WORK RELATED STRESS, Part Two

Follow-Up: How the Ongoing Violation of the Guiding Principles of the United States Postal Service is Creating a Toxic Work Environment

By Joy Goldberg, Shop Steward, New Lots Post Office, Brooklyn, NY

Three months have passed since the completion of my thesis on work-related stress.

Since that time, both the mentality behind the machinery put in place and set in motion by Upper Management, and how this is perceived by the majority of craft employees, has created an atmosphere so hostile and toxic, so as to cause employees to be fearful for their own well-being: as we watch every standard being turned upside down, and no holds barred on the part of those over us, who have taken up armed warfare against us and made our sacred institution a battle zone. Anger and resentment have become a nearly accepted "norm," as employees face each new day of work.

The screws on the rack of psychological torture are increasingly tightening. On the average of every day to every week, new "rules" are imposed, more minute details to our tasks, and more unraveling of every known standard. We are forced to comply, else be terminated. Yet, employees with less than six years of service are hearing threats of potential termination. We live with fear and anxiety, never knowing when we’ll be attacked next, in what manner, and from what direction.

Our tasks are made more and more precision-tuned, surgically accurate and timed as with a stop watch. The out-of-station mail is divided into two sections, each of which is broken down into detailed classes and locations, during which each piece must be examined to determine whether it qualifies for a late morning redelivery throughout Brooklyn. Prior to this, one postcon, one destination and little or no class separation was how this mail was handled.

The registry requires precision scanning, the Business Reply Mail requires new stringent computerized detailing. Working the window requires precisely "correct" input into the "Big Brother" -like programming which is hooked up to the time clocks, to remote computers manned by Function 4 teams and other Upper Management groups. Each and every time a customer asks a question, this requires input, and this with precise detailing as to its nature. Is it a request for passport forms? Did they tell us to summon a supervisor? Was the query related to a job application, a service-related item such as the price of a package to France, a CFS concern, assistance with filling out a change-of-address card, or a voter’s registration card request? Each "non-revenue" transaction is scrutinized ahead of time, and is assigned a time allowance measured in seconds.

Every move we make, every clock ring, is monitored and counted and micromanaged. If we fail to remember to clock back in after lunch, we are threatened with a write-up. It is a "Pit and the Pendulum" atmosphere, and every unit the time clock records is the axe swinging back and forth, getting closer and closer to our throats.

Everywhere are scan points, and increasingly so. We are dictated to, as to how many seconds it should take us to do each task: all of this in writing.

Room for independent, creative thought and ideas, is zero. One of the latest by-products of the totalitarian concept, is the mandate recently handed down, dictating, again with complete precision and control, how the parcel registry and the certified mail are to be (re)arranged. For years upon years, packages have been filed in alphabetical order as much as possible, facilitating the locating of parcels even for those who do not have a notice for pickup (3849). Now, we are required, as a direct order, to file all the above by the date the 3849 was left. The "zero" section contains mail attempted on the 10th, the 20th and the 30th of the month; the "one" section, the 1st, 11th, 21st and 31st of the month, etc. As a result we were made to turn upside-down our ways of working, and watch another facet of our freedom of thought fall prey to the dictatorial machine.

We are made to feel demoralized by being forced to break the rules concerning Registered Mail and Express Mail.

The overwhelming atmosphere is that of slow dismemberment: as though each day another arm, another leg, another foot is being cut off: until the body of the United States Post Office and its body of employees as well, is killed and strewn about. Abuse of power and authority at this level and below this level, according to medical, psychiatric and psychological journals, managerial experts, government agencies, labor unions and insurance companies, is at best a health and safety hazard, and at worse, lethal.