Donald Trump bumper sticker lands PA postal worker in hot water

trump_bumper_sticker

Tomas Strouhal shows the “Trump” sticker that is on his car outside his home in Quarryville. (Photo by Richard Hertzler)

By Sam Janesch – March 8, 2016
Tomas Strouhal just wanted to openly support Donald Trump. The 23-year-old Quarryville resident put a Trump bumper sticker on his 2003 Chrysler Sebring and hung up a newspaper clipping inside his locker at the Leola post office, where he works.

But Strouhal’s employer took issue with them. Citing the Hatch Act, which governs political activity by federal employees, his supervisor said the “Trump: Make America Great Again” bumper sticker must go if his car is parked in the post office parking lot.

That came as a bit of a shock to Strouhal, who migrated from the Czech Republic in 1997.

“I just think it’s really difficult to live in the country right now, with me as a working-class employee who is struggling to keep my family living while others have it so much easier,” said Strouhal, who has an infant daughter, Vada, with his wife, Kelly.

Strouhal’s employers backed down after a few days when they realized the rules allow one bumper sticker, even if the car is parked at the post office.

The Leola post office deferred comment to postal service spokeswoman Karen Mazurkiewicz. She referred to a 2011 letter from the postal service’s ethics department that reads, in part, “If the car is parked on postal or other government property, the Hatch Act limits to one the number of visible bumper stickers that can be placed on the vehicle.”

U.S. Office of Special Counsel supports the postal service interpretation, according to resources posted on its website, but cautions against displaying partisan political materials in a way that makes the vehicle look like a campaign vehicle.

Others familiar with the Hatch Act aren’t so sure.

Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said she is not aware of any provision in the Hatch Act prohibiting more than one bumper sticker.

“My opinion would be that that would violate the First Amendment,” Roper said. “The Hatch Act of course has been tested in court, and the very clear line that has been drawn by the court is that your behavior, your personal expression, is something that is not supposed to be regulated.”

Mike Stephenson, president of the Pennsylvania Postal Workers Union (which does not represent mail carriers), also said he was not aware of any limitations on the number of bumper stickers on a worker’s car parked at the post office.

Strouhal said he wanted only one bumper sticker, and the dispute over it, which happened in the fall, was resolved.

But there have been side effects.

Strouhal thinks it was his support of Trump, rather than some other candidate, that ticked off his supervisor. According to Strouhal, it’s caused his co-workers to treat him differently and have a general “attitude” toward him.

“There is a means and a method for somebody who is concerned for how they’re being treated,” said Mazurkiewicz, the postal service spokeswoman, but she wouldn’t comment on the specific situation brought up by Strouhal.

Strouhal said he has not spoken to anyone at work about how he feels he’s being treated.

The Trump sticker still is on his car’s back windshield, and Strouhal said he continues to support the Republican presidential front-runner.

In fact, Strouhal hopes to be naturalized as a citizen in time for the general election so he can vote for Trump, if the reality-star-turned-candidate is the GOP nominee.

“(Trump) is not a politician,” Strouhal said. “He’s a normal, working-class American, and my views are just like his.”

Source: Donald Trump bumper sticker lands postal worker in hot water | Pennsylvania | lancasteronline.com

Related: USPS: Hatch Act updates affect postal employees (Dec 2015)

One thought on “Donald Trump bumper sticker lands PA postal worker in hot water

  1. Union and NAME of Local/Branch
    APWU Missoula Local 113
    Past or current office held, if any
    President-Steward
    Below is the response to an inquiry I made to the Office of Special Counsel in 2012. At the time our postmaster had held a standup telling us we could not have any political displays on our vehicles.

    Hello –

    The Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326) governs the political activity of federal civilian executive branch employees, including USPS employees. 39 U.S.C. § 410. While most employees are permitted to engage in a variety of political activities, they are prohibited from, among other things, engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal room or building, while wearing an official uniform or insignia, or using a government vehicle. 5 U.S.C. § 7324. Political activity has been defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group. 5 C.F.R. § 734.101.

    The Hatch Act would not prohibit a federal employee from placing a partisan political bumper sticker on his personal vehicle. However, if the employee uses his personal vehicle on a recurrent basis for official business, he must cover the bumper sticker while the vehicle is being used for official business. 5 C.F.R. § 734.306, Example 3. Furthermore, if the employee does not use his personal vehicle for official business on a recurrent basis but on occasion he uses the personal vehicle for official business, he must cover the bumper sticker while the vehicle is being used for official business if the vehicle is clearly identified as being on official business. See 5 C.F.R. § 734.306, Example 4.

    Additionally, Hatch Act regulation provides that a federal employee may place a partisan political bumper sticker on his personal vehicle and park that vehicle in a federal parking lot or garage without covering the bumper sticker. 5 C.F.R. § 734.306, Example 7. Thus, OSC generally advises that an employee may place a partisan bumper sticker on his car and park it in a federal parking lot. Employees must be cautioned, though, against displaying other partisan political materials, or even bumper stickers, in such a way that makes the vehicle appear to be a campaign mobile.

    The Hatch Act and its attendant regulations do not set a specific limit on the number of bumper stickers that an employee may have on a personal vehicle. Rather, a rule of reason is applied, and employees are cautioned not to display bumper stickers such that their vehicles become campaign mobiles. Without seeing bumper stickers in context, it is difficult to say whether a particular display of partisan political bumper stickers has transformed a vehicle into a campaign mobile.

    Please note that this advice only pertains to the Hatch Act, and does not address any independent agency rules or regulations that may apply.

    Best regards,
    Corinne R. Seibert
    Attorney, Hatch Act Unit
    U.S. Office of Special Counsel

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