Stewards have broad powers to investigate grievances, as well as problems that may become grievances. These powers are set out in Articles 17 and 31 of the contract, and they include:
1. The right to interview people to get the facts. You may interview the grievant (or potential grievant), supervisors., and witnesses - including witnesses who are not postal employees.
2. The right to review and obtain Postal Service documents, files, or other records.
It is your right under the contract and under the labor laws to get the information you need to investigate and process grievances and potential grievances. You also have the right to obtain copies of written information at no or a nominal cost. This cost is based on the number of documents needed.
3. The right to investigate on-the-clock. Management may not unreasonably deny your requests to investigate and adjust grievances or possible grievances on-theclock. These are your basic powers set out in the contract and backed up by the labor laws. They are yours to use. But how you use them is up to you. As you know, effective grievance-hand ling is an art, and a profession, all to itself. There are no magic formulas telling you how to investigate each grievance. Every grievance is different, so the best way to learn grievance investigation is through experience. But there are a few basic things the steward can do to improve grievance investigation and thereby improve the quality and strength of our grievances.
First: A grievance should be investigated before it is filed. The facts should be fathered first, and then the decision whether to file a grievance should be made. If a grievance is filed first and questions are asked later, the system gets clogged up with grievances that the union knows very little about, that may be frivolous, and that will probably be denied. Then if the grievance is appealed, it will have to be investigated anyway before the issues can be discussed and resolved. However, this is how the system should work. The full set of facts should be found out, presented and discussed at the Informal Step A level.
Second: You should interview any supervisors connected in any way with the potential grievance before the grievance is initiated. Your right to interview supervisors is established in Article 17, Section 3. The investigation interview is conducted to learn managements version of the facts. Therefore, the interview is not a grievance meeting and it is not the place to argue about the merits of the case. Instead, the interview should be restricted to questions by the union representative and answers by the supervisor. By learning management's version of the facts before the Informal Step A meeting you can determine where disputes about the facts exist, and where both sides agree about the facts. By determining where disputes over the facts exist, you can determine where you need to investigate further. If, for example, the grievant told you that he arrived at a restaurant at 12:00 sharp, but the supervisor says the grievant arrived at the restaurant at 11:00, a factual dispute exists.
To resolve that dispute you will have to investigate further to try to determine whether addition evidence something other than the word of the supervisor or the grievant is available to indicate which side is correct. Finding out where factual disputes exist is an important reason for interviewing supervisors before a grievance is initiated, but there is another reason why this practice should always be followed: By interviewing the supervisor early, and making a written record of the supervisor's version of the facts, management's position is effectively frozen at that level. Once you document management's story, it is difficult for management at later steps of the procedure to invent new facts, or to discover new facts not revealed by the supervisor during the pre-Informal Step A interview. Often management's position at the supervisory level is easy to attack but once management's labor relations specialists or attorneys get involved, our job becomes more difficult.
A third point, involves the question: How do we know what to investigate? The answer is:
Investigate until every possible question is answered and every imaginable bit of documentation is obtained. When a problem is brought to you, think of every possible angle, and ask yourself every question about the problem you can come up with. Start with the basics.
Who is involved which letter carrier, which supervisor?
What happened what specific events are you interested in?
Where exactly did it happen?
When did it happen what day, what time of day?
Why might it be a grievance is there a violation of the contract? Which Article and section?
When you have covered these basic questions, try to imagine what management will say about the case, and formulate an argument in response. Look for weak areas that may trip you up, and note the strong points on your own side. Then go get the answers. Every question must be answered, and every argument you have must be backed up with the facts. Document every point in the union's position, get statements for all relevant witnesses, from the grievant and from management.
When you have finished your investigation, ask your questions again. For example, How do I know the
supervisor poked the carrier with a floor mop? Answer: I have written statements from 19 people. When you have all the answers and you have documented all your facts, then you are ready to evaluate the problem and decide whether to file a grievance. If you file, you'll have everything you need. Grievances are won and lost on the basis of your investigation.
Finally,you cannot over-emphasize the importance of thorough grievance investigation. On of the hardest parts of a union officer's job at arbitration, is try to handle grievances without all the facts. The union depends on the steward for this information. Stewards are closest to the situation, they know the grievant, the supervisor, the station, and they have the best grasp of the problem. If you really want to win a grievance, you have to conduct a complete investigation. And if you want to help other union reps to win your grievance when you appeal to a higher step of the procedure, then get the Formal Step A or Arbitration union people what they need more than anything else a through investigation and a complete file with all the details, all the statements, and all the documents that prove your case. The union's success in the grievance procedure rides on you, and the effort you to put into your investigation.
Remember, the more facts you have, the stronger your position. When you've done all your homework on a case you can go into a greivance meeting and face management sure of the facts and sure of the strength of your case. Even if the grievance is denied at Informal Step A, or Formal Step A, your investigation will make or break the case at DRT level or at arbitration. When your representative on the DRT discusses a grievance or appeals the case to arbitration, the facts that you have collected make all the difference. No Postal Service official, or arbitrator, is going to give us what we want when we dont have the facts. In fact more and more arbitrators are ruling that facts or evidence not submitted at Formal Step A are not admissible at arbitration. Obviously, it takes a lot of work to investigate a grievance properly. You almost have to be a lawyer in looking up and analyzing technical rules and regulations, and you almost have to be a full-time detective to find all the facts and put them together. But, all that work is worth the trouble. When the union wins a grievance, we win because we have all the facts to back up our case. Remember that when you investigate your (our) grievances that you make or break the case in your investigation.
The information included in this Investigating Grievances booklet was presented to the members of the Kentucky-Indiana-Michigan Region, (Region 6) Ron Brown, NBA, Ernie Haynes (Indiana), and Jim Korolowicz (Michigan), Regional Administrative Assistants with assistance from Ernie Kirkland (Kentucky), Assistant to NBA Brown, during the October 10-11, 1999 Fall Training Seminar held at the Sheraton Hotel, Lansing, MI.
JCAM - JOINT CONTRACT ADMINISTRATION MANUAL
The JCAM is the new "bible" of Labor-Relations. Each post office is supposed to have a JCAM in an area that is accessible to both the NALC Steward as well as the managers. The JCAM should not be hidden away or in an area that is locked occasionally.
If your office does not have a JCAM, or you do not have clear, constant access to it, please notify the Union Office. The JCAM contains mutually agreed upon language for settlements of most labor disputes.
Past practice can be an invaluable tool for arguing positions and issues that have benefited Letter Carriers, and have been unilaterally changed by management. Understand what is needed to prove such cases.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESS (ARTICLE 15)
Employee and/or union steward define and discuss the complaint with the immediate supervisor within fourteen (14) days of the cause. This constitutes the Informal Step A filing date.
If the parties are unable to reach a resolution during that discussion, the steward may initiate a Step A meeting by sending a joint Step A grievance form within seven (7) days of the Informal Step A discussion to the installation head or designee who serves as management's Step A official. The steward will complete the first part of the joint Step A grievance form, including the issue statement and date of the initial discussion (which should be initialed by the supervisor).
The Step A officials will meet no later than seven (7) days following receipt of the joint grievance form to attempt to resolve the grievance. The parties will cooperate fully to share all relevant facts.
If the grievance is resolved, a copy of the resolution will be sent to the steward and supervisor who initially were unable to resolve the grievance.
If the parties are unable to reach a resolution of the' grievance, they will complete and date tile joint Step A grievance form within seven (7) days after the Step A meeting. The union may appeal the grievance to Step B within seven (7) days of the form's completion. The appeal letter will be sent to the Step B resolution team office and will include a copy of the joint Step A grievance form and all supporting documentation.
Note that there is no longer a provision for management to wait a number of days before issuing a "decision." Either an agreement is reached at the hearing, or the Union has the right to appeal.
Unauthorized overtime and other unreasonable orders: Taken from the following case:
USPS No. G98N-4G-D 00108772/00151007
NALC GTS No. 32418/33119
In order for the violation of a rule to provide just cause for discipline, the rule must be reasonable. The grievant was given two choices, either of which could have resulted in discipline. A rule or directive from a supervisor that puts an employee in an unavoidably precarious position can hardly be considered reasonable or a justifiable basis for discipline. Therefore, the charge of unauthorized use of overtime fails the test of just cause.
The above analysis is consistent with the authorities in the record. A Step 4 resolution, case no. N-C-711 (47), dated November 2, 1972 states the Postal Service understanding that authorization to continue delivery once a carrier has informed Management of the need for overtime constitutes inherent authorization for the request.
Some Understanding of Demonstrated Ability:
Management derives the carrier's demonstrated ability from either an 1840 or 1838. They divide the actual office time the carrier used during the period of evaluation by the standard time for that amount of mail and arrive at a percentage, which they call "percent to standard".
This percent to standard stays with the carrier until a new one is entered into the database.
Reference volume is a foot count amount of mail that is considered the amount of mail that a particular route should be able to do in a certain amount of time.
This figure is arrived at by an evaluation of the volume recorded on the route during the last route inspection and is part of the route's value.
Although Demonstrated Ability has been used to discipline carriers, the union has found that there are many fatal flaws in this approach:
1. The Union contends that Demonstrated Ability can only be used to adjust routes, not for discipline.
2. Demonstrated ability is usually based on foot count, not piece count of the mail thereby is not an accurate portrayal of the carrier's mail under the circumstances.
3. If the demonstrated ability is based on an 1840, then it is an average of several days of office time, and can been seen to be a variable figure right on that form.
4. Changes are being made so rapidly in the carrier work methods and equipment that the demonstrated ability figures usually do not reflect the current environment.
5. There are normally other duties, operations, and time consuming events that affect the carrier's time, that were not happening during the evaluation period.
6. The method of office transfer does not allow for different volumes on different stops, thereby causing the resulting routes to have skewed time values.
7. The route, case, methods of delivery, and other variables that have changed since the evaluation period are not being considered.
The following information is taken from the USPS official Site Activation Instruction Manual for DOIS - Delivery Operations Information System. The document is marked AUG. 9,1999 and DRAFT for Discussion Purposes.
1. Employee and Employee Work Assignments
It is necessary for units to provide this data to the DOIS District Activation Team so that they are able to pre-load this infomation into DOIS prior to a delivery unit being activated. This information allows for a delivery unit to recognize the resources available to manage its work effort. If information is not provided or is inaccurate it will impact the ability of a delivery unit to use DOIS for scheduling of carrier resources. (underscore added)
1.4.11. Archived 3999'sThe actual times taken to deliver to delivery points from the most recent complete 3999 for each route will be utilized by the pivot plan function to calculate the total time for each pivot section (see pt 7. Pivot Plan Creation). Therefore DOIS includes functionality to load any archived 3999 records into the system. These will have been stored onto disk when the 3999 record was transferred from the DCD. If the DCD was not utilized or these disks are not available the pivot plan function will estimate the times for each pivot section by using the route's base times and possible deliveries. (underscore added)
Listed below are points to remember when dealing with local Management regarding the implementation and use of the Delivery Operations Information System (DOIS).
1. DOIS Changes Nothing. There is no agreement between the Postal Service and the NALC regarding DOIS. There have been no changes to the National Agreement, M-41, or M-39 because of the DOIS Program. The DOIS Program is nothing more than a management tool designed to assist the floor supervisor in his attempt to estimate work available and the work hours required to complete that work.
2. The M-39, M-41, and PS Form 3996 provides that the carrier estimate his work load for the day and inform management if there is a need for assistance and/or overtime. The carrier's estimate is as valid as management's. Carriers should continue to honor those provisions and the Union will continue to support the carrier in disputes with management.
3. The projections from the DOIS program are developed largely from linear measurements inputted by the supervisor. There are countless grievance decisions that reinforce the Union's position that linear measurements cannot be the sole basis for discipline, management must prove that the carrier's effort was unsatisfactory and they must do so with "documented unacceptable conduct." The reason management has agreed to this principle is that "DUVRS" (linear measurement) is not a precise measurement to determine whether standards are met."
4. The Route Base Information is often inaccurate and based upon information outside of the provisions of the M-39. Management has informed the Branch that only route inspection data less than three years old will be used to establish a "percent to standard number" other than the minimum 18 & 8 guideline. All of the base data for each route may be requested and must be provided to the Union and should be challenged for accuracy.
5. One of the items contained in the base data is "FOT" which represent the line items on the 1838c used in route inspection. The M-39 provides that the minimum time allowance for these items is 28 minutes. This is the number being used by management in DOIS. The M-39 also provides that carriers must be credited with actual time for these functions. If the actual time used, for any of these functions, on any given day is justifiably in excess of the minimum standard, DOIS is in error and should be challenged.
6. DOIS does not change the provisions of Article 8 as it applies to the assignment of overtime. Carriers who are not on the ODL yet are required to work overtime based on what DOIS has determined to be undertime should pursue recourse through the grievance procedure. Keep in mind that the "Letter Carrier Paragraph" referenced in the JCAM does not apply to overtime pivots, only OT worked on the carrier's own assignment. Violations must be grieved in order to persuade management from continued violations.
7. Daily reports from DOIS such as "Workload Status Report" and "Route/Carrier Daily Performance/Analysis Report" may often be incorrect due to circumstances outside of the information provided to DOIS. The street time loaded into DOIS is an average street time developed from either the average of five or six days during route inspection or an eight week time card analysis. In order to obtain an average, street times higher than that average, and lower than that average, were recorded, and produced the average street time. To now expect every carrier never to exceed that average regardless of volume, weather, or unexpected (and sometimes expected) circumstances is unreasonable and indefensible in front of an arbitrator.
8. DOIS projections are often based upon a carrier's demonstrated ability in the office (casing mail faster than standard). There is no regulation that requires a carrier to meet that performance daily without exception. Again, management would be required to document unacceptable conduct in order to prove unsatisfactory effort. Do not let management punish their best employees when those employees have a bad day.
Keep in mind; DOIS is not the Jeanie in the Bottle picked up on the beach by your supervisor. It is nothing more than a computer program that is only as good as the information provided by management. Remember, DOIS changes none of the regulations governing letter carrier responsibilities or performance.
Need notes for sick leave? Try this!
Postal regulations (ELRM Chapter 5) permit a supervisor to demand medical documentation for absences of over 3 days in length, or to protect the interests of the postal service, a very subjective and vague term. Only medical documentation is referenced in USPS regulations. Technically, there is no such thing as administratively acceptable documentation for an absence. This is why we have so many problems with this language when carriers attempt to comply with this order. They bring in notes from spouses, parents, friends, etc. In many cases, the notes are deemed unacceptable. Never is the carrier told exactly what is acceptable.
The reason that carriers are rarely asked for medical documentation is that the Union has won too many grievances wherein the USPS was made to pay for the doctors visit. You see, when a carrier has to go to a doctor simply to obtain a note, the Union can grieve to have the Service pay for the visit to get the note. In other words, if no treatment was given, the charge was for the note only. In an effort to avoid this possibility, the service many years ago went to this administratively acceptable nonsense. The reason it is nonsense is that any employee is entitled to know exactly what is expected of him/her. Administratively acceptable is not exactly a specific directive of what is required. It is left to the supervisors whimsy.
Whenever a carrier is instructed to get administratively acceptable documentation, I strongly recommend that the carrier actually go to the doctor. Perhaps the doctor should be informed that 3 or 4 days (or more) of rest (away from work) would work wonders in relieving the symptoms of the illness. What the hell! If a doctors note is needed anyway, why not get one for being out for 3 or more days. This also denies the supervisor of applying his/her own approval rating to the carriers documentation. It is highly unlikely that a doctors note will be disapproved. Why play their silly, harassing game. You have health insurance. Submit the bill from the doctor. Meanwhile, you have 3 or more days to recuperate. Besides, when you retire you lose all that sick leave anyway. Why not use it for that illness that the supervisor suspects you have anyway.
It was learned that in the St. Louis area, once carriers in that district starting doing this, sick leave usage percentages actually went up from 3% to 5.7%! So much for managements shrewdness and intimidating tactics. It is all perfectly legal. Doctors tend to treat your symptoms. If you feel you are too ill to report to work for several days, why not explain that to the doctor. You will need documentation anyway. The doctor will be only too happy to write you a note. Just be sure to have him/her write that you were unable to report for work for the entire absence due to illness. You may see a lessening of the need for notes.
Waiver of guaranteed time not permitted
M-00879 Step 4 November 14, 1988, H4N-2D-C 40885
Management may not solicit employees to work less than their call in guarantee, nor may employees be scheduled to work if they are not available to work the entire guarantee. However, an employee may waive a guarantee in case of illness or personal emergency. This procedure is addressed in the F22, Section 22.14 and the ELM, Section 432.63.
JOINT STATEMENT VIOLATIONS?
CHECK OUT THESE TERMS AND SEE IF THEY APPLY
Supervisors name _è_______________________________________________
WHAT THE SUPERVISOR IS, DOES, OR HOW HE/SHE ACTS: CHECK ALL THAT APPLY
q Threat n. 1. a declaration of an intention or determination to inflict punishment, injury, etc. in retaliation for, or conditionally upon, some action.
q Violence n. 1. swift and intense force; 2. rough or injurious physical force, action
or treatment; 3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power; 4. injury, as from distortion of meaning or fact: to do violence to a translation.
q Harass v.t. 1. to trouble by repeated attacks, incursions, etc.; harry; raid.
q Badger v.t. 1. to harass persistently.
q Intimidate v.t. 1. to make timid; inspire with fear. 2. to over awe or cow, especially with a forceful personality or superior display of fluency. 3. to force into or deter from some action by inducing fear.
q Demean v.t. 1. to lower in dignity or standing. Debase.
q Disrespect n. 1. lack of respect; discourtesy; rudeness.
q Bully n. 1. a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. 2. a man hired to do violence. v.t. to intimidate or domineer.
q Rude adj. 1. discourteous or impolite; 2. without culture, learning or refinement; 3. rough in manners, or behavior; unpolished; uncouth; 4. violent or tempestuous.
q Yell v.t. 1. to cry out with a loud, strong, clear sound.
q Shout v.t. 1. to call or cry out loudly and vigorously.
q Embarrass v.t. 1. to make uncomfortably self-conscious; cause confusion and shame to; disconcert. 2. to put difficulties or obstacles in the way of; impede.
q Belittle v.t. 1. to regard, consider, portray as less impressive or important than it apparently is; depreciate; disparage.
q Disparage v.t. 1. to speak of or treat slightingly; depreciate; belittle. 2. to bring reproach or discredit upon; lower the estimation of.
q Vulgar adj. 1. characterized by ignorance of or lack of good breeding or taste; unrefined; crude;
2. indecent, obscene, lewd.
SIGNATURE PRINT NAME DATE
DO YOU WISH TO FILE A GRIEVANCE AGAINST THE SUPERVISOR è YES ________ NO ________
ROUTE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE
FROM M-39 HANDBOOK
311 General Description of Form 3998
Form 3998, Unit Summary of City Delivery Assignments (see exhibit 311 (p. 1and 2)) presents in comparative form pertinent data reflecting the number of routes and average daily work-hour requirements for operation of city delivery service for each delivery unit as disclosed by the route inspections and mail counts and the resultant adjustments to the routes. In addition, space is provided on the form to show action taken to eliminate excess office time on letter routes exceeding the maximum time allowance, together with other items of information reflecting the overall operation of the city delivery
312 Before and After Adjustments
The entries on Form 3998 before route adjustments reflect the existing conditions disclosed as a result of route inspections and mail counts. The entries on Form 3998 after adjustments reflect the situation and changes made immediately after adjustments have been proposed or effected.
321.2 Auxiliary Routes and Router Assignments
Prepare lines 2 and 3 as follows:
a. Column A. Enter total number of authorized foot and motorized
b. Column B. From Form 1840, transfer the total weekly hours used on all
c. Column C. Show the proposed increase (or decrease) in the present
complement of all auxiliary routes.
d. Column D. Show the proposed increase (or decrease) in the present
daily hours auxiliary routes.
e. Column E. Enter total proposed auxiliary routes after adjustments.
f. Column F. Enter total weekly hours to be used on all auxiliary routes
after adjustments (column B plus or minus column D times delivery
days per week).
33 Consolidated Summary of City Delivery Service
When mail counts and route inspections at all delivery units have been completed, the information on Form 3998 for each individual delivery unit must be summarized for the entire office on another Form 3998. The Form 3998 for the consolidated report must be prepared in duplicate and signed by the postmaster.
35 Requests for Additional Routes
When additional auxiliary or regular routes are needed, requests for authority to establish these routes must be submitted to the District manager together with the Forms 1840, 1840-A, or 3999-B and 3998 for the post office or delivery unit. Requests for establishment of auxiliary routes incident to extensions of service must be made in accordance with 611, Postal Operations Manual.
126.4 Report of Late Leaving and Returning
126.41 At non-PSDS offices, the delivery unit manager has the responsibility for preparing Form 1813, Late Leaving and Returning Report First Carrier Delivery Trip. The reason for late leaving and late returning must be indicated on the report. (See exhibit 126.41.)
126.42 In offices using the PSDS system, managers must review the Daily Carrier Report Printout and note those carriers who left late. Circle the BS or Beginning Street and note the reason for late leaving in the right margin. Do the same for RS or Return Street. The reasons for late leaving and/or late
returning are to be determined by the unit manager and used as judgment factors when preparing an Analysis of Late Leaving and/or Late Returning on Form 1627 (see exhibit 126.42). Assure that all clock rings are accurate because their carrier report could be selected as a basis for completing the
Form 1840-B, Carrier Time Card Analysis. Retain the carrier report printout in the delivery unit for 1 year.
128.32 Two major factors that influence carrier operating costs are:
a. Incoming mail volume, and
b. Possible deliveries.
128.33 Other factors such as weather conditions, terrain, excessive sick leave,
personnel turnover, etc., also influence carrier operating costs.
131.213 Analyzing Form 1813
Determine whether one or more carriers frequently left late. If so, there is
a. Routes may not be adjusted properly.
b. The starting or leaving time may be improper.
c. There is a pattern in late leaving on the same day.
d. There may be heavy volume days where a pattern of late leaving is
prevalent. Possible solution: Provide for possible schedule changes,
staggering of mail flow, curtailment of mail, or auxiliary assistance
within the office.
e. Possible inefficiency exists.
131.24 Evaluating Employees
131.241 Prepare a Form 1627 similar to exhibit 131.241 for all new and other employees not assigned to a regular route whose efficiency is not satisfactory. Prepare a separate form for each of these employees.
131.242 Record the date, the route number, the absence hours, and the hours the employees used against the absence; and indicate the days the employee left after scheduled leaving time.
131.243 Additional columns may be used to record office and street time to measure improvement. When satisfied that the employee is performing satisfactorily, the record may be discontinued.
134.12 Accompanying carriers on the street is considered an essential responsibility of management and one of the managers most important duties. Managers should act promptly to correct improper conditions. A positive attitude must be maintained by the manager at all times.
134.21 The manager must maintain an objective attitude in conducting street supervision and discharge this duty in an open and above board manner. 134.22 The manager is not to spy or use other covert techniques. Any employee infractions are to be handled in accordance with the section in the current National Agreement that deal with these problems.