Postal Carrier Fired For Not Keeping Pace Her Short Strides Doom Veteran; Customers Deliver Only Praise

SUNDAY, SEPT. 14, 1997

A woman who has been delivering mail for 18 years has been fired because her stride is too short.

“I’m devastated,” said 49-year-old Martha Cherry, who is just under 5-foot-5.

According to her dismissal letter from the U.S. Postal Service, Cherry was observed walking on her route at the rate of 66 paces per minute with a stride of less than a foot.

“At each step, the heel of your leading foot did not pass the toe of the trailing foot by more than one inch,” the letter said. “As a result, you required 13 minutes longer than your demonstrated ability to deliver mail to this section of your route.”

Cherry filed a grievance with the carriers’ union after receiving the dismissal letter last month.

The people along Cherry’s route in White Plains have written dozens of letters in her support. One is signed by more than 40 residents and says: “If walking quickly is more important than kind, sensitive service to customers, then something is seriously amiss with the post office’s priorities.”

Pat McGovern, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service, said Cherry had been warned once and suspended twice for similar problems. She said letter carriers are occasionally followed by supervisors who compare the speed of delivery with the same employee’s previous performance.

Robert Morton of the National Association of Letter Carriers said the Postal Service’s stance was “micromanagement.”

“Martha probably has gotten slower over the years, just like we all do,” he said. “But that’s just not acceptable to the Postal Service, even though her customers feel they’re getting above-average service.”

Cherry said that on her last day, one customer put up a sign saying, “We’re going to miss you, Martha. We want you back.”

“That really got to me,” she said. “My bosses are telling me that I don’t do my job, but my customers let me know that’s not true.”


Click here to comment on this story »