Arbitrator Limits Abusive Postal Supervisor’s Contact With Carriers

 The NALC filed a grievance on October 5, 2009, objecting to the actions of one supervisor. The union claimed those actions violated the Joint Statement on Violence in the Workplace. The supervisor in this case has a long history of complaints concerning his abusive manner. In 1999, an intervention took place as the result of pressure from both a U.S. senator and U.S. representative. In 2002, as the result of a grievance, the supervisor was removed from day-to-day supervision of carriers. On November 5, 2009, the B Team agreed that a violation of the Joint Statement had occurred but could find common ground for a remedy. Management in this case argued that no violation of the Joint Statement occurred, despite the finding of the Step B team. At the onset of her decision, the arbitrator engaged in a long discussion of the Joint Statement and its intent to curb violence before it happens. Among the problems identified with the charged supervisor was his inability to ascertain the facts before placing blame.

After a careful analysis of the facts, the arbitrator found that management did, in fact, violate the Joint Statement. As a remedy, the arbitrator ordered that the supervisor involved do no more than two street observations per carrier per calendar year; that during those observations, the supervisor remains at least 15 feet from the carrier at all times; that any comments made to the carrier shall be made the next workday with the presence of a higher-level supervisor and a union representative; that the supervisor shall be relieved of morning “go round” procedures; that any time the supervisor mentions “job discussion,” the carrier has an immediate right to union representation; that if any of these rules are not followed, the employee has the right to an immediate phone call to the union; that any disciplinary action taken by this supervisor shall automatically include this arbitration award in the record; and that the above actions have no time limit on them.

read entire arbitration decision

Excerpts from arbitration decision:

Supervisor Welk has worked for the Postal Service for 37 years. He has been a supervisor in this Bismarck office since 1985, except for about four years in the 90’s when he was removed from carrier supervision because of complaints about his treatment of letter carriers, and worked in a different facility.

In 1999, Bismarck had an Intervention, apparently with encouragement if not instigation from a Senator and a Representative from Washington, DC, and based at least in part on complaints about Supervisor Welk and his street supervision.

In 2002, as the result of a grievance, “The Postmaster has removed (Supervisor Welk) from routinely supervising the grievant. The supervisor has been instructed regarding behavior during conversations with draft employees. No further action is warranted.” according to the DRT report on that grievance.

The Step B grievance team found that Welk had violated the contract, it could not agree on a remedy. So the only the rememdy was before the arbitrator:

Arbitrator’s award :

Therefore, I order that the postmaster be trained in the theory and practice of effective supervision. Since she acknowledged that she is not very acquainted with the disciplinary process established in the National Agreement with the NALC, I order that she be trained in the administration of discipline, including the concepts of corrective and progressive discipline, under that contract; and trained in the administration of discipline within management ranks.

Arbitrator’s list of restrictions for Welk:

Since Supervisor Welk has in the past been removed from the facility for 4 years, and has received training before, and has been made aware of poor job performance in the past, to no avail, 1 am not ordering formal training or a change of location for Supervisor Welk, although I suggest both. I am not ordering counseling, because to be effective there must be a recogition that a problem exists. Neither Supervisor Welk nor management have that recognition.

Supervisor Welk shall do street observation (including 3999s and brief street observations) no more than two times per carrier per calendar year. On those street observations, Supervisor Welk shall say absolutely nothing to the letter carrier, and shall remain at least 15 feet away from the letter carrier during the street observation. Supervisor Welk’s activity in relation to the letter carrier on the street will be observation and note taking. Anything Supervisor Welk wants to say to the letter carrier will be said to the letter carrier the next work day, in the post office, in the presence of someone in a supervisory relationship to Supervisor Welk (ie, not a fellow supervisor of customer service) and a Union representative. This is intended to give Supervisor Welk an opportunity to assess the whole observation, determine what is satisfactory or unsatisfactory in that whole context, and have a constructive plan for how to deal with any problem.

Supervisor Welk shall be relieved of ‘morning go round’ duties unless he is accompanied by, and listened to by someone who is in a supervisory relationship to Supervisor Welk.

Any time Supervisor Welk mentions to a letter carrier anything similar to the things he has referred to as a discussion, a job discussion, or an official job description, or makes a criticism of the person or job performance of any letter carrier, that letter carrier has the right to immediately demand and get Union representation before Supervisor Welk can proceed with the conversation.

Any letter carrier has a right to telephone or communicate by other means with management or the Union any time that these orders are not followed.

In any disciplinary action against any letter carrier that is initiated by, participated in by, or based on reports or statements from Supervisor Welk, the Postal Service shall not object to a copy of this award being made a part of the grievance packet for consideration at all levels.

I have intentionally not included a time limit on these orders. This is for several reasons. First, prior corrective measures did not work. Second, at the time of this arbitration, management did not see anything wrong with the workplace environment Supervisor Welk created for the letter carrier who work for him. Therefore, the order is intended to limit and control the occasions on which Supervisor Welk has violated the Joint Statement

7 thoughts on “Arbitrator Limits Abusive Postal Supervisor’s Contact With Carriers

  1. You know the funny thing is that when you have a craft employee that threatens a Supervisor they are given several chances and there are no agrreement like this. There are craft employees that feel threaten by other craft employees and the theats are founded in an Investigation. The employee is removed from the Office but comes back never the less. When you look at the policy for zero tolerance there are exceptions. We can go back and forth about this. All I know is that people think they have it rough when they don’t. Try going to a third world country.

  2. Why is this a-hole still on the company payroll?! He has 37 years in according to the facts, so couldn’t he be nudged into retirement? I agree with Rick: zero tolerance applies to craft employees only, from the looks of things. National management is obsessed with bullying workers to get more productivity. There is no accountability for these sociopaths. It has only gotten worse over the last couple of years, and I sadly predict there’s no end in sight. The Joint Statement is almost 20 years old now. People are gonna start snapping. You CANNOT push people around this way & then play ignorant when violence erupts. I sure wish the insulated sociopaths at the top would retire since they’ve run the place into the ground…….

  3. I’m wondering why this supervisor even has a job? If this were a craft employee, they would have been walked off long ago. I disagree that this will send any message. This supervisor has most of his duties taken away or restricted, yet still gets to collect the same paycheck. Firing abusive supervisors would be the only way to send a “zero tolerance” message. However, management has always been tolerant of their own transgressions. When there has been a problem with someone in management, they are usually given a lateral move. The fact that this supervisor is still in the same facility after all these years and all the problems just illustrates my point.

  4. Hurray!!! Finally an arbitration that gives us a measure of protection amd justice from the many abusive sociopaths that seem to find their way into management.
    This will also send a message to upper management that intimidation and fear will not be tolerated.
    Remember that management decided that they were not to be held accountable for violations of the Violence in the Workplace Agreement, only the employees, and fought it all the way to arbitration. They lost!!

  5. Why is this supervisor even being allowed to have any contact with employees? If this person cannot act in a humane manner with employees he does not belong being in charge! That’s whats wrong with this postal service (among other things). They reward the “incompetent workers”, while the upstanding ones are treated like garbage. This occurs in both the clerk craft and in management. I wish I had enough years in to retire.

  6. If this is true, no postal supervisor will be allowed within 15 feet of any employee. They are all abusive. That’s the management culture, period.

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