“I’m tired of this shit, you mother fucking asshole!”
Everyone stopped casing mail. It came from the other end of the post office. From the postmaster’s office, in fact. One letter carrier giggled nervously. They all cast knowing glances at each other and grinned. They were being represented, and this was going to be a good one.
“You’re tired of this shit?! I’m tired of you coming into my office thinking you own the goddamned place, every day, with your fucking goddamned grievances!!!” the postmaster bellowed.
Joe waved a sheaf of timecards in his hand, punctuating thrusts with each emphasized word, “Have you seen these fucking timecards?! Don’t you have any fucking control over your fucking office?! When are you going to tell those fucking supervisors to do their fucking job right and stop violating the mother fucking overtime rules?!”
“When hell fucking freezes over! Goddamnit I demand respect! How dare you come into my office and talk to me this way! Get the fuck out of here, you insolent bastard! I’m not meeting with you today! I can’t take this fucking shit anymore! I’ve had it! Get the fuck out of here!”
“I’m not going any fucking place until we settle this you stupid moron! I want double the penalties! Double!! You hear that?! And next time I’ll want triple! I’m gonna fucking ride you to hell, you stupid bastard until you start following the rules!”
The letter carriers stopped all their work and gathered in a semicircle on the workroom floor. Even the supervisor was speechless, standing there with the carriers, wondering what he should do. But they weren’t the only audience. Customers could hear this scaramuccia clear into the lobby. If cell phones had been common in those days, one of them would surely have dialed 9-1-1.
“Double?! Fuck you and your double! Fuck you on the double!!” the postmaster’s face was florid. Veins bulged from his purple neck. He reached for a Rolaids. “Goddamnit, I’m sick of this shit! I’m sick of seeing your face in here every goddamned day!” He slumped back in his chair and bit down on the Rolaids tablet.
“You want rid of me?! You want rid of me?! Well then follow the contract! That’s all you gotta do! Just follow the goddamned fucking contract, and you’ll never see my face again!”
“I’m sick of you and your goddamned fucking contract!” the postmaster jumped up. He propelled a finger toward the nose of the union steward. “You can take that contract and shove it up your fucking a–” his voice tumbled away in mid-yell. He clutched his chest. His knees buckled and he staggered over onto his face.
“Ed, Ed, what the fuck? You okay, Ed?” Joe kneeled over the prostrate postmaster. Oh shit! Joe thought, he’s having a heart attack.
Joe ran out of the postmaster’s office and into the semicircled claque of letter carriers he was representing. “Call 9-1-1! I think Ed’s having a heart attack!”
The supervisor rushed into the postmaster’s office, with Joe trailing after. “Oh shit!” said the supervisor, as he stood over his boss’s body. “I don’t know CPR, do you know CPR?”
“I’m not doing CPR on him,” blurted Joe. “Let’s just call 9-1-1.”
The paramedics arrived five minutes after the call. They worked on Ed for about 20 minutes. Finally they gave up.
Joe was stunned. He stumbled out of the postmaster’s office with grievance file in hand. A grievance that would not be resolved this day.
Joe became legendary in union circles as the steward who got away with killing a postmaster. He was elected Branch President by admiring supporters.
Letter carriers had no sympathy for this postmaster, or most others. They were sick of managers ignoring their rights. They were tired of intimidation tactics. And they hated the disrespect and indignities so commonly meted out to them by the bearers of clipboards and neckties. In their minds and visceral guts, they concluded that the postmaster got what he deserved.
A few years after being elected Branch President, Joe was hoisted by his own petard. His confrontational style fueled a mountainous growth of grievances. The caseload became overwhelming. Joe lived, but lost his heart as assuredly as Ed. The intransigence of labor-management relations, so foreign to skills of diplomacy and communication, took another victim. Joe walked away from the mountain of grievances he so fervently helped to create.
He resigned from office, never to perform steward work again.
This is a true story, as told to me by the legendary postmaster-slayer himself. It’s also part of the history of the union branch I belong to. I changed the names and some of the details, but the basic story is accurate.