There is a well known practice that is done in the U.S. Postal Service by the supervisors that is known best as “piling it on.” A lot of times when you work in other companies, when you do extra work, you likely were shown appreciation and given a gift card or other award because of your dedication gallmailman-450x294and hard work. That is the sensible thing for a company to do in that instance. You have to remember, though, that there is neither sensibility or rational thoughts in the Postal Service. If you work in a Post Office, all of your extra, hard work will get you is more work as your reward. If you are able to finish your rounds quickly and get back early from deliveries, they will reward you with more work and put you back out there delivering somewhere else. Beyond that, they may even give you extra work tomorrow now that they know you enjoy going past their expectations of you. Succeed again and you will likely get another hour added on to your schedule the next day. Then you know what will happen?  You may not be able to handle that extra hour because, even after skipping your breaks and lunch to get it done, it was impossible, so now you may be labeled as a problem carrier, a tag that you don’t want to have on you. This, my friend, is how the supervisors are taught to reward hard work.

Now don’t take what I am saying the wrong way. You certainly don’t want to be a slacker or lazy. What I am saying is to do the work you are given in the time you are given to do it. Don’t try to impress anyone by being over zealous in your job. You don’t want to be the one that gets all of the extra stuff piled on because it can be lonely and very painful when you are stuck at the bottom of that ever growing pile.

 

neumanLike most people, employees in the postal industry are a cantankerous bunch, but their bad attitude can be greatly changed when you give them food. Never have I seen such hungry, shameless people as mail carriers. In a carrier’s convention hall, the easiest way to clear out the room is to yell “doughnuts!” instead of “fire!” Many a carrier of mail would sell their soul for a mere doughnut.  If you offer them baked goods, they will be like a buffalo stampede about to go over a cliff to get to them. I have little doubt that, on a stranded island full of postal workers, it wouldn’t take long for them to resort to cannibalism.

With that in mind, the best path you have for success as a CCA in the postal service is to feed those animals and bring in some baked goods on your first day of work. Perhaps you are one of those people that think the best way to success is kissing the butt of your supervisor but, in this stage of your career in the postal industry, kissing the butts of your co-worker’s is best. The supervisors themselves are usually experts at butt kissing, and the elevator that goes up is only one way. So, basically, feeding your supervisor an entire store’s worth of baked goods would be useless if you are not meeting their expectations in your performance.

If the animals called Letter Carriers, though, become fond of you from being fed regularly, it can make your life a whole lot easier. You never know the breaks they may give you as you quickly become one of their favorite CCAs ever! Trust me on this. If you don’t believe me, take baked goods in one day and see how far that simple gesture will get you with the postal carriers.

 

Obviously, when most people start a new job, they have a lot of expectations of what it will be like. Those expectations are usually good. I mean, why else would they take the job, right? Well, there are many new, naive City Carrier Associates that come in and out of this job. It is time for them to get a grip on reality and let go of those expectations. The Postal Service world can be quite a cruel one, and they need to understand that from the usps190beginning instead of dwelling in la la land about it. Sure, they painted a pretty picture to get you in the door.  They likely made you promises that they never intend to keep. But, face it…you have a long and hard road to travel before you will ever be considered a regular in this job. And, only once you are a regular, are you able to enjoy a work environment that is stable and predictable, a job where you do not constantly go on loan from one office to the next as if you are a dirty rag being passed around to clean up the crap.

At the office I work in, there is a Part time flexible (PTF) carrier who has worked there for eight years and is still waiting for his chance to become a regular. This is not uncommon, either. There are a lot of CCAs and PTFs in that position in this industry. So you will need to change your expectations if you are expecting that a Fairy Godmother is going to visit you in the next few days and wave her little wand, turning you into a Regular overnight. This road is a tiring, long, and lonesome one, and, in the meantime, you may want to consider other options for your career. The Postal Service will continue to downsize because first class mail really has no chance of coming back. Just go ahead and face it now…this career is not one for someone that wants a stable career.

 

workers-jumboYes, if you are a City Carrier Associate, you should wear yourself a belt. And, no, I am in no way questioning your fashion sense. We all know that a certain segment of society likes to wear their pants down close to their knees in order to show off their sweaty butt crack and show the color coordinated undies to everyone, but that is not what I am talking about in this post. The reason I say to wear a belt in this job is completely for reasons of practicality. The belt is an easy way to keep up with your arrow key. You can attach the key to your belt because, heaven knows, your career in the postal industry would be over quickly if you were to lose that!

What is interesting to me is that no one else in the industry seems to understand this concept. When I recently trained four different CCA’s, I advised them all to come back on the second day with a belt on since none of them wore one on the first day. On the second day, none of them wore a belt. I suppose that says a lot about my ability to inspire people to be obedient. Who knows. Then again, maybe it takes something significant, like having the arrow key fall from your pants pocket and not being able to find it forever before you get the seriousness of it. Does it need to be lost in the postal toilet, all yellow and dingy, to help you understand the need for using a belt to hold the key? The best roofer ever may not be able to find it when you lose it on your smoke break on the top of the building. I know I will be blamed at a later time if someone I have taught faces such a dire situation in the future, so I am putting it here as a record for me to come back to in defense of myself. So, yes, wear a belt. Put the hoop of the arrow key between the belt loops, preferable the first and second one. If you put in on the first loop, it will likely slide off, leaving you to fend off the slimy sewer rats in order to get it back.  Hey, better you than me!

 

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 2014-05-09-source-a-2themselves 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!

 

1024x1024If 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.

night_mail_delivery-300x201You 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.

 

 

postalYeah, 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.

14946491-mmmainOne 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.

 

 

letter_carrier_aa-300x181Have 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?