The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Postal Service has released a report concerning its investigation into the amount of leave without pay (LWOP) given by the Postal Service to employees to help the union achieve its political objectives in the 2016 election.
Based on the report, the Postal Service absorbed the resulting overtime expenses. The agency did not appear to consider its operational needs as a result of giving a number of employees time off to help the union achieve its political objectives. The requests were granted without coordinating with operating agency officials.
In granting requests to approve about 2,776 days away from work to union officials to work on a union’s political activities, the Postal Service did not take into account the agency’s operational needs and did not coordinate the requests with operating officials.
Actions Leading to the Investigation
In 2016, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) focused on “get out the vote efforts” in the 2016 election. The LWOP requests were related to this effort. The NALC endorsed Hillary Clinton and a number of Democrats during the election. After the election, the NALC president stated:
Although yesterday’s election did not turn out as we had hoped, the American people have spoken.
Our endorsement of Hillary Clinton, and of so many other candidates who came up short at the polls, was always about their positions on workplace issues of importance to letter carriers and about their support for a vibrant U.S. Postal Service.
We congratulate President-Elect Donald Trump and pledge our determination to work with the new administration and the leaders of the newly elected Congress to strengthen our country and our Postal Service.
Had we prevailed in more races, we would have been in a better position to achieve sensible postal reform legislation and to protect the interests of active and retired members of the NALC. But now we face a lot of uncertainty. We intend to engage with the Trump administration and the new Congress to advance our issues while continuing to vigorously defend letter carriers’ jobs and standard of living as well as the benefits and interests of our retired members.
As part of the campaign, NALC requested, and the Postal Service granted, leave without pay (LWOP) from September to November 2016 for 97 carriers in 92 Postal Service facilities.
The NALC identified six battleground states as a priority for their work: Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In the past, the Postal Service has allowed its employees to participate in this NALC campaign effort.
Summary of the OIG Conclusions
The total amount of LWOP taken by these carriers was about 2,776 days. These carriers were located in 92 facilities. 78% of the facilities were located in six political battleground states where NALC endorsed specific candidates. About 2,264 of the 2,776 cumulative days (82%) were used in these six states.
Actions By the Postal Service
According to the OIG report, the Postal Service Labor Relations manager of policies and programs bypassed or ignored the agency’s LWOP policy. The LR manager sent email to all area labor relations managers, apparently to ensure releasing 97 carriers from their work duties and granting them LWOP to participate in the union’s political activity.
The emails requested immediate notification of any issues with granting the union’s LWOP requests. The emails were taken by agency officials as a directive to approve all of the LWOP requests.
The labor relations officials at the Postal Service Headquarters did not communicate about these requests with senior Operations personnel of the agency. While the Chief Human Resources Officer and Vice President of Labor Relations were aware of the releases, they did not communicate the requests to senior Operations personnel. The investigation concluded that similar requests had been routinely granted in previous years.
National Association of Letter Carriers officials provided to letter carriers emails and texts announcing their selection to participate in political activity for the union. The carriers used this information to support their request for LWOP to work on the union’s political objectives.
$90,682 in Overtime Costs to the Agency
As a result of the agency’s actions, at the 22 postal facilities reviewed by the OIG, the Postal Service had overtime costs of $90,682. These expenses were because of letter carriers taking extended LWOP.
There were cases in which the agency saved money as they used lower paid city carrier assistants to do the work of the letter carriers who were taking approved leave. But, according to the OIG, these lower paid city carrier assistants were not available to cover other overtime assignments at the 22 facilities reviewed by the investigators.
The investigation resulted in a recommendation that Postal Service management follow the Postal Service policy to considering operational needs before granting or denying LWOP for union activities. It also recommended any deviations be discussed with Postal Service Operations and Labor Relations personnel.
In addition, the lack of any coordination to coordinate employee’s participating in union activities needed to be fixed, according to the report.
Postal Service Response to Report
The Postal Service disagreed with the conclusion that the Postal Service incurred net overtime costs of $90,682 to do the work of union members taking LWOP to support the union’s political activities. The agency noted the figures was “potentially inaccurate and misleading.”
The Postal Service said the report did not adequately establish a connection between the overtime payments and the leave without pay that was given to the union officials. Also, it told the OIG that the report did not consider the broader interests of the Postal Service and any costs, which would presumably be incurred by not giving the union what it wanted, if it had denied the LWOP requests.