Glenn Krouch, a spokesman for San Diego Regional Postmaster Margaret Sellers, denied that she routinely pursued a policy of discouraging employees from filing disability claims when injured on the job. Official postal policy still maintained that workplace violence was the result of employees transferring personal problems to their work. Since on-the-job stress was not a recognized factor, the Postal Service did nothing to prevent its managers from conducting work speedups or bullying workers to increase productivity.

Shortly after the Escondido killings, I personally witnessed one of the many minor stress-related incidents that were occuring with frightening frequency throughout the nation. As I was sorting third class mail in the afternoon at the Arlington substation in Riverside, California, a recently injured carrier who was on light duty exited Acting Station Manager Jim Smith's office following an official "counseling". He threw the heavy door open with such force that the lever handle fully penetrated the opposite wall. Running down a narrow hallway, he stormed into the main workroom, leaving a trail of overturned mail cages and gurneys behind him. Trays of mail were spilled everywhere. Lunging through the large double swinging doors at the rear of the building, he collapsed, exhausted, against the railing of the loading dock.

My foreman, Ron Moreno, and I immediately dashed after him, while our supervisor hid behind a desk and dialed 911. We talked to the distraught carrier for several minutes and he was calm by the time the police arrived. But our supervisor was upset with us for having become involved and she gave us a verbal reprimand.

It wasn't hard to guess what had happened during the counseling session. Jim Smith was a retired serviceman who had worked his way up from the enlisted ranks to become a mustang officer. He was a bull of a man and could have given Mike Tyson a lesson in intimidation. Once, when an intoxicated driver had veered and nearly rammed my postal vehicle in the parking lot of a local cantina, he had taken me into his office and screamed in my face until I had broken.

Jim Smith's latest victim was, of course, fired. Ron Moreno wisely transferred to Kentucky, leaving me to face the wrath of the Postal Service alone. My route keys were mysteriously found on the roof of the building and I was given an official warning. A windshield inadvertenly spidered by a tray of mail earned me a suspension. Finally, on April 12, 1990, a recently installed sink fell from a restroom wall when I was nearby. Although it wasn't damaged, torrents of high pressure water cascaded from the broken supply lines and soaked a supervisor. I was charged with Destruction of Government Property, placed on Administrative Leave, and banned from all postal facilities pending a formal investigation.

Since I was prohibited from entering the post office to gather evidence and speak to witnesses, I was unable to prepare an adequate defense. When the investigative hearing was convened on May 11, 1990, a panel of four supervisors and Riverside Postmaster Jim Felts quickly and unanimously concluded that I had willfully sabotaged the china sink. It was unchipped, so they concluded that I had somehow mustered the superhuman strength necessary to rip it from the wall, then had gently placed it on the floor. Nobody saw me do it and nobody could explain how I failed to get wet, but everyone was sure it was the work of "Crazy Fred". The union steward suggested I apply for a psychological disability. When I refused, I was asked to leave the room while the investigative panel decided my fate. Later, when I attempted to subpeona the minutes of the hearing, Personnel Director Ameal Moore claimed under oath that they had been lost from a locked file cabinet while moving.

Four months later I received a certified letter informing me that I was discharged from the Postal Service, effective September 24, 1990. I immediately appealed the decision to the United States Merit Systems Protection Board, the agency charged by Congress with safeguarding the rights of veterans and civil servants. With 14 years of faithful federal service, 440 hours of accrued annual leave and over 900 hours of unused sick leave, I thought my loyalty and honesty were beyond question.

I was wrong. The majority of issues in my appeal were decided by a court-ordered telephone conference call between the administrative law judge, the Postal Service's representative, and myself. No transcript was made of this call. Eventually, a formal hearing was conducted at the Postal Service's San Bernardino Mail Service Center (hardly a neutral location). The Postal Service's representative presented the court with a thick file of unsubstantiated allegations that were entered into the record despite my objection. Since the National Association of Letter Carriers would not supply me with an attorney, I had to represent myself.

Appeal denied. With the firing of me and hundreds of Vietnam-era veterans like me across the nation, the Postal Service sought to restore peace to the workplace. Like all purges, it was unsuccessful because it looked for scapegoats rather than solutions. Once again, the violence flared with an even greater intensity . . .

Joseph M. Harris, a 35 year old Navy veteran had trouble sleeping on the night of October 9, 1991. Waking before midnight, he dressed in a bullet-proof vest, black military fatigues, combat boots, and a black silk ninja-style hood.

click here to return to previous page click here to go to map click here to go to next page