They’re Not Always Alt-Right

, , , , , , | Working | July 25, 2018

(I became a manager in the post office back in the early 1980s, and quickly gained a reputation with the union workers. One of the more memorable incidents that forged it came with a dispute between two women. One is tasked with loading the mailbags into the trucks. The other drives the loaded trucks and delivers the mail. The problem is simple: the loader consistently fails to load the mailbags when she is working with the driver. I call them both into my office to settle this, but only after doing a little of my own diligence. In this case, that means going over their history. Turns out both women are still on their 90 days; basically, the contract signed by both USPS and the union states that within the first 90 days of an employee’s term, management can let them go for any reason — downsizing, too many sick days, bad chemistry with the team, arrest, anything. The meeting goes as follows:)

Me: “So, [Loader], [Driver] tells me you’re not loading mail into her truck.”

Loader: “That’s right.”

Me: “Y-You don’t deny it?”

Loader: “No, I’m not loading mail for her. She can load her own mail! I don’t load mail for a [racial slur]!”

(The driver and I just sit there with our mouths agape for a moment. Thankfully, I gather myself together first.)

Me: “Pack up your stuff and get out. Don’t bother finishing up today. And don’t come back tomorrow, or ever again. Your racism just cost you your job.”

(Their reactions to my words make me thankful for two reasons. First, [Loader]’s look of pure shock and rage is amazing, but doesn’t extend beyond that; she packs up without a scene. Second, [Driver] doesn’t revel in it. Not then, not ever. I assume this is going to be the end of it, but then the next day rolls around. Just after I get in, [Loader] came into my office on the heels of a man. I happen to recognize this man as a union rep.)

Rep: “[My Name]?”

Me: “Yes. How can I help you?”

Rep: *pointing to [Loader]* “Is it true you fired [Loader] yesterday because of what she said about [Driver]?”

Me: “Yes.”

Rep: “You can’t do that. The union’s contract says you can’t fire her for what she said. She has to get her job back right now, or…”

Me: “No.”

Rep: “What?”

Me: “She’s not getting her job back.”

Rep: “The contract says…”

Me: “The contract also says, in black and white, that we can release any employee for any reason within the first 90 days of employment. She was still on her 90 days. I can fire her for whatever reason I want.”

Rep: “No, you can’t!”

Me: “Of course I can. ‘ANY! REASON!’ If you’ve got a problem, go over my head! Now get out of my office before I throw you out!”

(Both of them left, with the rep cursing every other word. Nothing ever came of their threats, so I assume either the union finally realized she had also confessed to allowing her bigotry to take priority over doing her job, or my superiors laughed them out of the building. Regardless, I noticed I got a lot more respect from my employees — including the union workers — after the rep walked out.)

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