GIVING THANKS FOR WHAT WE HAVE

By Joy Goldberg, in the November/December 2008 issue of the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn NY Local

As always, thoughts and well-wishes towards you come naturally to me, as penning a letter to a friend or a family member, whether across the miles or close by. For this, and for you, I am truly thankful.

At this time, close to Thanksgiving, being thankful for our jobs generally hits close to the top of our list. Others do not share this blessing, especially now, in these times of great hardship. Our brother (and our sister) wheeling a shopping cart through the streets, collecting bottles and cans, could be very well one of us. Nothing in this world is guaranteed to us; no, not even our very lives. Being gainfully employed, therefore, at present, gives us a sense of thanksgiving.

This being said, it serves as a reminder that we are not given anything in life, without being expected, in return, to act responsibly towards what is our keeping. In the case of having a job, we are expected to work well, work hard and work safely. In the case of having a postal job under current conditions, it is imperative that our show of appreciation extend beyond this: we need to work with untiring vigilance to maintain and preserve our jobs and the jobs of others around us.

How can we do this, in the face of an increasingly constricting and intimidating work atmosphere? by recognizing what we can do, and acting upon it. Making the proper clock ring each and every time we are moved to another assignment, is part of this. For window clerks, hitting the "non-revenue transaction" key each and every time a customer asks a question, is another means. Whenever possible, finding work to be done, to avoid being placed on standby, is imperative.

Of course, negative views abound concerning all of this, and most of them are no lie: (1) It's a bunch of blather-brained hooey concocted by a bunch of suits, who come up with this stuff, so they don't get laid off themselves. True? Of course it's true. (2) It's oppressive, repressive, depressive and expressively nauseating. True? Of course it's true. (3) Upper management acts like a bunch of mad elephants, running rip-shod over the norm, making us race back and forth from the time clocks, and to punch idiotic key hits in Big brother POS, like the White Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland. "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!" True? Of course it's true.

So clerks in many parts of the country don't take any of this seriously. They make excuses for not doing this, including all of the above, and moving reasons such as (1) I'd rather be put on stand-by, where I have free time to myself at the Post Office's expense. (2) I have seniority. The first persons to be excessed would be the two juniors. It doesn't affect me. (3) I'm protesting all this garbage. I'm a rebel. (4) They must know we're working anyway. What's the difference? (5) I'm too tired, worn out and stressed out.

The result of this has always been the same: the Function 4 teams have come calling because clerks have cut their own throats by not inputting into the system the hours they have worked, and not getting credit for this.

Let me back up and just clarify this:

The Function 4 team isn't those hatchet people who show up right before Christmas, with Grim Reaper expressions in their deadened countenances. Function 4 is every day. It is on Sunday, when you're having coffee and reading the morning paper. It is 24/7. It is run more by computers than by human beings. The human beings (what's left of them, human wise) are connected by symbolic electrodes to the central "brain" of the huge conglomerate, multi-million dollar machine, whose belly digests every second of every work day, measures by its own statistics of how long it should take us to do each task (which is also measured in seconds), and the end product is how many hours we should get credit for. Then the computer generated human beings in their electronic ivory towers call to their messengers to call down to our managers, to excess jobs or bring more in, depending on what need the computer dictates.

Yes, you heard me correctly: either excess jobs or bring more in.

In Saint Paul, MN, the clerks are taking their jobs seriously (i.e. doing the responsible thing), are making the correct clock rings, are hitting the transactions correctly, and finding work to do whenever possible. Because of this, the Function 4 team saw the numbers rise, concluded that the need was there, and added clerk jobs.

To address the negativity: (1) Stand-by is not a freebie. And the price paid, is paid in blood. (2) Excessing the two junior clerks under you means that the rest of you will be worked to death. Maybe literally, R.I.P. For the two whom others selfishly didn't care about, and for you as well. (3) Being a rebel isn't always so bad. Unless it hurts others. (4) Do they know you're working anyway? Did I mention that they're wired with electrodes leading to the computer brain? (5) You'd be a lot more tired and worn out with less people to do more work. Get a cup of joe. Will conditions remain like this forever? No. But we're in it for now.

Brothers and sisters, the last time I heard, walking, facing forward, even in an inane and insane environment, is exactly what it is: walking, facing forward. Weigh your choices carefully, think of others and not only yourself, and do what you can to save jobs. Walking backwards does not scale mountains. Nor does it make heroes.

While we are hitting those keys and making those rings, we have a Union that is searching, on a continual basis, for legal ways to put an end to practices such as these. There is a lawsuit recently filed against President Bush and Postmaster General Potter by the APWU, for their skirting a congressional mandate and forming a corporately oriented governance from the get-go, instead of the standard committee formed by representatives from unions, private sector individuals and businesses alike. Let's not undo what others are working hard to accomplish for our benefit.

One more note: to the clerks who are self-sacrificing enough to work on their lunch hours, giving away free labor, because we are public servants: It's a beautiful and noble thought, to place dedication to a sacred institution first. But if, in so doing, you are sacrificing the blood of your fellow workers as well, to the gods of corporate avarice and destruction of what is sacred, then sacrifice becomes a sacrilege.

'Til next time, brothers and sisters! Good night.