Standing Up for Safe Jobs During COVID-19
(This article first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
The past few months have been challenging for this country, especially for those of us considered essential front-line workers. Postal workers were called upon once again in a time of crisis to help keep communication and commerce flowing. You stepped up, you worked hard, and you showed how dedicated you are to every person in this country and worldwide.
As COVID-19 shut down businesses to regular customer traffic, you delivered the goods those businesses are shipping, including prescription drugs, personal protective equipment (PPE), and gifts from families that can not celebrate birthdays and other special events together. You brought normalcy to the homes here in our great country.
You proved how essential your day-to-day work is and how essential the Postal Service is overall. There is not a shortage of stories of people who are honoring the work you do and stories from people saying how seeing the Postal Service still operate is calming to them. I want to thank you for all the vital work you have done before and during this crisis. The stories of your work during the pandemic are amazing and something to be honored. You make this union proud!
Moving into the future beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot forget the lessons that we learned from it. We saw postal workers Stand Up for Safe Jobs and demand the PPE they needed to do their work safely. You stood up to management when you felt your facilities were not cleaned properly, challenging them when you did not have hand sanitizer and when you felt your work environments were risky due to COVID-19.
It was your ideas from the field that the Postal Service implemented, because you suggested and demanded them. Districts buying hand sanitizer from local distilleries turned sanitizer producers was one such suggestion. One of the best and most widely implemented suggestion also came from the field – sneeze guards. It was your work in standing up and showing management how to create sneeze guards first with shower curtains and then plexiglass that lead to their nationwide implementation. Another office put tape markings on the floor to help customers socially distance, now a nationwide practice. It was you – standing up and demanding safety – that helped push the Postal Service to do these things.
When we move forward from COVID-19, we will need to recognize new concerns and changes in procedures. All must be ready to address, pivot and demand changes to problems we confront. For example, when face coverings were ordered to be worn in various states, local members demanded the Postal Service abide by local directives. The USPS is now complying with all local orders.
Remember what you did. You filed 1767s – keep doing so when you see other hazards at work. Demand safe equipment and do not use damaged mail transport equipment. Work safely. Exercise your rights under our contract in Article 14 to have a safe work environment. Remind each other to work safely, like you remind each other to wash your hands, wear your face coverings, and to practice social distancing. No one wants to go home sick or hurt from a day of work at the post office.
You proved that when you Stand Up for Safe Jobs, the Postal Service will act. As we move forward, keep demanding safe workplaces. Remember, we are One Team, One Fight!
COVID-19 safety is of course the focus of much of what has been done over the last few months, but business still goes on. We continue to meet on grievances, schedule arbitrations, and perform the work of the union.
The contract is being finalized and copies of it were sent out to each member. New pay increases were due and pay scales were agreed to with the USPS. These went into effect on April 11 and were in pay checks on May 1.