How We Stop the Harassment

Arrion Brown

May 24, 2023

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Greetings APWU family, I hope this article finds you well. While the Support Services Division has plenty of important contract negotiations to engage in this year, I would like to take this opportunity to address an issue that is very personal to me: workplace toxicity.

At the end of April, the APWU undertook a massive Workers Memorial Day action to address short staffing issues and workplace toxicity. We encouraged our members to speak up together to attain the dignity and respect that we deserve. We sent surveys to our members to get feedback on how you felt about your workplaces. We asked locals to hold rallies and press conferences to show the public how toxicity and short staffing can impact mail delivery. These events have hopefully shown management that the APWU has had enough of them ignoring the toxicity complaints from our members.

The cause is personal to me because, for seven years of my postal career, the maintenance crew I worked on at USPS Headquarters endured working under the direct supervision of an abrasive, belligerent, wannabe bully supervisor. This individual was always in a bad mood, had absolutely no people skills, was aggressively confrontational, and easily agitated. To give a specific example of how toxic this supervisor was, the individual once angrily challenged a coworker to “meet him outside after work.” A remark clearly out of line for a supervisor to make to an employee and for any postal employee to make to another.

We did not accept the supervisor’s behavior. We addressed the supervisor individually; we asked for help from the manager next in the chain of command, and we collectively organized a meeting with the head manager of the department to address the supervisor’s behavior. None of those actions resulted in change.

One instance where we did not exhaust our capabilities to correct the problem of workplace toxicity was that we did not involve the union. We did not fi le a grievance under Safety and Health article of our contract or engage in any other collective actions to address the supervisor’s behavior. We wrongfully trusted management to fi x the problem, which they did not do.

The APWU Workers Memorial Day of Action was an example of what can be done to address toxic work environments. We can utilize the language in our collective bargaining agreements that promote safety and health to make grievance arguments that a toxic work environment is neither safe nor healthy. We can also utilize the handbooks and manuals article to refer to postal policies about Zero Tolerance and workplace harassment. Beyond the grievance process, we can take our actions to the public, through rallies and press conferences, to show how a toxic work environment impacts the Postal Service’s mission. We have the tools at our disposal to stop all harassment.

Efforts to improve the workplace environment undoubtedly begin with the collective actions of the rank-and-file membership directly impacted by the toxicity. Statements about harassment written by bargaining employees for grievances are critical to the evidence building phase that proves workplace harassment. All actions that our members take to stop this treatment will be supported by your APWU leaders. We just need the workers to take that first step so that together we can stop the harassment.

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