PostalReporter.com is posting this non-story to highlight the length right-wing websites will go to attack Postal and Federal Workers
Media Trackers has learned that an investigation is underway into U.S. Postal Service employees at two central Wisconsin post offices who were given leaves of absence to campaign for Democratic candidates Russ Feingold for Senate and Hillary Clinton for president.
A source has told Media Trackers an employee in the Marshfield Post Office and two in the Wisconsin Rapids office were, with virtually no advance notice, given leaves of absence to campaign for Feingold and Clinton and were compensated for their efforts by the Wisconsin Association of Letter Carriers, the union representing postal workers.
The source tells us that the red flag that was raised by the employee’s absences was the overtime hours accrued by other workers to cover the postal routes. The source says this hit the Wisconsin Rapids Post Office particularly hard because it was already down two employees. The source believes these absences took place for about a five-week period prior to the November 8 elections. The source tells us that the workers “knocked on doors” for the Feingold and Clinton campaigns, meaning they campaigned door to door for the candidates. It is unknown if this practice occurred at any other post offices in Wisconsin.
According to an email obtained by Media Trackers, the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Special Counsel are investigating the practice and the Postmaster General is cooperating with investigators. Our source tells us that the behavior may violate the Hatch Act, but that is far from clear. The Hatch Act is a federal law that restricts the political activity of federal and Postal Service employees while on duty, on government property, wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle. It also prohibits candidates campaigning for election to public office on leased or owned postal property.
The practice in question isn’t covered in the USPS guidance to employees on the Hatch Act. But our source believes that the leave of absence practice is “a way around the law.” And our source said the large amounts of overtime accrued over a five-week period could be seen as benefiting candidates for public office. And based on an email we’ve seen, the practice appears to have raised concerns with Postal Service officials.
In another email we obtained, Scott A. Van Derven, President WI State Association of Letter Carriers refers to United States Postal Service management approving “endorsing candidates” but doesn’t mention door knocking: see full story
Now what is so baffling, this writer quoted the Hatch Act but is using speculation that the Postal Workers committed a violation.
How did this writer know the Postal Workers were given leave “with virtually no advance notice”.. Now THIS is what the OIG should be investigating. Information from Employees leave forms (PS Form 3971) is NOT for the public forum.
What this writer should have done before posting this non-story is check on several things:
What was the overtime rate during the same period last year?
Did the Postal Workers take a leave of absence solely for the purpose of campaigning for candidates or were these postal workers union officials who normally use leave for UNION BUSINESS? When union officials or union members work in local union offices or on official union business they submit requests for Leave Without Official Pay (LWOP). Normally the request is not denied.
Did this writer check on any other postal worker like in management?
Did the writer check on other federal employees campaigning for candidates in Wisconsin including employees campaigning for GOP candidates?
Now there is a strong possibility that this writer is under the mistaken belief that USPS receives taxpayer money. Otherwise, why is it so important to mention the overtime hours.
Here is a broader explanation of dos and donts of the Hatch Act from the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
Do’s (while off the clock, out of uniform)
Active letter carriers may—on their own time, away from work, out of uniform and without using a postal vehicle:
- Be candidates for public office in non-partisan elections (that is, elections in which none of the candidates are to be nominated or elected are representing a political party).
- Register and vote.
- Sign and circulate candidate nominating petitions and ballot initiative positions.
- Assist in voter-registration drives.
- Speak and write publicly and otherwise express opinions about candidates, ballot measures and issues.
- Attend political rallies, meetings and other events.
- Attend fundraisers and contribute money to political organizations and campaigns.
- Volunteer for political campaigns and encourage others to volunteer.
- Participate in phone-banking and precinct-walking for candidates and ballot measures.
- Display bumper stickers, lawn signs and other campaign paraphernalia.
- Raise money for the Letter Carrier Political Fund from other NALC members. (Note: Letter carriers while detailed to 204b or other higher level assignments should not solicit contributions to the Letter Carrier Political Fund from postal employees who may be viewed as their subordinates.)
- Volunteer, run for and hold an office in a local or state political party or club.
Active letter carriers may not—even on their own time, away from work, out of uniform and without using a postal vehicle:
- Use their official titles or positions when engaging in otherwise permissible activities.
- Raise money for partisan political groups or campaigns (except for the Letter Carrier Political Fund), including phone-banking, letter-writing, selling tickets, hosting a fundraiser, inviting people to attend a fundraiser, or allowing your name to be used in a fundraising appeal.
- Otherwise solicit, receive or handle contributions for a partisan political group or campaign.
- Run for elective office in partisan (party-label) elections (even if you report “No Party Affiliation”).
- Raise money for the Letter Carrier Political Fund from non-NALC members (except from their immediate family members in the same household).
Voter registration and “get out the vote”
NALC and other unions can conduct voter registration and “get out the vote” (GOTV) efforts asking that members, staff and their families register for a particular political party or vote for particular candidates, and can use general treasury funds for these activities.
Also, a union can distribute to anyone voter information produced by official election administrators—sample ballots, absentee ballot applications and register-by-mail materials.
The Hatch Act — Permitted and Prohibited Activities for Employees
The Hatch Act is a federal law that restricts the political activity of federal and Postal Service employees while on duty, on government property, wearing an official uniform, or using a government vehicle. It also prohibits candidates campaigning for election to public office on leased or owned postal property.
Under the Hatch Act, Postal Service employees may:
- Be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections.
- Register and vote as they choose.
- Assist in voter registration drives.
- Express opinions about candidates and issues.
- Contribute money to political organizations.
- Attend political fundraising functions.
- Attend and be active at political rallies and meetings.
- Join and be an active member of a political party or club.
- Sign nominating petitions.
- Campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, and municipal ordinances.
- Campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections.
- Make speeches for candidates in partisan elections.
- Distribute campaign literature in partisan elections.
- Hold office in political clubs or parties.
Postal Service employees may not:
- Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election.
- Solicit, receive, or collect political contributions unless both individuals are members of the same federal labor organization or employee organization, and the one solicited is not a subordinate employee.
- Knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business before the agency.
- Engage in political activity while on duty, wearing an official uniform, using a government vehicle, or in any government office.
- Solicit political contributions from the general public.
- Solicit or receive political contributions.
- Be candidates for public office in partisan elections.
- Wear political buttons on duty.
More information on the Hatch Act can be obtained at www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm.