this Branch has held numerous route inspection classes, seminars for new hires, station meetings and have written hundreds of articles in our Buzz. All in an effort to educate our members. Yet on a daily basis I am told “I didn’t know that”. YOU should know that. You should now about all the benefits and rights that you as members of the NALC have. Stop backing down and stand up, not only for yourself but for your fellow union brothers and sisters.