PROVO — Richard Aragon trusts the U.S. Postal Service to deliver his mail, but he doesn't trust Provo postal supervisors to take care of their letter carriers.
"I am very concerned for the employees of the Provo post office," the former letter carrier said. "There are over 50 written, documented cases of employees and customers fearing for their safety."
Aragon said that he experienced that fear first-hand while working under a "hostile" manager at a Provo post office. Aragon alleges that one of his managers used physical threats and intimidation to control employees.
Despite attempts to get Utah postal authorities to correct the situation, Aragon said a "good old boy" attitude has kept state officials from intervening.
After a particular run-in with that manager, Aragon said he was forced to retire. But that hasn't kept Aragon from going public with his grievances.
"At the two Provo post offices one would say morale is at its lowest, but each day it gets lower," Aragon said. "The hard-working employees of the Provo post offices keep asking themselves, 'When is this conduct going to stop?' "
Aragon doesn't think the problems will be resolved any time soon, despite a formal investigation by the National Association of Letter Carriers and incessant complaints by postal workers.
Representatives from NALC flew in from Seattle last week to negotiate possible solutions with state postal authorities who oversee employee complaints. It's the third time in a month that the union sent delegates to Utah to discuss the work environment at Provo's post offices.
"We're in the process of putting together a plan to improve the environment down in Provo. We will be meeting with Provo leadership to start improving the communication down there," said Byron Burnett, manager of post office relations for Utah's postal service.
Burnett declined to give any more detail about the negotiations but said that he expects the work environment to improve as a result.
The NALC launched its investigation after learning that two postal workers at Provo's main post office were disciplined for taking time off work after the deaths of immediate family members.
While post office representatives insist that there was no formal discipline issued, one of the men involved told the Deseret Morning News that the way a supervisor treated him following his father's death "was the first step in the discipline procedure according to the Collective Bargaining National Agreement between the USPS and the NALC."
"The problem with the postal service is that management in the post office has not been held accountable for their actions," said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous.
Since the U.S. Postal Service has no "whistle-blower" protection for its employes, many postal workers are hesitant to publicly speak out against bad management for fear that they'll be terminated.
But the complaints coming out of Provo's post offices aren't unique to Utah. In fact, letter carriers across the nation are upset.
"There are no area managers that care one iota about the feelings and concerns of letter carriers," said Texas letter carrier Mark Hanson. "But you have a majority of workers who just grin and bear it, which is the reason why intimidation and disgust comes from the employees."
Burnett doesn't deny that there are substantial problems with the postal system, but he thinks they can be easily rectified — at least in Provo.
"I think it's the right thing to go ahead and take care of it," he said. "Together, we are going to improve the workplace."