OSC Report Exposes Illegal Use of USPS Employees

Posted by Olivia Grady on Thursday, July 20th, 2017 at 12:19 pm - Permalink

By Olivia Grady

On July 19, 2017, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released a U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) Report titled “Report of Hatch Act Investigation: Facilitating Labor Union’s Political Activity Through Use of ‘Union Official’ Leave Without Pay.”

The report was the product of an investigation that Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin started when he submitted a complaint, alleging possible Hatch Act violations, after a constituent and U.S. Postal Service employee contacted him.

The Hatch Act prohibits employees from engaging in politics while on duty or in the federal workplace. The Hatch Act is designed so that employees are rewarded for their work, rather than their political activity. In addition, federal employees are required to fulfill their job responsibilities without bias or appearance of bias.

The Act’s purpose, therefore, is to make sure federal programs are:

“administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation,” 

The report states that the constituent believed that the Postal Service (USPS) improperly coordinated with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), the postal workers’ union. NALC represents about 215,000 city carriers employed by USPS. The contract between the USPS and NALC allows employees to take off work without pay to perform union business.

Union business means: 1. Leave for union employment or a job with NALC; 2. Leave for union conventions; and 3. Leave for other union activities, i.e. legislative rallies and training seminars. The third is defined broadly. Except for conventions, management is required to agree to the leave, but most accept the leave in order to avoid unfair labor practice charges.

According to the report, the Postal Service allowed 97 NALC members several weeks of “union official” leave without pay to help elect Hillary Clinton as U.S. President through AFL-CIO’s Labor 2016 program. The help provided by the members included door knocking, phone banking and other get out the vote efforts, especially in Wisconsin and Philadelphia. These members were paid by the union’s political action committee. The employee also noted the unnecessary overtime costs.

The investigation into the USPS revealed that NALC had provided a list of members to the Postal Service who the union wanted to participate in its election efforts. Mid-level USPS managers told local supervisors to let the members on the list participate.

However, the investigation did not show that the Postal Service helped the union come up with the list of members or help Hillary Clinton’s election. In addition, this practice was started many election cycles ago with no complaints until 2016.

Despite this, the report concludes that USPS management did violate the Hatch Act by helping NALC’s political activity through releasing its employees. OSC recommends a correction within the agency, not the discipline of individuals because the employees helped the Clinton campaign on their own time. In addition, this use of official time has occurred for many years, and the USPS managers weren’t trying to help Clinton. They were trying to facilitate good relations with the union. OSC recommends that political activity be excluded from union official time.