"It's a paramilitary culture. It's bottom-line focused," says Stephen Musacco, a former workplace improvement analyst for the Postal Service in San Diego who became a coach for helping troubled workplaces. "There's very little consideration for the employees' welfare at many of the offices."

Ramirez describes bad postal managers this way: "If we were at a party or a dinner or somewhere else, and I talked to you the way [managers] talked to you, you would hit me in the mouth." However, "If they gave you a direct order, you had to follow it."

Others argue that working conditions alone cannot explain why mail carriers "go postal." Stressful deadlines and capricious bosses are not unique to the Postal Service. But there is another singular aspect of the post office that might hold a clue as to why it has been home to so much violence: the problem of what economists call "non-transferable skills."

Lu says he snapped this photo of his supervisor, Alfredo Bustamante, sleeping in his car while on the job. Lu claims he was fired as retaliation.
Courtesy of the Law Offices of Eric M. Safire
Lu says he snapped this photo of his supervisor, Alfredo Bustamante, sleeping in his car while on the job. Lu claims he was fired as retaliation.
Bustamante’s Acura was damaged 
when Lu drove a pickup truck into the parked vehicle, pinning Bustamante against the car.
Courtesy of the Law Offices of Eric M. Safire
Bustamante’s Acura was damaged when Lu drove a pickup truck into the parked vehicle, pinning Bustamante against the car.

There's a common thread that runs through the postal massacres of the 1980s and 1990s, right up through Lu's attack on Bustamante's car: job loss, or the threat of job loss.

"The threat of termination is seen as catastrophic by postal workers," says Jack Levin, a criminologist and expert on mass murder at Northeastern University. "Their skills are quite specialized. If they lose their jobs at the post office, what are they going to do? They might get a job at FedEx, but more likely they're going to have to walk across the street to a convenience store and sell cigarettes." Most of the perpetrators of post-office killings, Levin says, were veteran workers who saw a supervisor's discipline as an existential threat.

"Where else are you going to drive a jeep around the neighborhood and wear Bermuda shorts on the job? The skill and the demands of a postal worker are very different from those of other occupations, and they're not easily transferable," Levin says. "The very thought of losing your job as a postal worker may be enough to provoke an act of revenge."

Withers, the Royal Oak letter carrier who served as McIlvane's union steward, says that this pattern held true in the events he witnessed in 1991 — events for which he says he still "hold[s] the post office accountable." Bosses at Royal Oak "targeted certain people they wanted to nail," Withers says. "The main manager that was killed, his saying was, 'I can put you out for anything I want, and I can keep you out for six months to a year. You'll lose your home. You'll lose your family.'"


Lau, the deputy D.A. in Alameda County who prosecuted Lu, says he was taken aback by the tensions pervading the post office that became apparent at trial. "I haven't really had much experience with the culture of the U.S. post office," Lau tells SF Weekly. "It was surprising. I didn't realize there was that much hostility between the different levels of management and the employees."

But Lau's job does not include forgiving acts of violence driven by that hostility. As far as the attack on Bustamante goes, Lau says he is utterly unconvinced by Lu's assertion that he only intended to vandalize the Acura. The premeditation and the timing of the incident are simply too much, Lau says. How likely is it that Lu, who claimed he chose the time for the attack to avoid pedestrians, would drive his truck into Bustamante's vehicle at the exact moment when Bustamante was standing in front of it?

"The planning went beyond just planning to vandalize somebody's car," Lau says. "He had opportunities to vandalize Mr. Bustamante's car before this particular day that he picked.... The biggest thing is that the timing of the attack was so precise. Mr. Bustamante came out of his house and it wasn't until he got to the driver's side of his car that [Lu] struck. He claimed that he couldn't see Mr. Bustamante; I thought that was not credible, because you clearly have to see where you're going to hit the right car, and you have to drive from San Francisco to Albany, and you have to see then."

On Feb. 2, an Alameda County jury found Lu guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, but acquitted him of the charge of attempted murder. Lau acknowledges he was disappointed with the verdict. Lu's sentencing was scheduled for Monday, March 5, as SF Weekly went to press. He could receive anything from probation with no jail time to a four-year state prison term.

It is unclear what effect, if any, the testimony of Bustamante's other employees had on the jury's relative lenience towards Lu. But the ongoing organizational problems within the post office that their comments illuminated, and Lu's desperate act of revenge, don't appear to be isolated. Absent significant reforms, observers say, those problems could lead to more tragedies, particularly as the post office weathers what look like difficult years ahead.

Mail volume continues to decline, leading to inevitable job cuts and greater pressure on supervisors and workers to perform. Last month, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told the Associated Press that 223 of the Postal Service's 461 mail-processing plants would be closed by February 2013, resulting in a loss of roughly 35,000 jobs.

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24 comments
fascination67
fascination67

Consider the source of this article, SFWeekly..."Weakly" is right, lol, very weakly...

weakly written, weakly researched, publishing a photo that had nothing at all to do with

Alfredo firing that worthless idiot Lu.  San Francisco, is full of loons...I advise most people with any semblance of sanity to move.

fascination67
fascination67

I know Alfredo personally.  I'm very familiar with this case and I can state the following.

1. Lu should have gotten the maximum sentence under a much harsher conviction, which was attempted murder, premeditated. 

The political correctness of the Bay Area, the fools that work for the Post Office, I would know I have a family member who works for them, the lies from Bryant and other co-workers.

That's what got Lu his light sentence...LU, DON'T DROP THE SOAP, THAT'S MY ADVICE TO THAT CRAZY PIG.

 Alfredo did nothing to do deserve this.

I never, ever, in the many years I've known Alfredo to ever him raise his voice, to anyone or disparage anyone, for any reason. 

 Having been around any # of incompetent people in the private and gov't sector, I can tell you, for a fact, that Alfredo would not have fired this idiot if Lu was not totally incompetent. 

  **********************************************************

In the final analysis, LU IS GOING TO STATE PRISON, THAT'S HARD TIME MY FRIENDS.

I can guarantee you, that Mexican prison gangs, who I'm sure will read about this story, will enact A LITTLE PAY-BACK TO MR. LU for his "mistake" on Alfredo.

  BTW, Alfredo is going to get a huge settlement from dickhead's insurance co, and he can personally sue that worthless piece of refuse ----

  Alfredo suffered a great deal as a result of that totally unprovoked attack by Lu, not just the broken arm, he had a huge gash on his fore arm, not cut, BUT A GASH, OPENED UP IN THAT ATTACK.

Plus, he suffered mentally as well.  LU DESERVED AT LEAST 10 YEARS HARD TIME.

 I'm glad the Judge at least handed down the stiffest sentence under the circumstances.

 Alfredo, if you read this, get at your boy, J in the Big T. 

God Speed!

 

 

EatmyP
EatmyP

My boss (10 years younger than myself) was promoted with The Peter Principle philosophy, and wasn't in the position even a year before he found himself being investigated for Medicare fraud and other malfeasance.

Although he had already run me off the job, before I was escorted to my car carrying my belongings in a box, I made copies of everything: all his phony receipts, the emails, the paper trails for the Superbowl tickets, the boondoggles and fishing trips and hunting expeditions and perks of all kinds paid-for by vendors and contractors, the money that had been siphoned-off and found its way to the pocket lining of those who stood to benefit the most from such shenanigans.

I got a better job, AND a ring-side seat to the Greatest Show in Town: The firing of my boss.

There are better ways to take your revenge on someone than going to jail for assaulting them. Don't put the hurt on 'em with your own hands - let someone else do it for you: namely, the feds, or higher management.

Trust me - it's just as satisfying as running them over with your car, and infinitely safer for your own future well-being.

EatmyP
EatmyP

Typical "supervisor" comment: "Why are you doing this to me?"

fascination67
fascination67

EatmyP: "You are a colossal effing idiot".  EAT MY SHORTS, YOU WORTHLESS NOBODY.

Christine Leep
Christine Leep

At our post office a lady carrier was mocked by supervision when she turned in a customer that was harassing her. He left notes on her LV, would be at the door naked when she delivered mail, followed her on her route. They didn't take the situation seriously and he was later arrested for internet child pornography. When the police searched his house, they found detailed notes on how he planned to abduct and kill his letter carrier. He had a map of her route. Nothing posted about postal management shocks me.

the devil
the devil

Better change your way before the guy you harass on the job sticks a few inches of convincing through your ribs to end it. Just don't attract violence if you want respect returned to you.

the devil
the devil

I am not surprized about this at all. When will people learn that, even though you scratch your way into a supervisory position, you still have no right to abuse people? They seem to pick the most abusive personalities to manage and after these little hitlers push another person over the edge people pretend that it just can't happen. You can go to any bar and find someone like Liu who is under the gun and marginalized, emotionally stumped and dehumanized, then fired. That is just as destructive to a person as you can get without burning them at the stake. The toll it takes on people drive them to murder or suicide- or both. You didn't forget Columbine did you? It's not just restricted to the post office. Take all the bully bosses and sit them down with the Liu's of the working world and straighten this mess out. There is no "Master and Slave" anymore so people need to learn to stop that toxic cycle.

guest
guest

I'm not surprised, when you have a bunch of unskilled, unqualified people who are put in management positions over others based on who they know, not what they know - then they use their minor league power to intimidate those "beneath" them.

Ioannescaelius
Ioannescaelius

Ah, Lord Running Clam, greetings from Caelius Mons. I should have put it in the proper vernacular for you. Instead of saying, “lower rung of hell” I should have said, the "Black Iron Prison.” Of course you are correct. Twas ever thus.

Ioannescaelius
Ioannescaelius

I worked for a Postal Service contractor for 28 years, going into Postal facilities all over the 11 western states. Indeed, I saw a culture of rampant psychological abuse. But, the worse thing of all, which is only hinted at in the article, was the overt and widespread racial hatred from all sides. Now retired, I am sooo glad that I no longer have to come in contact with this lower rung of hell.

Guest
Guest

Being a carrier for 28 years (and finally retiring!!) no one outside the post office have a clue what happens inside. Constant harassment, micro-managed by supervisors who either never carried mail or were piss poor when they did, and on and on. This is the typical day of a carrier:1) clock in on time; don't be late or start early..ON TIME (2) Your time in the office is way too long...hurry, get out on the street NOW (3) Your street time is way to long...hurry, deliver the mail, get off the street NOW (4) now that you're back in the office, why are you still on the clock...get off the clock NOW and that boys and girls, is how the typical day in the post office goes. If you want the truth how the P.O works, ask those that do the job. This story doesn't surprise me. Why? Because this kind of treatment happens in every station throughout the fruited plains. What does surprise me is the restraint carriers all over this nation show each and every day, That's because we are professional and we truly care about how we do our jobs, and to see how the USPS Titanic is going down because of those in charge is just sad.

Ralph
Ralph

If you don't let the workers carry guns into the building, then things are less likely to get too far out of hand.

CarlsbadVillageOrthodontist
CarlsbadVillageOrthodontist

I've never really thought much about how the word "going postal" came about. I didn't know it stemmed from disgruntled postal workers. There really is a need for regular checks, and not just for the starting employees but for upper management as well.

Guest
Guest

being that the post office is losing money and want to reduce the work force..management will try to either fire you or make you retire early rather then suspend you for a serious violation these days and eventually replace you later on with a $15/hour casual..

Dennis McPeters
Dennis McPeters

Every time an employee did something wrong, whether it was theft, malfeasance, insubodination, or violence - whatever - the unions always blamed it on mean management and the horrible work environment. It is alas, the mark of a sad and declining society that individuals never take responsibility and those who commit horrible acts are viewed simply as helpless victims. Writers like the author of this article and such comments as yours just encourage people to blameshift. It is disingenuous and patently wrong to blame management of the Postal Service or the Iindustrial complex when those who lack control or are deranged commit horrible acts.

Tom
Tom

Mirza Negron-Morales, HUD’s Deputy Regional Administrator for New York Found Guilty by EEOC of Repeatedly Intentionally Discriminating Against an Employee in Her Department

Ms. Negron-Morales was not only not disciplined for her illegal actions, she was promoted by HUD!

(EMAILWIRE.COM, December 28, 2011 ) New York, NY -- HUD’s Deputy Regional Administrator for New York Found Guilty by EEOC of Repeatedly Intentionally Discriminating Against an Employee in Her Department.

On September 1, 2010, EEOC Judge William Macauley issued a decision in which he found that United States Department of Housing and Urban Development intentionally retaliated against Thomas Saracco, an engineer who formerly worked in HUD’s Office of Public Housing in New York City, in retaliation for a federal lawsuit¹ filed by Mr. Saracco against HUD based on disability (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) discrimination. (Saracco v. HUD, EEOC Hearing No. 520-2009-00104X).

Judge Macauley found that HUD had denied a promotion for Mr. Saracco that had been granted to every other engineer in the country except one. The HUD official centrally responsible for the denial of the promotion was Mirza Negron-Morales, then the Director for New York of HUD’s Office of Public Housing. Judge Macauley found that her testimony in the case was not credible and that the justification she advanced for not promoting Mr. Saracco was "a mere pretext to retaliate" against him.

Less than two weeks later, on September 13, 2010, Adolfo Carrion, Jr., HUD’s Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, announced that HUD was promoting Negron-Morales to the position of Deputy Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey.

Notably, this was not the first time Judge Macauley had found that Negron-Morales had intentionally discriminated against Mr. Saracco. In a decision dated April 24, 2006, Judge Macauley found that Negron-Morales had retaliated against Mr. Saracco by suspending him on two occasions because he had filed the federal lawsuit and made other complaints of discrimination. (EEOC Case No. 160-2005-00337X) In that decision Judge Macauley found that Negron-Morales directly admitted that she suspended Mr. Saracco in retaliation for his protected conduct and that she "has expressed her retaliatory animus against [Mr. Saracco] on more than one occasion." Further, Judge Macauley determined that "Negron-Morales was preoccupied with [Mr. Saracco’s] EEO history and held retaliatory animus toward him." Finally, Judge Macauley expressly found that "Negron-Morales’ reasons for suspending [Mr. Saracco] were not credible ones."

In June, 2007 HUD placed Mr. Saracco on unpaid administrative leave claiming that a psychiatrist had determined that he was a threat to himself and others. He reached this conclusion after being provided false information by Ms. Negron-Morales. The psychiatrist never spoke with Mr. Saracco.

Mr. Saracco was required to provide a Fitness for Duty report, which he did. HUD still would not allow Mr. Saracco to return to work. Finally in June, 2008, more than one year after being placed on administrative leave, Mr. Saracco was told he could return to work.

In 2008, Mr. Saracco resigned from HUD and filed an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB Docket Nos.:NY-0752-09-0195-I-1, NY-0752-09-0197-I-1) alleging constructive termination and a suspension of more than 14 days. In 2011, HUD paid Mr. Saracco approximately $700,000 in order to settle that appeal and the EEOC case

Mr. Saracco was represented by David N. Mair of Kaiser Saurborn & Mair, P.C. in New York City.

1. The federal lawsuit was filed in 2002 and resulted in a settlement in 2003. This case began as a complaint before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January, 2000; EEOC Hearing No. 160-A1-8243X. The complaint arose from (i) HUD's failure to provide Mr. Saracco a reasonable accommodation for his disability (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and (ii) the concerted harassment of Mr. Saracco by HUD's employees because of his disability and in retaliation for his complaints of discrimination filed with HUD's Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the EEOC.

Tom
Tom

This type of behavior by managers is not limited to the Postal Service.

The Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation (No Fear) Act (2002) states, among other things, that employees who engage in misconduct be disciplined. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo , a senior policy analyst at the EPA, was a driving force behind the creation of the no fear law. The system before No-Fear, Coleman-Adebayo said, has been anything but just to employees who suffer years of discrimination or retaliation at the hands of managers who are never punished for their actions. She went on “The spirit of the No-Fear law was that managers were to face major consequences as a result of findings of discrimination against them. We will demand that the government live up to the spirit of the law. These are not victimless crimes, and for someone to get slapped on the hand when you have violated someone’s human and civil rights, you do not have a right to work for the federal government.

The law, designed to hold agencies accountable for discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, is to result in tough penalties, including termination, for federal managers who violate a co-worker’s civil rights."

Managers are not being punished for their disgraceful and illegal actions. The No Fear Act is an empty shell. No outside agency is charged with the responsibility of enforcing its provisions. It is left to the agency itself to police its own managers. This is not being done.

Thirdeye
Thirdeye

The provisions of the No FEAR act have had the opposite effect of their intentions. They have become another tool for managers to harass and intimidate employees. A culture of seeking political advantages and parochial agendas while avoiding accountability has taken root, and that is the underlying problem.

Guest
Guest

Supervisors and Postmasters are treated differently than craft employees when they do something wrong. Management can do the most horrendous, harassing, and often times illegal acts that they want and NEVER receive any discipline for it. They just get shipped to another station, if even that. Craft employees on the other hand are harassed, micromanaged, and overly disciplined by management at will. Even if you win a grievance 3 years later, nothing is done to the managers. Until this disparity stops, or until managers are reeled in, this anger by employees will continue.

Cdontlack0
Cdontlack0

You're 100% correct. Problem supervisor or postmaster? Don't fire them; just move them to another office! I've lived with it too many times.

 
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