Solidarity Is The Antidote to a Toxic Workplace

Charlie Cash

May 21, 2024

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As the “Chief Spokesperson” for the 2024 contract negotiations, I have both a huge and humbling task. The outcome of negotiations, whether through a voluntary agreement or through a contract imposed upon us by an interest arbitration panel, will have a direct effect on 200,000 postal employees covered under the main agreement - and if we count our families, hundreds of thousands more. Rest assured that your APWU negotiators are up for the challenge.

As I have worked on these negotiations and thought about priorities, one thing that comes to mind is, how do we deal with the toxic work environment that postal employees of every craft face each day? I will not attempt to convince you that I know all the answers. I do know this is not a simple subject. Can we fi le grievances regarding the issue? Yes. But will grievances fi x the problem? They might in the short term in a single facility, but many of these grievances go in the queue for arbitration scheduling. In the meantime, the toxic situation still exists. We have negotiated memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for setting up task forces and committees to attempt to address the issue at the national level. Unfortunately, what I have found is that management, at the highest levels, does not want to address the toxic work environment.

It is my opinion that toxic work environments are a systemic problem within the Postal Service. This has been a problem for decades. The term “Going Postal” is offensive, but was born from Postal Service leadership’s acceptance—if not encouragement—of abusive and toxic leadership styles. Grievances alone will not fi x the problem or force management to deal with the abusers. The leadership must want to change it. We, as union members, must organize to put pressure on management at all levels to want to change the toxic environment. We can do this by utilizing internal worker action, public campaigns, congressional pressure, and public exposure of the abusers, to not only demand change but to make management want to change.

But what is going to make them want to change? One thing I believe they are starting to see is that people do not want to come to work in these toxic and abusive environments. I believe they know that they need to improve the environment in order to make people want to come to work. Another thing that will help is being united and supporting one another on the workroom floor.

What does this mean? To me it means we cannot say “it’s not my problem,” nor can we turn a blind eye when our coworkers are being abused. Everyone has the right to get involved and tell the abusers to stop. Everyone has the right to write a statement about what they saw. I have been told before, “Well, they are a bad worker so that is why management treats them that way. They will never treat me that way.” Guess what? More than likely, your day will come when the abuse is aimed at you. Whether it’s because you had a health issue or just got slower with age, one thing about the Postal Service is that the abusers are equal opportunity abusers. Wouldn’t you want someone to stand next to you and be your witness when you are abused?

If the Postal Service sees employees united against abuse and toxicity, it might be the catalyst that makes them want to change. Standing together makes our grievances – and other efforts – better, and shows the Postal Service that we are serious. I am not saying this is the only solution—but it is an easy step to take in this battle. I end every article with the word Solidarity! This is one way we can practice it. ■

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