I commend Vern Davidson and the postal employees in Cape Girardeau, Missouri for speaking out on the delay of their customers’ First-Class Mail. Some of it was caused by the collection time of mail being moved up from 5 pm to 1:30 pm to allow shipping it to St. Louis. Randy Zelznick also deserves kudos for supporting these efforts.
Vern’s observations are disturbing. Postal Inspectors and OIG agents told him, “We do not investigate service standard issues.” A postal supervisor told him, “We just have to pretend that mail isn’t here.” Postal Service claims of no delayed First-Class Mail should be refuted or plant consolidations will continue. Delayed mail is a matter of public concern, regardless of the cause or whether it is intentional.
A reporter for The Advocate Messenger in Danville, KY, wrote recently, “It was impossible to learn how postal employees feel about the changes and how they impact the customers and communities they serve. Employees at the post offices in the area affected by reduced hours are prohibited from speaking with the media.” A restriction against speaking with the media exists only during work hours. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that posting comments online and in social media outside of work hours are protected speech. See “Even if It Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speech Is Protected.”
Postal employees, unlike other federal employees, have protected rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. The closure of your mail processing plant, reduction of window hours or Sunday package delivery affects your “working conditions.” When discussing these matters with the public or the media, do it during nonwork hours. This is what the NLRB says about “Protected Concerted Activity:”
Is the activity concerted? “Generally, this requires two or more employees acting together to improve wages or working conditions, but the action of a single employee may be considered concerted if he or she involves co-workers before acting, or acts on behalf of others.”
Does it seek to benefit other employees? “Will the improvements sought – whether in pay, hours, safety, workload, or other terms of employment – benefit more than just the employee taking action? Or is the action more along the lines of a personal gripe, which is not protected?”
Postal employees gained more protection in a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. The case is Lane v. Franks, #13-483 (6-14-2014), which is attached. In a 9 to 0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that truthful speech by a public employee as a citizen is protected by the First Amendment, even when it relates to their public employment or concerns information they learned during that employment. Justice Sotomayor wrote, “Speech involves matters of public concern when it can be fairly considered as relating to any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community, or when it is a subject of legitimate news interest; that is, a subject of general interest and of value and concern to the public.”
A U.S. District Court judge in 1993 overturned my 14-day suspension that my NBA lost in arbitration, because it violated the United States Constitution. The decision is attached: #1:92-CV-01942. My discipline was expunged and I was awarded all pay lost. Thank you Darryl Anderson. The court case is citable. Sadly, this file does not exist in APWU archives. Most of my arbitration cases in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s are missing. The APWU did not begin scanning most old files before shredding them until the late 1990s.