NALC

What’s Going On With the CCAs?

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Today at PostalMag.com yet another story about late-night deliveries. This one in Chevy Chase, Maryland where residents are seeing their mail delivered at 10PM at night. “Tonight takes the cake,” wrote one resident.

City Carrier Assistants (CCAs) were supposed to alleviate these late night forays we were told. Yet, I’m hearing from many parts of the country that late night mail deliveries are continuing, in part, because the CCAs haven’t delivered as envisioned.

The CCAs have been a boom to NALC union dues, and I’ve heard the postal uniform companies are pleased as well now that certain allotment issues have been ironed out.

But the CCAs aren’t exactly working out as planned, as I’m hearing from all corners of the nation, and in my opinion it’s not the fault of the CCAs.

Let me tell you another tale from back in the day when I started delivering mail, back in 1990.

In 1990 I was fresh out of the Marine Corps – the Infantry to be exact, and a MEUSOC to be more exact. That stands for Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable. I’m being exact to make a point about fitness. This is the type of unit where you get up at 5:30 AM and run 3 miles most every weekday, unless you’re out in the field carrying even more weight or on an aircraft carrier running around in rectangles to make sure you don’t lose any conditioning.

So about halfway through my first day of training at the post office, I’m thinking we should be about done with the route, but like I said we still had halfway to go. Not that I was winded, but I quickly learned this job of delivering mail isn’t as easy as legend would have it to be.

Being back in the day, we were fortunate to have a 90 day probationary period. Partly because of my conditioning, and also because I scored 100 on the entrance test, I felt that I picked up carrying mail faster than some of the other carriers hired right around my time. During that 90 days, I had some good days and some really awful days on some routes where the addresses weren’t exactly logical. It took me 90 days just to get a feel for delivering mail and after about a year I finally felt comfortable in my job.

That’s right, a year, the expiration date for CCAs. CCAs have one year contracts with the USPS, and after that it’s anybody’s guess if the USPS will hire them again for another year.

Today’s CCAs don’t have 90 days. Due to already severe staffing shortages, many CCAs are thrown into the fire their very first days. Many CCAs have quit during their first couple of days in the field, due in part to the shock of 7-hour routes and in part to the shock of heavy-handed supervisors schooled in the dark side of the force.

Motivation is another factor for CCAs. CCAs know the score, despite the most upbeat messages from national NALC. They know that even if they stay and endure the long routes, their unfamiliar jobs, the full coverage mailings, the dogs, the nights, and the angry supervisors that all of their efforts may be for naught, as they will be sent packing on day 366. Sorry national NALC, but your local NALC union members are making sure the CCAs know the score.

My post office is typical of what I’m hearing about CCAs. One of our CCAs got caught tossing the ADVO Red Plums in the trash and was fired… wait for it… the second time he was caught. Another CCA we call grandpa and he will deliver the Red Plums only if he feels like it. Most all of our CCAs though are requiring assistance to even complete parts of their routes. I don’t think they were hired from a register that started at 100. At my post office, CCA stands for “Can’t Complete Assignment.”

I’m hearing the same from all corners of the country. Now I’m sure there are many CCAs out there who are wholly proficient and may be even carrying routes faster and more efficiently than the regulars. But by and large I’m hearing about CCA deficiencies, deficiencies substantial enough that supervisors are scheduling their regular carriers on overtime and leaving CCAs at home in some cases.

But in most cases, these deficiencies are not the fault of the CCAs. Motivation, for one, is a huge factor, and with potentially nothing to show for a year’s worth of work many CCAs are just going through the motions. Training of course is another huge factor. It takes about a year for a carrier to become truly proficient and learn their way around the many routes they will be servicing in their zone.

By and large, delivering mail is extremely hard work, physically and mentally demanding, with an almost year-long learning curve. That’s why at my station, and many others, the bulk of the work is accomplished by seasoned, professional, career postal veterans. Delivering mail is a lot harder than most people think and that key factor has been overlooked in this entire CCA development. In the end, the USPS should learn from these shortcomings and work towards developing a more professional and permanent auxiliary workforce.

One solution would be for the USPS to initiate a Green to Blue program that would transition American military veterans into postal jobs, but that’s another post.