Dismount order reversed

Gilroy
– Postmaster Penny Yates has ordered her letter carriers to get
out of their vehicles and deliver mail to curbside boxes that are
temporarily blocked by parked cars or trash receptacles.
Gilroy – Postmaster Penny Yates has ordered her letter carriers to get out of their vehicles and deliver mail to curbside boxes that are temporarily blocked by parked cars or trash receptacles.

“I said ‘guys, we made the newspaper,'” she said of her conversation with her staff. “‘You should be making safe dismount deliveries.’ As long as we can walk up to the box, they should follow safety procedures and ensure delivery.”

Yates called a May 28 Dispatch story highlighting the difficulties some Gilroy residents have receiving their mail a “negative attack.” But after the story ran, the postmaster asked to view unpublished pictures of carrier Patricia Finley, who was photographed by the Dispatch while she used her truck to push trash bins out her way so she wouldn’t have to dismount.

Yates said Monday that Finley could lose her job over the incident.

“I can’t comment on a particular employee, but we will take appropriate corrective action,” she said. “It could be a discussion or termination. Anywhere in that range.”

Debra Masten, union representative for the Gilroy chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said Monday that post office officials are trying to make an example of Finley.

“I think Patricia should be disciplined but not to the degree they’re going to try,” Masten said. “If a supervisor saw her do that, she would be [reprimanded], but that’s nowhere close to the suspension they’re talking about. They even used the word dismissal. Patricia has been a carrier for at least 15 years and she’s been a good one.”

Finley’s route is in northwest Gilroy. Last month, in response to complaints from residents there who didn’t receive mail when their boxes were blocked by parked cars, Yates distributed a letter to about a dozen residents in which she wrote “our letter carriers are instructed that they are not to dismount to blocked mail receptacles.”

That instruction contradicts United States Postal Service policy, which calls for carriers to deliver to every box unless it’s not safe. And in a meeting with Gilroy’s letter carriers, Yates reversed course. She said Monday that she had not made a policy change, and that Gilroy’s 40 mail carriers get out of their cars hundreds of times each day to deliver to blocked boxes.

Masten said that Yates’ directive puts more pressure on carriers to meet already onerous demands of customers and postal supervisors. She said that carriers who are forced to constantly get out of their vehicles will not be able to complete their routes in the allotted time.

“The fact is we do make those deliveries unless there is an ongoing problem,” Masten said. “We haven’t had any withdrawal of service. We’ve instructed carriers to make delivery every day and report ongoing problems. I don’t know how it snow-balled out there.”

Rules governing delivery vary depending on the type of service a resident has. There are still many areas of Gilroy that receive door delivery on walking routes, but newer developments have either cluster boxes, where the mail for about a dozen residents is dropped at one location, or curbside boxes. Homebuilders install mail boxes at the post office’s discretion.

The May 28 story inspired current and former letter carriers from all over the country to write letters, many supporting Finley. Neal Couey, a Santa Barbara mail carrier, warned Monday that those same carriers would vote in the Dispatch’s Web poll on the topic. At press time, 59 percent of voters said carriers should not be required to exit their vehicles to deliver mail.

Masten said residents whose boxes are blocked by parked cars should talk with their neighbors before complaining to the post office, and that all residents should leave trash and recycling bins in front of their driveways rather than their mail boxes. She said that carriers always work overtime and usually skip lunches and breaks on trash day.

“Trash cans are an easily solved issue,” she said. “The garbage men replace very close to where they pick them up. If everybody just gives a little then everybody’s happy.”

Dennis Chatham, a resident of Arapaho Drive in northwest Gilroy who complained several times about missed mail and was outraged by Yates’ letter, said Monday that mail delivery is the carriers’ responsibility. He said he hasn’t missed a delivery in the last 10 days.

“I’m glad that they as an agency have decided not to bully the public and do the right and practical thing,” he said.

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