Category: Articles

Memories of a Friend

Over the course of our ten year professional association, I was fortunate to know the real Andy Sozzi. There was his NAPS person and so much more as a human being.

We shared many things in common and it began with our sports teams, we both loved The Mets and The Jets. The Mets were a mystery to me for this Bronx aka Yankee resident but then I knew Andy had good taste. We were both animal lovers and all of our trips consisted of a stop at a nearby Petco or Petsmart. We would bring home toys for our furry friends. Andy would always look to adopt another cat.

Our travel schedules were arduous and overlapping at times and we believed in attending new Catholic churches in each new city. The first time worship would entitle us to one wish and it was always Good health, luck, safe travel and please help our Mets. Naturally we both loved Italian cooking and fine wines from all over the world, for it was Andy who was a true wine connoisseur.

NAPS business put us in the classic good cop, bad cop roles with Andy of course always playing the good cop. I nicknamed him Mr. Spock because he always had the logical answer which would defuse a potentially hostile situation which as the bad cop I may have initiated. His classic line was ” What Tommy really meant to say” was a signal it was time to back off and calm down a situation.

The memorial service hosted by NAPS and Branch 100 created a flood of memories as I waited my turn to speak and try to summarize my partners life in 5 minutes. We both started in the USPS as Letter carriers, became front line supervisors at almost the same time. We were both Presidents of our beloved Columbia association and local NAPS Branches.. Both of us retained our mutual respect for each other during all of our NAPS adventures. NEVER a single disagreement.

STAY STRONG is the motto that Andy left us, try to live his words. Rest in Peace my Friend.

Tommy.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES FRANK SPATOLA

I first met Frank Spatola in 1968 when he was a Shop Steward for the N.A.L.C. in HOMECREST STATION..I WAS A SUBSTITUTE CARRIER from Blythebourne station who was loaned out for the week to Homecrest. To cover vacation vacancies. At first I was intimidated by the presence of this man who everyone at Homecrest respected. I wondered at that time why he was not part of Management because nothing happened at Homecrest unless Frank was involved. Even the overtime desired list was handled by this man. After working at Homecrest for a few days Frank approached me and said ,KID, I like the way you move mail, do you want to transfer to Homecrest. I thanked him for the kind words but stated, it was much easier for me to commute to my home station because I did not have a car. He said ‘If you ever need help for anything call me at Homecrest.

I ran into him on the picket line the N.A.L.C. formed at the G.P.O. in Brooklyn during the Postal work stoppage in 1970. Frank was leading the workers INCLUDING ME across the Brooklyn Bridge to meet up with our N.Y. Postal Brothers and sisters in SOLIDARITY. The USPS and Police Department considered this illegal and detained Frank and others as ring leaders. They all were later exonerated of any wrong doing and the rest was history. The U.S.Postal service was born and my friend Spats had a lot to do with it. Frank went on to management a job he was born for. I met up with him again when he was on the route examination team testing routes in Blythebourne station. He advised me that being a carrier was a good honest job but being a supervisor meant more in retirement benefits. He kept after me to join Management and I FINALLY MADE IT IN 1976. My first assignment was a supervisor in mail processing on tour 1 at the Brooklyn G.P.O. The first one to congratulate me was Frank. He was now an Area Mgr and asked me to transfer back to the stations. My first assignment was Williamsburg station and guess who was my Area Mgr.? After a tour in Customer services I returned to supervision in Kensington Station. My friend Frank treated me like his son and guided my career all the way up to Manager of Ryder Station, a position I STILL HOLD TODAY. He then advised me to get active in Naps and helped get me elected New York Area V.P. NAPS in Alaska in 2000. Even in retirement he would call me and say T, whats happening in D.C. always interested in the Postal Service and its survival.

Frank was a powerful force with Postal legislation and was instrumental in getting the Postal reorginazation act enacted by changing the mind of Senator Jacob Javitts N.Y. to vote for the act instead of against it. That was no easy task. He held the deciding vote.

The Hatch Act HR20 would never have come to fruition if not for Frank Spatola. Then Senator Al D’Amato threw both Frank and myself out of his office because we asked him to Support HR20 when he opposed it. Frank made him an offer he could not refuse

And 2 weeks later the Senators office advised us that he would back the bill if the I.R.S.

And F.B.I. were exluded from it. The rest is history.

I could go on an on about all the things my friend and mentor accomplished for the Postal Service, NAPS, N.A.L.C. and Narfe but I WOULD NEED TO WRITE A BOOK. Everything I KNOW ABOUT THE Postal service and NAPS I owe to my friend Frank. While he was a father figure to me I could always go to him for advice about anything.

As his health was failing he asked me for one more thing, help keep NAPS the respected organization it always was under Don, Ruben, and Vinny. Make me proud of you and remember I Love you like a son Tommy. Right back at you Frank, Rest in Peace.

Christmas Movies

Two movies which always get a tremendous amount of airtime and reaction are: It’s A Wonderful Life”, and “Miracle on 34th Street”.

First, It’s a wonderful life Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey the head of the household always trying to do the right thing. From childhood on George is there helping people i.e. Mr. Gower and the drug store. Frank Capra, the director of this classic paints the central theme of this movie that the actions of one man affects the life of so many other people. I think of all the NAPS members and Postal employees who as a single individual can and will do so much action that they help the entire body. Be it a donation to SPAC, a letter to a politician or using the great internet communicator capwhiz on the Naps web page. each person is their own George Bailey helping individually for the greater good of all. My specific thoughts go to Vince Palladino who was our George Bailey, Yes, just like George he made a difference by himself and you can too. Don’t be disheartened keep up the good fight and we will win!

“Miracle on 34th Street” has a different theme but its relevancy to the Post Office Department is even more pronounced. Think of Jack Albertson (Chico and the Man) as a Postal Clerk working the old time culling tables. He is perplexed he has all these letters to Santa Claus and does not know where to send them. Just at this time Edmund Gween (Santa) is on trial for being Santa Claus. Well the ending remains timeless as Sack after Sack of Santa Claus letters are delivered to the court and the Judge rules that Gween must be Santa Claus as the Post Office an agency of the Federal Government recognized that this man must be Santa as the mail is delivered to him. In real life for many years, Andy Sozzi played the Post Office Santa at GPO/JAF. Art does indeed imitate life and this was always a special project, held close to Andy’s heart.

So to all the George Baileys and Santa Claus’ in NAPS , YES your work does make a difference!

Stay Strong

Tommy Roma

Use Mail

When was the last time you put a stamp on an envelope to pay a bill or just to communicate with someone else? As a postal worker this is your lifeline to a successful career. Think about it, if we in the Postal service alone used the mails instead of the computer we would be in much better shape today.

I fault the Postal Unions, Management Associations and the USPS also for not using the mails when communicating. Recently I was speaking to an NALC official who was requesting some information from me about a Letter Carrier. He said Tommy just fax it to me, I informed him that I was putting the information in the mail. We are our own worst enemies. Another incident was when some Management official in the Postal Service decided to give our in house Fax numbers to private law firms requesting information. They were faxing all their requests for information instead of using the mails. I solved that at my station by calling the law firm, instructing them to use the mails for their requests and to address all inquires to me. I would not honor any fax requests for information. Case closed. A few years ago a local management association president sent out a private email to anyone who would listen to stop the Postal Service from introducing a bill to tax users of the computer who send emails rather then sending letters through the mail. Just think about that for a minute, if enacted it would subsidize the postal service for loss of revenue, ensure that our jobs were safe, etc. To the best of my knowledge this bill was never enacted but like I said we are our own worst enemies When customer service reps from private industry try to get me to sign up for bill pay online, I notify them that I work for the USPS and will put a stamp on all my mailings .They immediately back off.

It is Labor Day 2011 as I write this article and difficult to see what the future holds for USPS and its employees. My thoughts run the gamut of over 40 plus Labor Days with this company be it as a carrier, supervisor or manager. Tomorrow was always the start of the Fall Mailing List and we knew we would get hit hard with mail. This year September 6th is significant for another reason, Senator Lieberman Chair of the Senate Government Affairs will hold a full emergency hearing on the Post Office. Let us hope that by the time (November) you are reading this, our beloved Post Office Ship has been righted and we are sailing full speed ahead (Navy Man).

A web site of interest is Savethepostoffice.com. Great timely articles of interest, plus a Legislative Action Page called “Send The Love”. Our own New Naps Web Page is another great resource. Please become familiar with Legislative tab and utilize same to contact your Representatives. You can still write your reps using the mail, remember the time lapse due to the radiation of hard copy. So do both!

Spac has never been more important so my Yogi Berra story is still available for anyone especially Yankee fans who make a donation to Spac. If all our members donated just $10.00 we would have another $300,000. Think about it. Money always talks in the world of Politics so please donate today.

It seems like only yesterday that my late partner and friend Andy Sozzi re-enacted some memories of 9-11 on stage in D.C. We will observe the 10th anniversary of that dreadful day this coming week. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.

Stressed out? Seek professional health care, EAP is still an excellent resource for referrals.

Stay Strong

ACCOUNTABILITY

This is one of my “mad as hell” articles so please excuse the emotion, As a station manager we are told practically daily and sometimes hourly we are responsible and ACCOUNTABLE (key word) for everything that goes on in our station. In the plant, every piece must go every day or else is frequently heard and of course YOU will be held ACCOUNTABLE. A carrier comes back four minutes late and is put in a V time situation and you ARE held ACCOUNTABLE with a LOW, usually in this new post office a notice of removal. I wish upper management would treat us the same as the craft, progressive and corrective discipline, NOT the off with their head mentality which is so prevalent today and generally goes nowhere and just wastes valuable Postal resources, ie time and money as we do the mediation, EEO, M.S.P.B. dance. Anyway, ACCOUNTABILITY, when someone at the District/Area Level allows the casual cap to be exceeded and the Union wins a giant class action settlement in the millions of dollars, Is anyone held ACCOUNTABLE? An active duty military reservist in a LWOP status is removed and it is overturned on appeal, is anyone held ACCOUNTABLE for the million dollar back pay and benefits settlement?

I know someone is thinking right now, arbitration is “A crap shoot”. My question is simply, “Are our feet held to the fire for minor infractions that may cost the service hundreds of dollars for action WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER?” Poor decisions that are excused as “It’s a Crap shoot” are just routinely ignored.

We are all in this USPS situation together. Discipline for the sake of vengeance, PYOA or the naive, will enhance their performance is idiotic. Let us all work together for a better Post Office as we continue to transition into a leaner USPS.

BTW, (By the way) Did you hear the new expression for leaving mail back (and of course not reporting it) “mail does not bleed”.

Folks, we continue to meet the enemy and it is us! Remember, There is no justification for falsification, DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED!

Tommy Roma NYAVP

HERE WE GO AGAIN

For years I have held the feeling that a majority of postal employees don’t appreciate their jobs until something happens that might work to take their job away from them. In cases of discipline, NAPS does our level best to represent you. In the restructurings we have faced, NAPS has again done yeoman work to protect our members.

Because of overstaffing in supervisory positions in the New York Metro area (by postal evaluations), NAPS has been able to get the USPS to offer incentives for supervisors in both delivery and plant operations. Even with the incentives, we are hearing that members can’t afford to leave for financial reasons; kids in college, mortgages and car payments, and such.

So, what happens next here in my region? I hope that our members who are in harms way are ready to move to vacant positions that do exist, even in instances where they may have to move outside of their local commuting area. NAPS will continue our efforts to minimize the impact of change on our members, but the fact is; some of our members will be forced to make a difficult decision, keep a job, move their families or end their careers with the USPS.

I believe that there will always be a Postal Service. But, it most likely won’t look anything like it did five years ago, or even how it looked yesterday. With FSS coming on line and First Class volume continuing to evaporate, we will have to rely on package services and new products and services to increase revenue.

What is now happening is something I never could have dreamed of in all my years of work for the Postal Service. If it weren’t for NAPS, things could even be worse than they are.

Stay Strong!

Tommy Roma
N.E. Regional V.P.
NAPS

A Broken Record

A cliche from my youth was, “You sound like a broken record”. Meaning; you repeat yourself, over and over again. So, I look at the Naps Forum and see the same old problems.

1. You CANNOT be made to use your POV. You are putting yourself into extreme jeopardy unless you have advised your insurance company you are doing street/safety observations i.e. using your car for commercial use and be prepared to pay the increase in your premium. I know you will not be a favorite anymore but does it really matter in the midst of this downsizing? You are not going to get promoted, forget about it.

Stand up for yourself. Have your spouse drive you to work and the car will not be there for you to be a nice guy. In the words of Leo Durocher of Baseball Fame, “Nice Guys Finish Last” or in this case ‘No auto insurance”.

2. DOIS-Time manipulation: Want to get put up for removal, this is the express train to Labor. Better to be written up for failure to perform than falsification charges. Charlie Scialla has repeatedly stated that “MSPB judges take a dim view of these types of allegations”. Think about this scenario, the carrier who you hit out at 1600 hours but is still working gets into an auto accident and is seriously injured or even killed. How are you going to explain he was off the clock and still delivering mail? If you cannot make a return to the office goal, document the reasons why. Print and keep all the threatening e-mails, send same up the ladder plus to your Naps officers.

3. Unprofessional conduct: Screaming, telling, threatening behavior is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Either by you to your employees or by your upper management down to you. Cursing peppered with threats must cease. If you cannot reach detente with the person, move it up to the next level. You do not have to tolerate this type of behavior, we are all under stress. Irrational behavior does not help the situation and in most cases makes it worst. Stay calm and tell the offender that you do not appreciate the tone, content or language that they are using.

Please feel free to e-mail me if you need help, We are all in this together.

Tommy Roma

troma927@cs.com

Tough Love

Tough Love

I call this problem the “Postal/NAPS Paradox.” The vast majority of NAPS members and officers have dealt with it since the beginning of our association more than a century ago. I’m talking about dealing with the poor-performing supervisor in the workplace without compromising your integrity.

You are a station manager and the local branch president. You know the reality of the situation: Your supervisor constantly fails to perform his duties and, even worse, lies to you. Work that you have assumed was completed, e.g., street supervision, route inspection and driver observations, simply wasn’t done. Even worse, you have advised your area manager, “Don’t worry, I took care of it!”

This starts a chain of events that is so predictable it is pathetic. The station manager is called on the carpet by either or both the area manager and postmaster and given the famous “Shape up or ship out” talk (remember, I was in the U.S. Navy). It’s easy to blame your subordinate and throw him or her under the bus. But here is the paradox: The station manager/NAPS president now must write up the supervisor to get off the hook.

What is one to do? Write up the person you are going to represent?

The key is to prevent this situation from ever happening. And, yes, that’s easier said than done! Just as with any employee, communication remains the key. Is there a reason for the poor performance? Personal problems impacting the job? Get EAP involved. Lack of knowledge? Get PEDC involved.

Most people want to excel in their positions; no one starts off the day with the thought of doing a bad job. We need to learn the reason why something is happening. An oil change is always cheaper than a complete engine replacement.

The old days, which were only two or three years ago, allowed you to move the weak employee around and, eventually, to an easy station where he or she could hide. Well, there are no easy stations/tours for anyone to get lost in anymore. The underachiever will drain you, the operation and the branch, eventually taking down other people in the unit.

Do everything you can, both as a manager and a NAPS officer, to help the supervisor before a situation reaches the point of discipline. You cannot serve two masters!

Tommy Roma – TROMA927@cs.com

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