The CCA, the Post Office, and Untrue Assumptions About Letter Carriers
Box of the Day
Caveat - The author no longer subscribes to the negative views of City Carrier Assistants (CCAs) expressed in this article, but leaves this post in publication to demonstrate his transition from ignorance to enlightenment. He apologizes for his errors in thinking.
The United States Postal Service's War Against Employee Intelligence
Nothing personal, my fellow letter carriers and other postal employees, but the Postal Service thinks that you are stupid.
You might find this a rather shocking thing to say, but it is demonstrated clearly by the creation of the new CCA class of employees. Not only are these employees paid at a ridiculously low wage rate, but there are no efforts made to assess their intelligence level before hiring. In other words, my friends, the Postal Service thinks that you are just a mindless mule to haul the mail, and has little appreciation for the initiative you take and the judgements and assessments you make on a daily basis to ensure proper delivery of the US Mail.
This seems odd, because the majority of Postal managers started off as craft employees themselves and would be quick to point out the depth of their own intelligence, an assertion that is not always reflected in reality, as demonstrated by the state of the Service's bottom line. But I am not here to insult anyone or to point fingers. I am here to expose the horrible slap in the face that the CCA represents to those of us who are forced to use our brains and think on our feet every day, often times in order to forestall the negative consequences of bad decisions made by our superiors.
When I applied for the Postal Service back in the early 90s, there was still an active effort to hire employees who had a reasonable level of intelligence. At that time the post office was still conducting civil service examinations, and these were highly competitive. I took my own test at the Scottish Rites Center in San Diego, where there were thousands of people on hand to take the examination, but from these thousands perhaps only one or two hundred people were ultimately selected. At that time the test had two portions; an address comparison section and a memory for addresses section. On the latter portion, the applicant was given just a few minutes to memorize a set of boxes containing address ranges. After this time had expired the book containing the memorized portion was closed and the applicant was tested on the data in the memorized boxes. Certainly there were techniques for mastering the Memory for Addresses section, but even the techniques required the ability to effectively organize and then analyze items drawn from memory. It was an effective way to weed out those who did not have the mental aptitude for the job.
Why should being a letter carrier require mental aptitude, you non postal types in the audience might ask. The answer is that a letter carrier is forced to make dozens of quick decisions on a daily basis. Even finding addresses on the street at times is a tricky challenge. The other day I was asked to deliver an express mail to an area I had not been to in years. Although I had forgotten exactly where the street on the address was, I was able to "triangulate" the location based on the block range of the address and other details that I pulled from my memory of the area. I figured it out for myself, in other words, without having to call the supervisor and bother them to pull up a map for me. This is just one example of the myriad of decisions that a letter carrier must make on a daily basis. Productivity in the postal service is enchanced when letter carriers are able to "think on their feet" and figure things out for themselves. Since postal supervisors are grossly overworked; being plagued with myriads of reports that are mostly redundant busy work, having letter carriers that are able to work on their own is a boon to them as well.
In the past, the Postal Service was also in the practice of hiring significant numbers of military veterans. Although many postal employees grumble about the bias toward veterans within its ranks, military vets have also been trained to think on their feet and make decisions for themselves in stressful situations. They have been trained to analyze data and make quick decisions based upon this data. Whether it is acknowledged by those who work on "Mahoghany Row," as the brain trust working on the upper deck of our processing facility is known, making quick decisions is essential for success as a letter carrier.
All of the above are factors that seem to be missing in the new CCAs, or City Carrier Associates for those of you who are not up to speed on the voluminous list of postal acronyms. In the first place, the CCAs are not selected based on test scores. Secondly, for the most part not only are they not selected from among military veterans, but most of them seem to be kids in their early twenties, with very little experience in anything. A few even appear to have questionable immigration status, speak only rudimentary English, and are as lost as Hansel and Gretel within the American street numbering system. One CCA I worked with did not comprehend the difference between even and odd numbers. I was trying to explain to this employee that odd numbered addresses in San Diego are typically on the South and East sides of streets, and even numbers are on the North and West sides, but my explanation was met with a blank stare. Yet these are among the challenges we are facing with the new CCAs, and these CCAs are the people we are entrusting the Postal Service's future to.
I am not saying that every letter carrier is a rocket scientist, by any means. Certainly every post office has its handful of perpetually disgruntled "career" employees that, if they are equipped with intelligence, certainly don't demonstrate it. But in order to fulfill the Postal Service's mission it is essential that the raw material of its work force be of a high quality, and one essential quality is a high level of intelligence that can be molded and directed toward success with proper management.
A Letter Carrier's advice for the new CCA
- CCA Survival: How to Make it Through Your Postal Trial by Fire
The City Carrier Associate (CCA) is a newly created Postal position that has been controversial among the ranks of letter carriers. Mel advises the CCA how to adapt to a hostile postal environment.
Do you believe that the Postal Service's long-term financial condition can be improved by hiring employees that work for signficantly lower wages?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.