You know, I was at one time not thrilled to received the City Carrier Associates (CCA) with open arms. I am now on the overtime desired list (ODL carrier) and was expecting nothing less than an apocalypse of my finances when I saw the latest batch of CCA’s rolling in all wide eyed and busy tailed, looking forward to a prosperous future in the postal industry, the same as I was almost twenty years ago. The Postal Service had a dream themselves of getting rid of all the overtime, pricey workers like me and giving all of the extra work to the newcomers who were much more cost effective. It was a great idea for them, I guess, but it has not worked out the way they hoped it would. Yes, they have reduced some of the overtime, but it has not been a significant amount in my office. Thanks to that, I am more willing to embrace the new members of my postal family that have come here. Besides, they are like us, just trying to make an honest living.
If you are working as a CCA, and have been working in the postal service for a month or so and are still enthusiastic about your job, it is likely that you are doing something wrong. You should be at the point where your supervisor is beating you down with an unforgiving workload and impossible expectations. You may not be doing the job up to par if this isn’t happening. If it is, though, I have some insights to share with some of the newbies to make the rocky road of this job more survivable. I will be covering some of them in my next post or two. These points may not make it easier to do your job necessarily, but they may help you with delivering to different routes each day without getting yourself killed. Hey, you may even end the day feeling pretty good about yourself!
If you decide to take a job as a CCA, you may as well count on your supervisors working you until you reach your limits. Once your limits are meet and you have a breakdown, you will most likely be fired for having to take time off to go to the doctor. In that case, the NALC will try to help you get your job back, of course, but the odds are, the management will probably just fire you again by finding something they can claim is “just cause” for your dismissal, especially since you have shown them you are human and can’t hold up to their standards.
For example, I was sent out in order to help a CCA about a month ago who was out on the street working late in the evening. After returning to the office later, I saw that she was walking a little strange so I asked her what was wrong. I have an arthritic ankle that causes me to limp in certain conditions, so I was empathetic towards her. After I asked, she walked over to me and pulled down her sock. She showed me, to my amazement and horror, a spot on her foot where the bone was separating. The pressure of the bone that was protruding was making the skin stretch a lot, and I knew that this situation was bad.
Because this lady feared losing her job for not showing up to work, she continued to force herself along in her pain. On the day I visited her, she had been working for ten straight days because CCA’s deliver for Amazon on Sundays now. She had no day of rest that she could see in her near future. She had to work and support her family, though, because her husband had lost his job, so she just continued to limp along in pain to keep from losing her job.
It was a sad realization to me that someone had to endure that kind of break down in order to keep from being let go from their job in this day and age. As a carrier, though, there will be many things you will have to consider doing in order to keep your job as a CCA. Keep these in mind before jumping into the position feet first.
Postal carriers these days are more like vampires because we seem to do best in the dark. Not too long ago, though, that wasn’t true, before the decision was make to get rid of most of the clerks. Late mail distribution was brought about by the lack of clerks, resulting in carriers getting started later in the day. I, myself, start work an hour later than I used to, which means I also finish later. This year, I have been working in the darkness so much that I have become pretty good at it. In the past, I could use one set of headlamp batteries and make it through the entire winter, but no more! Now I go through several sets, thanks to working in the dark.
You may think that working in the dark is no big deal, but it has had consequences, even lethal ones. In 2013 in Cheverly, Maryland, a letter carrier named Tyson Jerome Burnett was shot and killed as he was delivering in the dark on an unfamiliar route on November 23rd. Tyson had been in a different department making $22 an hour up until he was moved to working as a CCA at $16 an hour. That only added insult to his death. This incident alone shows that a CCA is not compensated enough to deal with their dangerous conditions at work. Other carriers have been victims from dark deliveries as well, such as a letter carrier in Boston that was shot as a robbery attempt was in progress on December 20th, 2013.
Not only do mail carriers have to deal more with the local criminals as they deliver in the dark hours, but there are many other dangers that lurk in the darkness. Hazardous footing is one of those challenges that letter carrier’s face in the dark. They are already dealing with having to read the mail and figure out how to move through mailboxes in the dark. Add to it the snow and ice in the wintertime, and you create a very hazardous situation for anyone. This is a consideration for any mail carrier that is forced to work in the dark hours, so beware.
Yeah, I know. You are wondering what I could possibly know about weather as a City Carrier Assistant since I live and work in Southern California and our idea of cold is when it gets below fifty degrees here. I do, however, keep up with many other letter carriers from all over the country through Facebook and other social sites, so I know that beyond California, it can get bitter cold out there. Not that I know from personal experience, but have you ever tried to deliver mail through the padded gloves that need to protect your hands from the cold as you slip and slide on the ice and snow? It is quite the challenge, I’m sure.
Also, challenging weather is not only about the bitter cold winters. I have friends in Indiana that have a hard time believing that we have not had any rain for months on end in San Diego as they consider themselves lucky on any day that they can make it through without buckets of rain pouring down on them. When you are not dealing with sledding through a blizzard or paddling through a rainstorm, you may be dealing with super hot days of deliveries. In Texas, on a cool day of 95 degrees, you may be questioning your sanity of working as a CCA, especially with that lovely eighty five percent humidity helping it feel oh so sticky outside!
You must remember, though, to never complain about the weather conditions to your supervisor. He really doesn’t care about your whining. Of course, he is sitting all comfortable and dry at his desk while he pushes you out the door into the rain and cold, but the odds are, he was in your shoes at one point in his life. Other carriers don’t want to hear your whining either. The long timers have been doing the job for many years and have survived it all, so the last thing they want to do is hear you complain about it. With hard work and determination, maybe one day you will be in the position of the manager. Who knows.
So, you think you want to be a mail carrier? There are a lot of things to consider before jumping into any profession, including being a mail carrier. There are many things that the postal service will tell you about in your training, but some things they don’t touch on. They try to make the job of the City Carrier Assistant seem exciting and glamorous, but I am here to help you to see the truth of it.
One of the big things you have to deal with in this job are the dogs. Every time someone learns that I am a letter carrier, one of the first things they ask is how I deal with all of the dogs. Most people just make an automatic assumption that when someone puts on the Postal Service outfit, they are beginning in a battle with dogs right away, just for wearing the clothes of the job. It’s almost as if they believe that dogs can sniff out anyone in the suit and immediately have a hate for them. Yes, this idea may make a great script for Hollywood, but it is not a realistic truth.
I am not saying that there are no dogs out there that can put you in danger, but, overall, they are one of the least things we have to worry about. The best way to keep yourself safe against dogs is to make plenty of noise when you start to enter a yard in order to draw out any hiding dogs that are waiting to ambush you. If they do come after you, you can always use your mail bag and a spray to make them back off of you. Typically, though, you will find that most of the dogs you encounter will be friendly and just want for you to pat them on the head or give them a nice scratch behind the ear. It is always a great practice to be aware of any dogs, though, for your safety.
Have you ever heard of the CCA (City Carrier Assistance) job that is offered by the United States Postal Service? Well, lately, I have been seeing a lot of focus on the different postal services trying to sugar coat the job to bring in new CCA’s or to keep the existing ones. This is not a very rewarding job, though, so I thought I would help give a realistic view of what a CCA would be facing if they begin work with the postal service.
For those of you that do not know what a CCA is, it is a position with a reduced wage for a non-career letter carrier. These folks are not guaranteed hours so they are often told to stay home when the postal service has enough employees available to cover their deliveries. They can also be easily released from their position on a whim, unlike the career postal carriers. Also, there are no ways to help allocate hours to the CCAs in a way that is fair to them all. If you are liked by your manager, you can expect to be called in regularly. Otherwise, you may end up spending another long, boring day in front of the television, waiting for your phone to ring.
Because of the lack of guarantees in the job, and the ease of manager’s choosing favorites, the work force of CCAs continues to shrink further and further into despair. And, as you would guess, people are willing to tolerate a lot more when they make more money. The regular carrier may be fine out in the bitter cold delivering mail for $27 an hour with forty hours a week guaranteed. A CCA, on the other hand, will be less willing to put up with it because they make almost half the amount an hour with no guaranteed hours. Can you see why it is hard to keep CCAs now?