When United States Postal Service carrier Ryan Bradford took photos of vicious dogs on his mail route, he had no idea how much attention he'd get.
He posted the photos on his blog, and after Gawker, National Public Radio and other sources picked up the link, CityBeat caught up with Bradford and published a story exploring how a few cliché photos can grow into an internet meme. Shortly after our story appeared on June 29, the USPS stopped scheduling Bradford to work. Because of his status as a transitional employee, rather than a full-time carrier with benefits and protections, he went for weeks without pay. On July 20, he was finally served his official “Notice of Removal.”
USPS charged Bradford with two different violations. First, there was “unacceptable conduct” for talking to a reporter without permission and referring to his employment as “slave labor” in a self-published zine. Secondly, they slapped him with “Failure to Follow Instructions” for not carrying dog-repellent spray and snapping photos of dogs without explicit permission. In all cases, CityBeat's story was cited as evidence.
In the story, we listed Bradford's complaints about his transitional-employee status, which included lack of adequate break times and no incentive to deliver mail faster because he'd just get sent out with more. Bradford believes this was the main reason he was fired, though it's not spelled out in the formal document. He also points out that he did not sign a non-disclosure agreement when it comes to talking to the press.
“I believe management is phasing out all the expensive regular carriers quickly and filling the roles with under-benefited laborers similar to my position….” he writes on his blog. “And as these positions become the norm, it would be damaging to present them as unflattering. Or even worse, have those entering into the positions complain about it, so of course management needed to make an example of me.”
Many of the 60-plus comments on Bradford's recent post about his firing are from fellow mail carriers. Some say he should have just shut up and done his job. Others thank him for bringing the poor working conditions to light.
The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is currently handling Bradford's case. The USPS says it has no comment while the matter is under appeal. As Bradford waits for the verdict, he says he has some plans for his time off.
“I can focus on some art,” he says. “And, you know, Mad Men is streaming online now on Netflix, so I've got all those four seasons to watch.”