Does The Federal Hiring Freeze Affect The Post Office And Why Should Postal Workers Care?
US Constitution Skating on Thin Ice?
Like it or not, America is now in the Trump era of American history. Despite the unicorn smurf fantasy Facebook memes that Bernie still has a chance, or that the President will be impeached, removed by military coup, or step down voluntarily in the next 100 days, this man of very dubious hair is not going anywhere for the next four years. Therefore, our job as voters, activists, and writers is to keep our eyes open and try to keep him from soiling the Constitution of the United States. If the last week and a half has shown us anything, it is that the lavatory just off the Oval Office is well stocked with copies of our founding document, where they are used solely for sanitary reasons.
One of the first acts 45 undertook was to sign an executive order imposing a hiring freeze on government workers. While news of such a freeze may seem apropos in the frigid depths of late January, for those letters carriers in much of the country who are already slogging through snow and ice, the freeze just adds insult to injury. Naturally, this order sparked debate in online postal forums about whether it applied to the Postal Service. The USPS operates on its own budget, after all, and does not dip into taxpayer money. Therefore, why should America's mail service be subject to executive restrictions on how it manages its own money, which is derived solely through the sale of postage?
Not surprisingly, men and women in blue were worried, particularly the City Carrier Assistants (CCAs), who are hired on a 365 day contract that must be renewed annually. This contract renewal stipulation also applies to the clerk position known as Postal Support Employee (PSE). Assuming the hiring freeze does apply to the Postal Service, does this mean CCAs and PSEs will not be rehired when their year is up? Does it also signify that they will not be converted to regular, career positions when they open?
The freeze is causing shivers out there in Postalville. Of course CCAs and PSEs are clacking their teeth about the immediate employment future, but should they be the only postal employees to be quaking in their fur-lined boots? Surprisingly, a common response among career employees is Why should I care? I'm not a new hire, I do not work on a contract like the CCAs. So how does this affect moi, meaning my pretty little pink behind?
Even though you feel frost-free right now, there are indeed long-term reasons why you, Mr. I've got mine so screw you, should be worried. The overall objective of this Presidential mandate seems to be to divide and conquer. When that happens, if we let it, everybody wearing a postal uniform loses.
Left Out in The Cold
At the present time, part of the CCA/PSE confusion lies in the fact that there are mixed interpretations over whether the Trump hiring freeze applies to the USPS. The wording of the executive order specifically excludes collective bargaining agreements currently in place, so this should alleviate fears for those worried about their conversion to regular status. President Frederic Rolando of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) disseminated a soothing message to this effect, assuring letter carriers that the order would not forestall CCA conversions.
But for those CCAs and PSEs not yet ready for regular, those merely finishing up their first year on the job and hoping for renewal, the freeze is a more complicated matter, one that chills to the bone. Postal Service Headquarters itself has stated that past Executive hiring freezes have not effected the Post Office, since it provides one of the "essential services" specifically excluded by the order. Is past practice an indicator of future performance, especially with the current Chief Executive, whose modus operandi is to fling executive orders against the sh**house wall, then see what sticks?
Defrosting the Freeze
Since the freeze was imposed on January 23rd, postal facebook groups have been inundated with comments by employees worried about it. The freeze freakout became so intense that several members of these groups suggested that a freeze should be imposed on posting about the freeze. Of course, those who seem most annoyed about the freeze posts are career employees who are not affected by a looming, drop dead contract date.
Here are just a couple examples of some rather indifferent, insouciant, shall we say exceedingly nonchalant posts I have witnessed in these frozen forums:
- Josh wonders why everyone is freaking out about the federal hiring freeze.
- Tim asks why everyone who has already been hired is so concerned about a hiring freeze?
- Steve inquires what is the over/under for posts tomorrow about the hiring freeze?
The question, therefore, seems to be why is everyone going off the deep end about the hiring freeze - a dangerous plunge indeed, into a swimming pool thickening with ice. Career carriers do not worry, because they think they are equipped with fail-safe flotation devices. Yeah, I know you know how to swim and have a life ring readily available, but there are reasons why you, Senor or Senorita Smug, should also be firing off distress signals.
To me, the response to the freeze is more troubling than the thing itself. It indicates that a lot of postal people are missing the point completely, that they are snug and smug in their comfy igloos and do not see the glacier bearing down outside.
Regular Reasons to Feel The Chill
The reasons why the freeze is bad for Mr. or Ms. Regular employee, sitting there calmly in their career cocoons, can be summarized into two categories, these being moral and practical.
I will concede in the beginning that nobody can force you to be moral - you took this job to make money, not friends, so if you are not motivated to take your brother by the hand and lead him to the promised land, then that is your business. But contrary to what exceedingly unconcerned individuals on Facebook are expressing, there are valid common sense reasons why the freeze applies to you too.
First, the moral reasons, which I label moral for lack of a better term. Simply put, the CCAs and PSEs are our brothers and sisters. I have trained a few dozen CCAs over the years. I look upon them with paternal pride when I see them grow up into Regular carriers. Some of them call me Pops, out of respect for the guidance I gave them when they were starting out. This makes me happy. It makes me think I have a moral duty to help them in any way I can.
But pride doesn't pay the bills or stir the gin and juice. So for those of you who measure your actions either on the basis of quality of life or sheer dollars and cents, here is my answer to you.
First of all, maybe you don't like working overtime. You have all the money you need, stashed away in a bank vault in Switzerland that not even Donald Trump with a stack of executive orders as high as the Matterhorn can touch. Those of us who regularly clock out after zero dark thirty would love to stand in your velvet Prada sneakers (retail $495), but we're too busy slogging through scheiss in our rubber galoshes.
But what is going to happen to you and your severe overtime aversion when there are no CCAs around to pick up your slack? Your sweet rosy cheeks are going to swell up like a Pufferfish with a peanut allergy as the darkness closes about you like a tomb and you realize the batteries in your head lamp fizzled out ten years ago.
Then again maybe you, like me, need the money real bad, and are trying to drain every penny you can out of this postal cow before the milk goes sour. The bill collectors are barking at your feet alongside the five pound Chihuahua on your route that you drop-kicked last week, and a future raise or two might help to keep those hounds at bay. For people like us, the freeze threatens our solidarity.
In successful collective bargaining solidarity is essential, and the freeze drives a wedge between regular carriers and CCAs, also between regular clerks and PSEs. It destroys solidarity, and this limits our bargaining power at the arbitration table. In plain English, when the Union is weak you might not get that raise you hoped for, that you were perhaps banking on.
Furthermore, the legislative mills of the GOP have already pooped out plans to deny CCAs Union protection. These proposals, which will probably be rubber-stamped though a Republican-controlled Congress, are only waiting for the imperial signature of he of the questionable coiffe. Hmm-I wonder, you say to your best buddy in the mirror, will he sign or won't he? This is one of the great mysteries of the Postal Universe at this point, isn't it? We don't know. Lacking an answer for that which is perturbing your pretty head, you then revert to your old standby statement, screw it - it ain't my problem!
But it darn well could be your problem, my complacent compadre, when years pass by and you notice that the unionized slice of pie at the top is getting thinner, and the non-union chunk at the bottom is bursting at the seams. This is one of the agendas of the freeze, to divide and conquer, to deal a death blow to Unionism by weakening the two-tier wage structure even further. Think about this, my friend, when you mix your drinks with hubris after a hard day's work.
Tip of the Iceberg?
No matter how deep you bury your head in the sand - or should I say snow, since we are heading into February and winter ain't going away anytime soon, the freeze does apply to you. You might want to chase off those annoying CCAs chattering in your Facebook yard - Get away kids, you're ruining my nap, but maybe you should wake up instead, offer a few encouraging words, pat them on the head and say everything is going to be all right before settling back into your long winter's nap.
Donald Trump is a reality. The Hiring Freeze is a reality. The freeze is no fun, I'll grant you that, it gets in the way of those stunning snow selfies you are posting on the big page, but we need to talk about it. The freeze is only the tip of an iceberg that hides an insidious agenda lurking beneath the waves, an enormous frozen mass floating in wait to sink our happy Postal party cruise.