USPS OIG: Employee Issues at the Dickinson, North Dakota, Post Office

August 14, 2018

Objective

This report responds to a request from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota about employee issues at the Dickinson Post Office. In response to that request, our objectives were to determine whether the U.S. Postal Service complied with employee payment requirements and assess employee engagement and staffing levels at the Dickinson, ND, Post Office.

The Dickinson Post Office is in the Bakken Region of North Dakota. In calendar year (CY) 2006, the region’s oil boom began, peaking in CY 2012. During the oil boom, the region experienced increased employment opportunities, which subsequently contributed to the Postal Service’s challenge of attracting and retaining employees.

In February 2014, the Postal Service entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) to assist in attracting and retaining rural carriers.

What the OIG Found

The Postal Service did not comply with employee payment requirements at the Dickinson Post Office; employee feedback indicated employee engagement was low; and the post office is currently at full complement although it has faced challenges attracting and retaining both management and bargaining employees in the past. Specifically, we determined:

  • Four of seven (or 57 percent) rural carriers were placed in an incorrect pay status. These carriers received letters of demand and invoices for salary overpayments totaling $23,767.
  • Six of 20 (or 30 percent) career rural carriers, who were eligible for a 90-day and/or one-year bonus prescribed in the Postal Service’s MOU with the NRLCA, did not receive their bonuses totaling $5,000.
  • One employee was not reimbursed for official travel expenses submitted for 10 travel vouchers totaling about $1,920 for work conducted in support of another Dakotas District post office.
  • There is a perception of an unsupportive work environment, no employee recognition, and a lack of communication at the Dickinson Post Office. This may be an indication of low employee engagement, which is a contributor to low employee morale.

These conditions occurred because:

  • Human Resources Shared Services Center processing specialists were unaware rural carriers should have been paid from one of four rate schedule code tables. Specialists also indicated they used an incorrect pay step within the rate schedule code table.
  • District Human Resources did not have a formal process to timely identify carrier eligibility for bonuses.
  • The postmaster did not have access to the Electronic Travel Voucher system and did not forward the employee’s travel voucher to the designated travel coordinator for processing.
  • There was an apparent disconnect between Dickinson Post Office management and lack of subsequent actions, and employee concerns and issues.

The Dickinson Post Office had a challenge attracting and retaining employees and subsequently developed a plan to address the rapid changes in population growth and employee turnover. However, due to actions taken by the Dickinson Post Office and the Dakotas District, as of April 2018, there were 40 employees at the Dickinson Post Office — three more than its authorized career complement of 37.

If management does not take appropriate action to ensure that they properly compensate and inform employees, there could be a negative impact on employee engagement, morale, and complement at the Dickinson Post Office.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management provide refresher training to Human Resources Shared Services Center processing specialists responsible for processing pay activities on Postal Service Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action, for the Memorandum of Understanding at select Bakken Region facilities, to include verifying employee pay statuses; and implement and communicate a process to timely identify and pay rural carriers.

We also recommended management grant Electronic Travel Voucher system access to the postmaster or designee at the Dickinson Post Office or implement controls to monitor and track reimbursements due when employees submit travel vouchers manually; and develop a strategy, to include management training, to increase employee engagement at the Dickinson Post Office.

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USPS Employees reminded of Hatch Act rules

Political button on shirt

USPS News Link – 7/26/18 – USPS wants employees to follow the Hatch Act’s rules on politicking in the workplace.

The Hatch Act is a law that prohibits Postal Service and other federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty, while wearing a uniform, while on federal property or while inside a federal vehicle.

These rules apply to activities on behalf of all political candidates, including sitting U.S. presidents and other incumbents who have officially declared their intent to seek re-election.

For example, under the Hatch Act, a postal employee cannot wear a shirt or campaign button that promotes any candidate seeking re-election while the employee is on USPS property or on the clock.

Similarly, postal employees cannot place a bumper sticker or sign promoting a political candidate on a USPS vehicle.

Employees who misuse government property or don’t uphold safety regulations could be disciplined. Additionally, the Postal Service could refer potential Hatch Act violations to the Office of Special Counsel for investigation.

USPS is conducting a campaign to educate employees on the Hatch Act and provide examples of colleagues who have run afoul of the law.

These examples include employees who placed political signs in a delivery vehicle, wrote “corrections” on political mailpieces, made political posts to social media while on the clock and broadcast political endorsements while sitting in a postal vehicle.

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USPS: World War I stamp honors those who served

The World War I: Turning the Tide stamp features a member of the American Expeditionary Force holding a U.S. flag.

KANSAS CITY — Post Offices across the nation are selling the newest stamps to honor the millions of Americans, both home and abroad, who participated in World War I, considered the seminal conflict of the 20th century. World War I: Turning the Tide Forever stamps were dedicated in a special ceremony today at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO.

“Even though the United States didn’t see action until the last year of the war, in 1918, American troops played an indispensable role in turning the tide of that war in favor of the Allies,” said dedicating official U.S. Postal Service General Counsel and Executive VP Thomas Marshall. “Today we pay tribute to the sacrifice of those soldiers, as well as the millions of supporters on the home front.”

wwistamp

World War I was a four-year global conflict (1914-1918) that reshaped the map of Europe. The United States remained neutral until April 1917, when it declared war on Germany and entered on the side of the Allies — Britain, France, and Russia. When the American Expeditionary Force, which ultimately grew to nearly 5 million troops, did finally engage in 1918, its actions helped end the war, thrusting the U.S. to the forefront of major world powers.

The stamp art features a close-up of a member of the American Expeditionary Force holding the U.S. flag. Barbed wire can be seen in the background, as well as an airplane in flight and smoke rising up from the battlefield. The artwork was painted in airbrush on illustration board, a technique that evokes the propaganda posters used during World War I. Art director Greg Breeding designed the issuance with art by Mark Stutzman. News of the stamps is being shared using the hashtag #WorldWarIStamp.

Customers may purchase the WWI: Turning the Tide Forever stamps through the Postal Store at usps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Office locations nationwide.

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks
Customers have 120 days to obtain first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail. They may purchase new stamps at local Post Office facilities, at the Postal Store usps.com/shop or by phone at
800-STAMP-24. They must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in envelopes addressed to:

FDOI – World War I: Turning the Tide Forever Stamps
USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO  64144-9900

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for postmarks up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged 5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by Nov. 27, 2018.

Ordering First-Day Covers
The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamps and stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual item number and is offered in the USA Philatelic Publication and online at usps.com/shop. Customers may register to receive a free USA Philatelic Publication online at usps.com/philatelic .

Philatelic Products
Philatelic products for this stamp issue are as follows:
477406, Press Sheet, $60.
477410, Digital Color Keepsake, $11.95.
477416, First-Day Cover, $0.94.
477421, Digital Color Postmark, $1.65.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

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AFL-CIO – Unanimous Resolution Against USPS Privatization

July 27, 2018  AFL-CIO

The U.S. Postal Service, which was created as the Post Office Department in 1792, has its founding principles in the U.S. Constitution. To this day, it remains a national treasure belonging to the people of this country.

The Postal Service has remained a self-sustaining, independent establishment of the federal government that does not receive taxpayer funding and relies solely on revenue derived from the sale of postal services and products.

The Postal Service employs more than 500,000 people who are at the center of a $1.4 trillion, 7.5 million employee mailing industry. The agency serves the needs of more than 157 million business and residential customers through its affordable universal network, providing service six and sometimes seven days a week.

This universal network connects the country’s rural, suburban and urban communities at fair and reasonable rates, providing equal access no matter who we are and where we are located. This unmatched infrastructure coupled with a dedicated workforce is the reason that the Postal Service is consistently the highest-rated agency of the federal government. In fact, a Pew Research Center poll, released in February 2018, showed that the Postal Service has an 88% favorability rating.

The Postal Service remains the nation’s second-largest employer of military veterans and is a source of decent and dignified union jobs and equal pay for workers from all backgrounds, including women and people of color. These employees are dedicated public servants who do more than process and deliver the nation’s mail. They serve as the eyes and ears of the nation’s communities and often respond first in situations involving health, safety and crime.

While there are many unknowns when it comes to privatization of the Postal Service, we know that if it is privatized in whole or in part, the decision to provide services will be based on whether a company can make a profit rather than what’s good for working people. Inevitably, privatization will lead to increased rates and diminished services for customers, especially in rural communities and potentially low-income urban areas.

Privatization of the Postal Service would jeopardize the booming e-commerce sector and cripple a major part of the nation’s critical infrastructure during a time where methods of communication are constantly changing, while mail, including letters, cards, periodicals, medicines, catalogs and packages, continues to be invaluable to individuals and businesses.

Recently, the White House Office of Management and Budget unveiled a plan for privatization of the Postal Service promoted by billionaire- and corporate-funded “think tanks” with powerful influence in the Trump administration and Congress. These corporate interests are not looking out for workers, communities or businesses who are currently well-served by the Postal Service as an independent establishment of the federal government.

As a member of “A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service,” the AFL-CIO will actively engage in the fight to save the Postal Service by mounting a serious defense to this threat and encouraging central labor councils and state federations to join with labor and community allies in concrete actions against privatization.

The AFL-CIO also will go on record unequivocally opposing the privatization of the Postal Service so it remains an independent establishment of the federal government.

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