Workers at some Chicago area post offices are expressing concerns about COVID cases at various locations, saying that they worry that the infections could hamper mail delivery and lead to workers coming to work sick.
Mack Julian, who represents more than 3,500 letter carriers in the city, says that two workers have died from COVID in the last two months. He says that contact tracing has been lacking in USPS facilities in the city, and that COVID cases are posing challenges to mail service in the city.
“There’s a huge problem right now,” he said. “The problem that we are having is that the postal service is not reporting this information to us, or relaying to the employees on the work room floor.”
Julian says that COVID cases have impacted 64 post offices in the Chicago area, alleging that facilities are not being properly cleaned.
The union leader says that paid leave for workers ended in September, and says that he’s heard stories about asymptomatic employees that are coming to work to avoid missing out on paychecks.
“Many of them are vaccinated – they may be asymptomatic – coming to work to get paid, and getting other carriers sick,” Julian said.
A postal carrier says that she was diagnosed with COVID after working at the Wicker Park facility, and says that routes are being impacted by new cases.
“There are times when we are down more than 20 routes, and it’s because carriers are not there because we are sick,” she said.
While the USPS says it could not comment on COVID cases due to privacy reasons, they said in a statement that the organization has “resources in place” to meet service needs.
“What can be shared at this point is that the Postal Service has a dedicated COVID Command Response leadership team that focuses on employee and customer safety in conjunction with operational and business continuity during this unprecedented epidemic,” the statement read, in part.
USPS officials said that enhanced cleaning procedures remain in place, and that all employees are required to wear facial coverings when social distancing cannot be observed.
Extra ventilation is also provided at all facilities, according to the statement.
Julian says that more needs to be done to protect workers.
“Unless they do something about it, we are going to have more fatalities and customers not receiving their mail, because there won’t be enough letter carriers to deliver the mail,” he said.
The union has called for additional workers to be stationed in the Chicago area, and that he would like administrative leave to be restored for workers on a case-by-case basis.