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To: Postmaster General Megan Brennan
USPS Must Ensure Rights and Safety for Employees and Customers During COVID-19 Pandemic
The United States Postal Service provides essential services, but its employees are at active risk during the COVID-19 outbreak, and many of our activities may also put customers at risk. The Postal Service must take immediate action to ensure the safety and rights of its workers, as well as the safety of its customers.
Employees who are at high risk (including those 65 or older, those with chronic long term illnesses, and those with compromised immune systems) or who live with and care for high risk individuals should be given leave with full pay for the duration of the pandemic. (For this purpose and others below, pay should be calculated based on average pay over the last twelve months.)
Emergency sick leave above and beyond normal accrued leave should be granted to all employees (including those, like Rural Carrier Associates, who have no contractual right to leave) in the event that they contract or are suspected to have contracted COVID-19; given the extreme shortage of tests, a doctor's note confirming that the employee displays symptoms and is advised to self-quarantine should suffice as proof.
Employees remaining at work must be granted hazard pay at time and a half the rate they would otherwise be paid.
Emergency protocols must be put in place to ensure the safety of employees and customers alike. Direct delivery should be suspended to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, clinics, and other locations where carriers may come into contact with vulnerable populations or with people who already have the virus.
New procedures must be implemented for all delivery and pick up situations that require employees to come into direct contact with customers or pass, e.g., a scanner or credit card back and forth. Procedures should allow employees and customers alike to avoid all such contact.
Basic supplies like gloves, sanitizer spray, and face masks should be available to employees at all stations and training on best safety practices should be provided at all stations.
Why is this important?
In many stations, management has not so much as read a safety talk about health risks during this pandemic and how to minimize them. No significant steps of any sort have been taken to ensure the safety of employees or customers. A memo sent to station managers and supervisors on March 13 claimed that “ “the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low for the general American public.” This is grossly irresponsible and must be corrected immediately.
The CDC and other public health officials have made it clear that everyone should stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible. By continuing to work as normal, postal employees are put at great risk of contracting the virus and/or spreading it to customers. If the Postal Service fails to act swiftly and boldly, many employees and customers alike will die as a result, and countless more will suffer illness. The gravity of this can hardly be overstated.
We must therefore take the above steps to keep the most vulnerable people out of high risk situations entirely, and ensure the greatest care is taken for all others. There is simply no excuse for failure to do so.
Given the risk that all employees are taking by continuing to work in a viral pandemic, the great stress the situation puts on them and their families, and the extra time and care that is demanded by safety precautions in their daily work, time and a half hazard pay should be the minimal compensation for those who continue to work.
Finally, it is outrageous that employees who are required to work in such a high risk situation should be forced to take leave without pay if they contract the virus as a result. USPS as an employer must take responsibility for the risks it forces upon its employees, and guarantee their continued pay during illness.