He said it was tantamount to slavery. Of course, when Ryan Bradford was describing his experience as a transitional employee ("TE") of the United States Postal Service, he knew he was being overly dramatic.
Bradford, who was fired from the USPS after working for them in the greater San Diego area, is in his heart a writer first. As he's busy launching his career -- he's only 26 -- Bradford signed on to work as "TE" in the California 92106 ZIP Code to pay the bills.
But at the same time he has also maintained his blog, on which he gained internet attention for a post called "All the Dogs Want to Kill Me." The post, published in May, documented his experiences fending off canines while delivering mail under the California sun, and garnered his site more than 15,000 unique visitors, he says, as well as press coverage from outlets as varied as Gawker, NPR and MSNBC.
And it was his writing that got him into trouble with the Post Office.
"When I got fired, they never even mentioned the injustice article [in which the slavery comment was included]," he says in an interview with AOL Jobs. "The main reason they say I was fired was because I said there was no incentive. They don't want to shine a light on their problems."
Bradford was referring to one of his appearances in the press, this time as the subject of an article in an alternative San Diego weekly, called City Beat. In it, some of Bradford's views about the USPS were shared, including ones that he has written about in a self-published zine he shares with friends, family and others upon request. He calls it Slave Labor Makes You Look Great!: A Brief Memoir of Carrying Mail in San Diego.
After he got word on June 29th that he was being let go from the Postal Service, he took to his blog to defend his critique of the USPS. When referring to his meeting with branch manager of the Point Loma Post office Frances Meena, he had this to say:
"I should have been more nervous: with more than 25 years of postal-service duty under her belt, the Point Loma Post Office branch manager possesses the intensity that comes from persevering in an industry content on giving 59% at any given time," which was in keeping with views he shared with City Beat and what he says he shared in his personal zine.
He went on to rail against the conditions of a "TE" worker: "So I should have been more nervous, but honestly, I had spent that day carrying 8 hours of mail with no assistance, no lunch and one brief bathroom break. To put that in perspective, most of the routes at Point Loma are clocked at around 5 hours, which carriers are expected to complete within the 8 hours they're on the clock -- the extra time allotted is for travel, loading/unloading, lunch, breaks, etc. 8 hours of mail is a helluva lot to carry in one day, and I was so tired that I could've faced the postmaster himself with the same resign."
The USPS did not respond to requests for comment from AOL Jobs. The extent to which Bradford was let go for his critique of the service, or perhaps because of job performance, must be balanced with an understanding of the trying time for both the Postal Service itself and all temporary employees. According to reports filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission, the USPS reduced its workforce by 22,334 employees over the 12-month period ending in March. And as has been widely noted, companies including agencies like the Postal Service have adopted the policy of bringing on teams of temporary employees, many of whom, like Bradford, go without benefits. Indeed, temporary hiring accounted for 26.2 percent of all private sector hiring for all of 2010.
But Bradford says that he doesn't want to be a poster child for any cause.
"I was just hoping to do something that will get me a job," he says.
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