Fighting Back Against Hostile Work Environments

Vance Zimmerman

June 3, 2019

(This article first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

“A workplace free of harassment is beneficial to everyone. The environment in the postal workplace, however, can be difficult if not miserable.” These are first two sentences of an issue statement that we submitted to the Postal Service during contract negotiations, but they may actually understate what many of the members of the APWU face in the postal workplace.

The USPS states the following in its Postal Service Policy on Workplace Harassment:

The Postal Service workplace must be one in which all employees are treated with dignity and respect by supervisors, subordinates, and coworkers. Supervisors and managers will take prompt action to prevent, address, and remedy workplace conduct that is contrary to this policy.

However, we know from our own experiences, and through many reports from the field, that your supervisors’ and managers’ behavior can be aggressive, abusive and in complete disregard of their own policy. The data shows that hostile work environments like these are widespread throughout the country.

The APWU demanded the USPS address this hostile work environment, and we engaged the USPS in discussions and attempts to come up with solutions. It is well-established in all sectors that where supervisors and managers create tense, miserable and difficult work environments, there is lower worker morale, high absenteeism and high grievance activity. As we head into interest arbitration, we still have active proposals on the table to address the work environment. It is a problem that the Postal Service must face, and we won’t back down. While management chooses not to act, your union is going to take steps to come up with meaningful solutions.

Forming a Committee to Combat Harassment

In the very near future, a select committee of ten local officers from around the country will convene to work on this issue. They will come up with ideas and plans that can be used in the field to identify the issues, specific supervisors/managers, and workplaces that need to be addressed.

The committee will use its knowledge of workroom floor conditions to develop this program. You can also expectthat the committee will reach out to members and locals to get your input and stories, as well as locate problem areas. Your participation is vital to the development and success of the program.

You have a right to a safe workplace, free from intimidation, bullying and abusive, aggressive and authoritarian behavior. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. These should not just be words that you hear in a stand-up talk or read on a bulletin board. Treating employees with dignity and respect is the Postal Service’s own written policy that the union will enforce.

The Postal Service seems to believe that the solution to workplace harassment is moving their “problem” supervisors and managers to new offices, districts or cities. This doesn’t fix the problem – it only allows them to continue their reign of abuse in a new office with different employees.

With your input and help, this new committee will be the first step in addressing the miserable work environments that exist throughout the Postal Service. A harassment and hostility-free workplace is your right. As we stand united and work together, every postal worker will get the workplace that we deserve.