Someone Please Make A Caper Movie About These Postal Workers Refusing To Ratf*ck The Mail
After Donald Trump's pet Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ordered a bunch of cost-cutting measures earlier this summer, which had the effect of slowing down mail deliveries, a lot of postal workers said fuck that noise. They took matters into their own hands to resist the changes and preserve good service as best they could, the Washington Postreports. On the whole, it's not exactly the cheeriest story, what with all the damage to morale and concerns about DeJoy potentially mucking about with democracy, but there are moments of feel-good where workers (with support from their union) put the good of the Post Office above what the bosses want, and insist on doing their jobs well, even when told to please be shittier for the sake of money.
So while it's not quite the glorious fuck-you to the Man we'd like to see in a caper comedy, with the workers prevailing over the penny-pinching new boss, it's still a reassuring reminder: When faced with bureaucratic shitheadedness, workers who give a damn can make things work. Here's hoping the story will inspire other postal employees to do all they can to keep the mail moving when the ballots start getting returned in the next few weeks.
The story tells us about an unofficial motto for the USPS: "Every piece, every day." That is, the mail has to go out, not pile up.
It's referenced so frequently that "EPED" is shorthand to work faster, or longer, when mail piles up. Any conscious effort to delay mail is, under federal law, punishable by fine and as much as five years of imprisonment.
Many postal workers see the changes that have slowed mail as violating the spirit, if not the letter, of that law.
And so, a number of postal workers tell the Post, before DeJoy put his changes on hold following public outcry, they did what they could to push back against the new rules. In one facility in New York, machinists were told to dismantle one sorting machine and then use parts from it to beef up another, increasing the second machine's capacity. A worker assigned to the task
told supervisors that such a move wouldn't help; the enlarged sorter would be able to collate mail into more carriers' routes, but it also would process letters more slowly than two machines doing the job simultaneously. When his supervisor told him to repeat the process for another set of machines, the machinist and colleagues balked and drew out the steps required to implement the change. Eventually, superiors gave up on the order.
In Florida, a manager rebelled by having all their postal carriers follow the rules obsessively, in an act of civil over-obedience. The manager
told of instructing employees to meticulously document their hours and what happens to mail to uphold accountability standards. There are forms for reporting late or undeliverable mail and to record overtime, though several postal workers say supervisors have downplayed the need to complete them in recent weeks.
"What I try to tell people is this: Yes, if you get an instruction, you should follow the instructions of your supervisor," the manager said. "But every manual says the same thing: Don't do anything illegal, unsafe, immoral. Well, my manager knows that if he doesn't want mail to be reported late, to keep the mail out of my building."
And in Toledo, Ohio, mail is sent off to a center near Detroit for sorting. DeJoy's rules stressed reducing overtime and sending trucks out on schedule, so when mail arrives at the Toledo post office too late for the trucks, a
manager not eligible for overtime will hop into a Postal Service van and transport that mail separately, said Martin Ramirez, president of the APWU Local 170. That way, the Toledo offices won't log overtime hours, even though that worker still puts in extra time.
"This is the dancing between the raindrops," Ramirez said.
When the mail gets to the distribution centers in Michigan, the workers get creative again:
Clerks scan the wire racks carrying the mail to try to spot medications, checks and bills, said Jennifer Lemke, the clerk craft director at Local 170. Even if the day's mail gets delayed, Lemke and other clerks will retrieve essential items and send them off with carriers.
When angry customers call the post office or come to the retail window, Lemke said, she apologizes for mail delays, then sends for the local postmaster.
"I will put it off on the people that are causing the damage," she said.
Mind you, there's also a lot in the piece about burnout, worries that the Post Office is being politicized, and workers' concerns that if overtime isn't allowed around election time, that really could combine with the start of the holiday rush to result in slowdowns. It's not a cheery article, all in all. But when we make the movie, the workers will win.
[WaPo / Photo: John Lloyd, Creative Commons License 2.0]
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