Director of Education
Francisco Pecunia-Vega

We Start At What Time?

     Recently the talk about start times has been front and center. Carriers are frustrated and confused as to why management would want to make such a change, when the carriers feel it’s not necessary. Lots of what happens in the USPS is cyclical and if you hang around long enough, you’ll see it change just as soon as it started.

     Start time changes for carrier routes is not a different or new argument. What time we report to work and what time we are SUPPOSED to depart for the street is constantly scrutinized. The savings management reaps from a later start time, in my opinion, are immense. Why? Because lots and lots of carriers, being the creatures of habit that we are, will still make the same moves at the same time each day. So, if we usually go to lunch at 11:30, not many carriers will change their route to eat lunch at 12:00 because their start time was changed from 7:30 to 8:00.

     This is where management reaps their savings. Now this carrier is running 30 minutes early because he stopped for lunch at 11:30 and the rest of the day that same carrier will try to achieve the same objectives he/she had with the earlier start time.
    
     What can we do about that contractually?

     Management may have the upper hand on this one because the M-39 says that management must schedule carriers as follows:

122. Scheduling Carriers
122.1.Establishing Schedules
122.11 Consider the following factors in establishing schedules:
a. Schedule carriers to report before 6 a.m. only when absolutely necessary.
b. Fix schedules to coincide with receipt and dispatch of mail. At least 80 percent of the carriers’ daily mail to be cased should be on or at their cases when they report for work.
c. Schedule carriers by groups. From groups of  carriers who make the same number of delivery trips and whose office time is approximately the same.
d. Generally, schedule carriers of the same group to begin, leave, return, and end at the same time.
e. Schedule so that delivery to customers should be approximately the same time each day.
f. Make a permanent schedule change when it is apparent that one or more days’ mail volume varies to where it is causing late leaving.
g. Schedule carriers’ network days in accordance with the National Agreement.
122.12 Post all schedules and keep them up to date.
    
     Often carriers want to grieve any changes in start times. To have a chance at success in a grievance of this nature the union would have to prove that the reasons given for changes in start times are not legitimately stated by management. An example would be where an office changes the start times for city carriers to 8:30 a.m., but has rural carriers coming in at 7:00 a.m. This clearly shows that the unavailability of mail argument is not a legitimate reason to change the start times.
 
    Another would be to get the carriers off the street earlier, to get the mail to the plant when the plant is near the delivery facility.
    
     Another possible violation may occur when after the change in start times is in place management brings  the carriers in at their original time because they are not logistically prepared for the change, such as insufficient clerks, mail transportation issues or lack of delivery vehicles.
    
    
    
    
    Temporary changes in schedule may qualify carriers to out of scheduling premium overtime. We must consider that not everything management does violates the contract. Just because we don’t like what was done doesn’t mean we can claim a violation of the contract. And since we have the burden to prove violations of any issues which affect our hours, wages and working conditions, it is up to us to show in what part of the contract or handbook/manual that violation is shown.

      We always hear that management has the exclusive right to manage. However, those rights are not absolute. They are limited by applicable laws, regulations, contract provisions, arbitration awards, letters of agreement, and memoranda. But the entire “Management Rights” article, printed below, grants them a few rights we cannot get away from. Items A, C and D below basically say they can tell us when to come to work, how to deliver our routes, what vehicles we drive, when to start and stop operations, which mail to deliver and who gets to do the work, just to name a few. That’s some powerful stuff.

     The Employer shall have the exclusive right, subject to the provisions of this Agreement and consistent with applicable laws and regulations:

A. To direct employees of the Employer in the performance of official duties;
B. To hire, promote, transfer, assign, and retain employees in positions within the Postal Service and to suspend, demote, discharge, or take other disciplinary action against such employees;
C. To maintain the efficiency of the operations entrusted to it;
D. To determine the methods, means, and personnel by which such operations are to be conducted.
E. To prescribe a uniform dress to be worn by letter carriers and other designated employees; and
F. To take whatever actions may be necessary to carry out its mission in emergency situations, i.e., an unforeseen circumstance or a combination of circumstances which calls for immediate action in a situation which is not expected to be of a recurring nature.
(The preceding Article, Article 3, shall apply to City Carrier Assistant Employees.)
    
     So, next time a co-worker complains about start times, tell him/her that this will not be the first or last time management will tinker with start times. Most things in the USPS tend to come and go just as the seasons do. New managers, new changes. Improvise, adapt and overcome that’s what a fellow once told me. That’s what letter carriers do.
    
     We need to learn to pick our battles, fight for things we have a chance of winning because in that fight we are backed by a rule, law or other enforceable document or regulation. It robs your credibility to suggest or even attempt to achieve something through the grievance procedure that had not been granted to us by a negotiated contract or an interest arbitration board. Fighting the right battles for the right reasons have always enabled us to win the war.


Director of Education
Francisco Pecunia-Vega

How Do I Do This?

    
     A common question for anyone doing something for the first time or who infrequently deals with situations. As humans, we learn and retain information differently. As adults, our learning abilities vary greatly from one person to the next. Some can pick up on something by seeing it done, for example, others can better grasp and comprehend by reading for themselves.
    
     Anyone who educates others must consider these basic factors when preparing a lesson plan or deciding the subject matter to be taught. As representatives of letter carriers and enforcers of the contract we are always in search of additional knowledge and information to improve our capabilities and expand our horizons.            
    
     You are the so called “know it all” if the title before your name is steward or other type of union representative. We see that in and around the workroom floor when management looks at a steward through a different looking glass than that of a carrier who has no title or holds no position. Suddenly the title imposes on you a requirement to always do things right, be an example to others and an ambassador of the craft not only to management, but to the public as well. Most understand no one is perfect, all we can do and expect of others is to be the best he/she can be.
    
     As leaders of this organization, we have an obligation to be properly trained and informed to efficiently perform the duties of our position(s). What good is a steward that has absolutely no knowledge of how to file a grievance or even determine a violation of the       contract or other workplace rule/regulation has taken place? None. To the contrary, lack of knowledge, apathy or inexperience may bring unwanted consequences upon our fellow workers or negatively affect the workplace environment.
    
     Self-starters take it upon themselves to seek information to better themselves and learn the proper way to do things. Others having a strong desire for knowledge and who have all the dedication and commitment to do right at times need help in garnering the necessary tools to effectively perform in their positions. Being elected or appointed to a position does not automatically come with the knowledge and experience required for the job. Not knowing the contract, rules and regulations does not excuse us from our legal obligation to represent letter carriers.
    
     In our recent state convention, the subject of the development of carrier representatives by way of state and local training was brought to the convention in session and an inaccurate comment made that the NC State Director of Education could do better for the membership if training was geared to the needs of each individual branch as determined by local branch presidents and that grievance quality, or lack thereof, was associated with poor or a lack of training.
    
     I have personal knowledge that local branch presidents who have requested localized training from the National Business Agent, from subjects such as route examinations to new steward training, have been obliged. The Constitution and By-Laws of the NCSALC, dated December 4, 2015 provide in Article 9, Section 6 that among the duties of the Director of Education are as follows:
“The Director of Education shall be reimbursed for lost time, payable as used, to attend state seminars, the State Convention, annual workshop of the Health Benefit Representatives, and all assignments by the State President to conduct education training for the membership of the North Carolina Letter Carriers Association.”
    
    
    
 

    
       Furthermore, the NALC Constitution for the Government of State Associations explicitly provides in Article 8, Section 7 that:

“The Director of Education shall have authority, under the supervision and direction of the National Business Agent, to arrange for seminars and training schools on State, District, and Branch levels.”


     To that end, Article 9, Section 8 of the NALC Constitution imposes on the National Business Agent the duty to:

     “Their functions shall include, but not be limited to, assisting in organization campaigns, gathering evidence for legal proceedings, assisting in the preparation of grievances and arbitration hearings, assisting in the mediation and conciliation of labor disputes, advising members and local officers upon practice and procedure, assisting in all activities relating to legislation; conducting training and educational seminars; and all other functions relevant to their duties.”  
    
     I believe the best way to learn is to learn things right the first time around. Misinformation is a lethal weapon aimed in the wrong direction. Anyone offering you advice, guidance or information should have no problem showing you in writing the basis for their position(s) or where they’re getting what they’re passing on to you.
    
     Loud talking with no foundation or contractual basis is just that, loud talk.


     The will of the delegates in national convention and that of the NALC national leadership has made the primary purpose of all state associations one very simple and straightforward. The state association is to guide and direct all activities relating to legislation within the State. Directors of Education throughout the nation are constitutionally subjected to the supervision and direction of the National Business Agents for all matters relating to training.
    
     If your branch or you need assistance and believe localized training is something you may benefit from, it will be a good idea to contact our NBA’s office and ask for assistance. We cannot fix what we don’t know is broken, and we don’t know you need help until you ask.

    


Director of Education
Francisco Pecunia-Vega

Committed To The Membership
     In this last term as Director of Education, I have had the honor to serve the Letter Carriers of the great state of North Carolina as well as the board of the North Carolina State Association for the last twelve years. It has been an enormous privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility of providing training and information to the members of this Association.

     In conjunction with and through the office of our Region 9 National Business Agent Kenneth (Kenny) Gibbs Jr., we have continued to provide periodic training seminars that enhance the knowledge and abilities of participants. I have provided various types of branch level training as requested by the local presidents, and as approved by the NBA, for those not fortunate enough to attend state-level training sessions. I am grateful to the delegates for the confidence bestowed upon me by electing me as your Director of Education. I remain humbled and extremely grateful for your support.
    
     I commit and dedicate myself to the members of this Association and to provide assistance in any and all areas within my scope of responsibility. I have faithfully kept my previous pledge to the carriers in this state, to rely on the feedback from local leaders which assist the business agent and me in formulating future training seminar agenda, based on trending needs. Time and again we have proven that letter carriers are who  keep the USPS moving forward.

     As the most visible employee in this organization, we must strive to always be properly trained and informed. Staying involved in how politics affect the USPS and the working class has become more important and necessary than ever.

     

    
     You have all heard it before, but I will say it again; EVERYTHING we have as it relates to the USPS and our jobs, can be taken away with the stroke of a pen. Proposals and decisions in Congress that could devastate our beloved USPS and our jobs are continuous and relentless. The is becoming an intricate part of what we do and we need to keep this momentum. Remember we were not Amazon’s first choice, just the most economical.

     CCAs have made tremendous contributions and inroads into the carrier workforce. Our national union leaders continue to work to make improvements in the workplace. Information on how to perform our jobs as well as the educational tools necessary to do so are now readily available on the NALC APP.  The USPS continues to be the most trusted organization in the government because of everything you do; keep up the good work. 
    
     As Director of Education for the North Carolina State Association of Letter Carriers, I have attended all state called meetings as required in our State By-Laws. I have conducted training at the request and approval of the National Business Agent, throughout the State of North Carolina. I continue to provide a quarterly article to The North Carolina Letter Carrier, as a way to keep the members informed in between our bi-annual training seminars. I look forward to the continued support of you, the members of the North Carolina Association of Letter Carriers.