Thursday, May 16, 2013

How the New NALC - USPS Contract Affects Your Postal Uniform Allowance

As the “Most Trusted Government Agency” for the last seven years, the USPS feels very strongly about its brand and how the American public views its employees. One of the most important aspects of the USPS brand is the uniformed employee. Who else do we open our doors for or welcome onto our yards as we do  the mailman? Since 1868, when the Congress passed legislation authorizing uniforms for letter carriers, the US public has put its trust in the uniformed carrier.

The uniform allowance is a negotiated benefit, and the amount of uniform allowance is negotiated along with the pay and other benefits between the NALC and the USPS. The most recent contract negotiations concluded this past January 2013 and brought about some changes to the uniform program and postal uniform allowance. 

In the Board of Arbitration’s written decision, the emphasis on “uniformed” letter carriers is apparent. There are many mentions of “uniformed city letter carriers” as opposed to just calling them “city letter carriers”, thus further cementing the importance of postal uniforms as a part of the brand of the USPS. “Secure and trustworthy delivery is the Postal Service’s signature brand and it is, in the opinion of the Board, reasonable for the Postal Service as an institution to utilize its uniformed delivery workforce to provide the city delivery service” (page 11). The board felt the importance of uniforms to be so great that they not only provided postal uniform allowance raises and the continuation of the uniform program per se for career employees, but also provided a uniform allowance for the new non-career delivery workforce, the City Carrier Assistants (CCA).

Let’s begin with the career City Letter Carriers. Prior to this contract, these employees were receiving $371 to purchase their uniforms  from 2011-2013. This amount was determined under the last contract negotiated back in 2006, with the allowance increasing from $328 up to the current $371. Under the new contract, the allowance for those whose uniform anniversary dates were on or after November 21, 2012, was increased to $390, with an additional 2.5% increase yearly through the contract. So on 11/21/13, for those eligible, the increase will go to $399, and on 11/21/14, for those eligible, the increase will make the new amount $409, and on 11/21/15, for those entitled, the new allowance amount will be $420. There were also commensurate raises for “new hire” career city carriers as well. So what does this mean to you?

If you have already spent your $371, but your last uniform allowance anniversary was on or after November 21 of last year, you should have another $19 added to your allowance to spend. The USPS just started to add these increases as of Monday May 6th. They are not all being added at one time, and it appears some employees are getting them as of this date while most others have not yet received them. Here at Postal Uniform Discounters, we are trying to figure out a pattern; is the USPS adding it first to the employees with older anniversary dates, are they doing it by region of the country, are they doing it alphabetically? We haven’t been able to figure out the methodology yet, so just keep checking your allowance to see if your increase has been added by calling the card issuer, Citibank, at 1-800-287-5003. But if your anniversary was on or after 11/21/12, you are entitled to $390, so if you have already spent part or all or your $371 allowance you should be receiving the additional increase shortly. If that money has not been added and you would now like to spend it, call USPS Human Resources and ask them about the increase, and if you run into a dead end with the USPS, this might be an issue you want to discuss with your NALC representative. And if you have not spent any of your allowance yet, you should have $390 to spend now. Many uniform companies will fill your order for $390 if you are eligible for the raise, even if the USPS has not yet added the $19 increase. The uniform companies will ship the order, get the $371 allowance that is currently on your account with Citibank, and then go back and get the extra $19 when the USPS eventually adds it to your account. Just ask your uniform vendor if they will do this for you.

As mentioned before, the Board of Arbitration felt so strongly about the USPS having its employees in uniform that they stipulated in the contract for the new classification of non career employees, the City Carrier Assistant (CCA), to receive an allowance equal to the career city letter carriers. Previously non career contract carriers received no allowance, and would sometimes be issued a USPS cap or a t-shirt. We have heard a lot of complaints about poorly or sloppily dressed “mailman” delivering mail. This was not a good way to continue the trust that the American public has had with our letter carriers, and I believe that the Board recognized this when stipulating, along with the elimination of these contract carriers, that their replacements have a full uniform allowance. Also, for the past several years, the USPS has been utilizing Transitional Employees (TE’s) in place of city carriers. Some were in uniform while others were not. The reason for this is that the USPS allowed the decision of whether to put these employees in uniforms or not was left to the station manager or local postmaster. As one of the few companies willing to deal with the paperwork and cumbersome system of getting paid by the USPS for issuing the uniforms, we at Postal Uniform Discounters found that some areas were offering the allowance while other areas, including whole states such as Minnesota, were not offering these employees any allowance at all.  So what will you receive for a postal uniform allowance if you are a CCA?

Under this contract, “the CCA will be provided with an annual uniform allowance equal to the amount provided to career employees” (page 17). “When the CCA has completed ninety (90) work days, or has been employed for 120 calendar days, whichever comes first”, the allowance will be provided. Additionally, “time served as a Transitional Employee will count toward the 90/120 day requirement” (page 17). In other words, CCA’s are to receive $390 for 2012-2013, with postal uniform allowance raises that match the career employee’s raises in succeeding years. If, after their first year of working for the USPS, the CCA is not rehired for a second year appointment, these employees are supposed to return their uniforms to the USPS for disposal. The date in the contract when the postal uniform allowance for CCA’s was supposed to take effect was April 15, 2013, but implementation has not yet happened. According to our USPS and NALC contacts, the discussion continues as to how this allowance will be issued. The USPS has been adamant, we are told, that the CCA’s will not be issued the allowance Citibank Purchase card that the career employees have to use to buy their uniforms. Supposedly, the cost involved with Citibank issuing and maintaining the cards is too high for the USPS to entertain. So talk continues about a voucher program. We are hearing that the “how’s, why’s, what’s, and when’s” are still being worked out. One of the stumbling blocks, we are told, is that the USPS wants a system in place to insure that if a CCA recently received a postal uniform allowance as a TE that the amount is deducted from their first CCA allowance. We are hoping that these issues are resolved soon, so that these employees can start to purchase their postal uniforms and, more important for the USPS, be in uniform while out on the street delivering mail.

So, in short, the good news is that there is still a uniform program where the employee has the choice of what to buy and from what company, there are raises in the amounts of the allowance retroactive to 2012, and the USPS will continue to put their delivering-employees in uniform. The bad news is that you might not yet have received the $19 increase to which you are entitled, and that, if you are a CCA, you have still not been provided with your negotiated benefit of a postal uniform allowance. As the situation is changing daily, feel free to call us at 1-800-733-1243 or check out our Postal Uniform Discounters website for the latest updates. We will do our best to update you with current information.

Michele Ward
The Uniform Girl

5 comments:

  1. The problem here with uniform allowance is not the cost, it is the clothes. I have been a city letter carrier since 2000. What I have a major problem is the quality of the clothes offered at an outrageous cost. Shoes, for instance. There isn't one pair of shoes I have ever had that didn't develop defects within two months time. most shoes cost around $100 & I feel there are more comfortable & more durable shoes out there at a considerable reduction than what the vendors charge. Raincoats. The last one I got was a $245 one which, frankly, I think I would've been just as dry wearing a newspaper. This desrepancy is a total ripoff to the letter carrier. More & more clothes have the 'pride in America' label on them, yet ,lo & behold, check out the other countries they are made in. I'm sure a lot of carriers would agree with me. With the huge amount of money offered to each letter carrier, we should have the decency to supplement what we should wear, particularly walking route carriers, at other vendors.

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  2. Hi:
    I hear you. Let me address as best as I can:
    The shoes are very expensive as they must be made in the US and be 100% leather, and there are hardly any shoe factories left in the US. We always "push" the Thorogood brand. Most of their styles have an unconditional 30 day comfort guarantee and a one year sole guarantee, plus they are the only union made postal shoe. We also do very well with the New Balance shoe. With the extra widths that they offer and the fact that they are very lightweight make this an attractive shoe for most (and our top seller). We get very few back for defects. There has been discussions on allowing footwear that is not 100% leather - this would result in lighter and cooler shoes for your feet; but the idea seemed to die on the vine with the USPS. We will bring it up at our next meeting with the USPS uniform people.
    The rainwear is expensive, but we have had some great success with few returns on many of the items. I always suggest the long raincoat for $87.99 or the waterproof/breathable neesetex jacket (parka) for $152.99.
    A lot of the items are spec'd that they must be made in the US, which makes them more expensive than most clothes, which are made in China or Pakistan or Bangladesh, etc. But we have found that most of these uniform items last a really long time. I'm sorry to hear you have had such problems with your post office uniforms.

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  3. Replies
    1. Uniform Girl,the problem with all of this is that USPS is not wanting to give us the allowance the regular carriers get in their first year, which is an extra $90 that FIRST year for NEW HIRES, totaling an amount of a $480 allotment, which allows us to acquire rain gear and the like.
      When you read section 2.A, section 2.B below it refers directly back to 2.A. Section 2.B states the bonus $90 is for all new employees eligible for reimbursements.

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    2. Hi 123:
      To our understanding you are correct in that CCA's are only getting $390, not $480. Have you seen the thread we have been participating in on the Federal Soup website (http://www3.federalsoup.federaldaily.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=51325&PN=16&title=cca-uniforms)? There has been a lot of back and forth, but the USPS Uniform Coordinator has confirmed that the amount for the CCA's will be $390. Why new hire CCA's with no uniforms only get $390, but new hire city carriers get $480, we couldn't say but that appears to be the case. I am wondering that if after a year, and you are offered a full time career position, will they then give you the new hire city carrier allowance or treat you like a returning carrier? That will be an interesting discussion!

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