Re: One Year Later

(or cavorting with the enemy in my old haunts)
by The Inmate

It is hard to believe that a little over a year ago I, along with nearly 3,000 other employees of DHL, was laid off. Harder still to believe, possibly, is the fact that I do not have a job yet. It’s not an unpleasant sensation, but one I know that will have to be remedied at some point in the future. One of my former colleagues who also does not yet have a job put it very succinctly on a recent visit:

Job? I don’t have time for a job!

Oh, and how about that DHL? There I was watching the Olympics being bombarded with my former employer’s commercials—nice to know they can afford them now that we’re gone. I’ve also seen the big, ugly, yellow vans in several magazine ads and on occasions too numerous to count I’ve seen the vans during my travels as a contented, unemployed citizen.

The Darth Vader Building

The Darth Vader Building

One of the more interesting things to happen to me in regard to DHL occurred this summer. I received a phone call from a lawyer representing DHL who wanted to talk to me regarding a lawsuit that had been filed against my former employer. Well, being the busy individual that I am I decided to go down to the offices of Littler Mendelson in downtown San Diego, located in a building in which I delivered thousands of packages during my illustrious career at DHL. I had been to that exact floor probably hundreds of times and there I was in the building, which we used to affectionately refer to as “The Darth Vader Building,” as a common civilian dressed not in my uniform but in a pair of jeans and a casual shirt – – – I can’t even remember if it was Friday.

The interview lasted about a hour-and-a-half.  Apparently there are some former DHL employees suing the company because they believe (or their lawyers have convinced them to believe) that they suffered under adverse working conditions by not being allowed to take meal breaks and/or other breaks required by law.  I have no way of knowing if their complaints are legitimate, but I had some fairly strong opinions about DHL regarding breaks, its policies and the nature of our jobs.

The lawyer explained to me that what Littler Mendelson wanted from me was a declaration.  She would write it (based upon my interview) as if she were me and then I could sign it and make any changes I thought necessary (bad thing to tell a writer).  At the end of our interview, which was an extremely professional and pleasant experience I said, “I almost feel like I’m cavorting with the enemy.”  She laughed.  Then I said, “But the truth is the truth.”  She said something like, “That’s what we’re after ‘The whole truth and nothing but the truth.'”

After the interview I trekked around downtown through the very areas that I delivered to for over 17 years to take some pictures and marvel at the interesting and fortunate events of my life over the last year. I even saw a DHL van. You can’t miss the yellow even if you want to.

About a week after my interview I received the declaration which, strangely enough, left out a lot of what I had to say.  The truth was there, but it was only part of the truth.  So, of course, being The Inmate I had no choice but to add in what the lawyer, for some higher moral purpose, no doubt, had decided to leave out.  I sent it back to her.  A couple of weeks later I received another email from her stating something like: “I need to talk to you about these changes.”  I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.  Finally, I received another email apologizing for not getting back to me and stating that she would call me to talk about my changes.  I wanted to talk to her because I was curious to ask her why she left out what she did particularly when the things I mentioned directly involved what I was led to believe the lawsuit was about.  I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited and I’m still waiting.  Apparently the truth I had to offer was not one that Littler Mendelson believed was in the best interest of their client regardless of its validity.  You can read the declaration that never was below.

A Yellow DHL Van

This is good marketing?

So . . . my life a year later?  Well, I’m back in college – – – for the fourth time.  I’m studying web site development and programming.  I started in January and will finish in December.  My unemployment has been extended because I am in “training.”  It’s been great.  I enjoy learning this stuff and I’ve had a great schedule.  Some of my classes have been online so most of my studying is done at home.  I’ve had mostly good teachers, a couple of great ones and one not so good.

One of the surprising things to me about going back to college has been the number of students around my age (46) and above.  I expected to be surrounded by late teens and early twenties but the range is wide though I’m older than most of my professors.  It feels a little strange starting an entirely new career at my age, but it seems to be the nature of the times.

So in January, 16 months after my layoff, I start looking for a job or figuring out a way to create my own. My ideal would be to work at home for myself building web sites, next on the list would be telecommuting for a company doing the same and third on the list would be to work for a good company somewhere close to my house.

If you’re a web designer/programmer with any advice to offer me I’d be happy and grateful to receive it. Or if you’d like a web site designed by The Inmate let me know that too. If you’re a publisher who wants to make me wealthy publishing this site in book form – – – ponder this: when my dream ends I’ll get up to brew a cup of tea and you will cease to exist.

The DHL lawyers decided not to obtain this declaration and hence it has never been signed and, at this point, more than likely never will. I have deleted all real names of individuals except my own.

I, Glen Draeger, declare that:

  1. The information contained in this declaration is true of my own personal knowledge. I could and would testify to this information under oath if I were called and sworn as a witness in this proceeding.
  2. I was employed by DHL Worldwide Express (DHL) from approximately May 5, 1986 to October 31, 2003, however, my last work day with DHL was September 2, 2003. I was employed by DHL in the position of Courier Guard at the Service Center located on Convoy Court in San Diego, California.
  3. I worked part-time during my employment with DHL. I had a many different supervisors during my employment, but my most recent supervisors during the 2000-2003 time period were ———–, ———- (can’t remember his last name), and a woman (I think her name was ———-).  —— and ——– were my last two supervisors.
  4. As a Courier, my duties included going to the airport and getting material, sorting the packages and letters, and delivering the material for DHL customers in an assigned area. My route during the 2000-2003 time period included Downtown San Diego and Coronado.
  5. I normally worked Monday through Friday, with occasional Saturday work.  I usually worked on Monday from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and on Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. 
  6. My initial pay rate was $_7.62_____ per hour and increased to a little over $ __20.00____ per hour at the end of my employment.
  7. I completed an Employee Data Card (EDC) on a daily basis and I recorded all of my working time accurately on my EDCs throughout my employment. On rare occasions (approximately _3_ % of the time or less) I would take my break at the end of the shift, when I did not take one on my route. I added in my time at the end of the shift because I wanted to leave earlier and either take care of things at home or leave for a vacation. I was instructed either at meetings or individually by a supervisor to complete the EDCs as you go through your route and to be accurate when recording time. I did not note my rest periods on my EDCs because the code “998” (for a paid break) was no longer an option after about 1997. However, the supervisors told us to just take the break and to include it with code “52”- stem in – which is the code to use from the last stop to base. There was also a code 999, for an unpaid break and this code could be used for personal reasons, such as running an errand in the area I was delivering. I used the 999 every now and then – about once a month – to go to a bookstore or the Coronado library. 
  8. I did not take meal breaks because I worked part-time, approximately a 6-hour shift.
  9. During my employment as a Courier Guard, I received an Employee Handbook and signed that I had received one. I read parts of it and I vaguely remember reading the meal and rest break policy. I’m not sure if the meal and rest break policy ever changed during my employment.  The unofficial policy changed at least a couple of times, that is, many people took their breaks at the end of their routes by simply adding the time into code 52 and adjusting the end time to reflect that—something that everyone, including supervisors, had no problem with.  There were times when we were instructed we could no longer do that I assume because our supervisors experienced some kind of pressure from those above them.  However, that never really lasted and if you wanted (at least that was my experience) you could always add your break in as I described above.
  10. I was informed of DHL’s meal and rest break policy when I was first hired. I believe it was probably ————— that told me about the meal and rest break policy. It was my understanding that if I worked over 4 hours, I was entitled to a 15-minute rest break. Initially upon being hired in 1986, I did not take rest breaks; I was young, single and did not need a break. In about 1990, I started taking them because it was an extra 15-minutes of pay per day and I had recently been married so we needed the money. I usually only worked a 6-hour day, so I took one break a day. I do not remember the policy changing, just that I started taking the breaks. I remember the supervisors telling us that we needed to take the breaks on route.
  11. After January 1, 2000, I took a rest break approximately 99% of the time. For the 1% of the time I did not take a break, it was on a Saturday and I did not take a break because I wanted to get off earlier, go home, or go on vacation. It was not explicitly stated that I could miss a break and leave early, but I assumed it was okay because I informed my supervisors that I was adding a break or breaks in and that was fine by them.  That was just business as usual. At different times over my 17 years at DHL (the exact dates or years I do not remember), supervisors told us that we could not take our break at the end of our shift.  The instruction was never really enforced, but it didn’t affect me in my later years because I almost always took my breaks after my last delivery. I did not need my supervisor’s permission to take a break and I was not restricted in where I could take my rest break. When I was delivering in Coronado, I would take my break at the library, by the beach, or under some big pine trees. I took my break between 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m.
  12. At no time was I ever told by any of the supervisors that I could not take a rest break.  I did not ever complain to any DHL supervisors that I was unable to take a rest break. I wrote a fair amount of letters to management while employed at DHL, however, I never wrote a letter to management about not being able to take my rest breaks. I wrote the The Inmate while employed at DHL, which was a kind of underground, satirical, humorous paper about the happenings at our workplace.  I did write a short article in The Inmate about the 998 code going away in approximately 1997.  This always seemed to me to be a very curious matter.  We had codes for things that lasted less than ten minutes that were carefully monitored.  So it was my opinion and that of many of my colleagues that the 998 code was done away with because DHL knew full well that couriers were not either taking their breaks or, more likely, were taking them at the end of their shifts—the latter being a common, accepted practice because of the nature of the job, particularly in the afternoon where things could change quickly.  Since we were told just to add the break in without denoting when we took it if DHL was ever audited management could simply state that there was no code for breaks, but that couriers had been instructed to take them.  I mentioned this idea to an Engineer who was in charge of going to stations and evaluating routes and he fully agreed as if that was, of course, obvious to any thinking person. 
  13. I was not aware of any DHL courier who ever complained to DHL that they were unable to take their rest breaks, that is, I don’t remember any specific names, but I do know that the requirements of the job often made taking a rest break during the route a source of stress.  And many couriers complained that they were not allowed to start their afternoon routes early enough to give them adequate time to complete them in a sane manner.  By “sane” I mean being able to take a break and not make your route very difficult to complete.  My impression was that there was a lot of pressure from CORP on Supervisors particularly in the last two or three years before the big layoff to meet statistical goals set by CORP number crunchers, hence much of the pressure gushed down on to couriers.  Many of the statistical goals, in my opinion and in many if not most of my colleagues’ opinions, were unattainable and unrealistic.
  14. I had about 2-3 check-rides done in the 2000-2003 timeframe. I had a check-ride done as a matter of course, I think twice.  I was supposed to have had them on a regular basis—I think the required amount was 4 per year or one per quarter.  That never happened my entire 17 years at DHL. During the 2000-2003 timeframe, I did not request any check-ride by my supervisor because of my route being too long or unable to make deliveries.  It should be noted, however, that I always believed my goals were basically unattainable, but I since I had been at DHL so long and people knew my work ethic I didn’t care whether I attained them or not.  My attitude was if I didn’t attain them it was the statistical goals at fault, not me and if DHL didn’t like my work they could fire me. During the check-rides, we sometimes took rest breaks – I don’t remember if we always did but we would sometimes grab something to eat.  

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