Stand Up for Safe Jobs! Campaign Underway
(This article first appeared in the January-February 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
In 2014, more than 36,000 postal workers were injured or sickened at work and at least 10 suffered fatalities.
“Here’s the simple truth,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein and Industrial Relations Director Tony D. McKinnon Sr. wrote in a letter to local and state presidents and national officers announcing the campaign. “If we want a safe workplace, we have to work together to make it happen.”
In the fall, locals across the country got busy distributing fact sheets to employees in break rooms, cafeterias and locker rooms (See pages 22-24).
The flyers are intended to remind long-term employees about rights they may not have exercised recently. It is also intended to inform – in many cases for the first time – the thousands of union members who were hired within the last several years about their right to work in a safe and healthy environment.
“If your local hasn’t gotten started yet, now is the time,” Dimondstein said. Additional copies can be printed locally, or local presidents can request more by writing to
Stand Up for Safe Jobs! Everyone has the right to leave work in one piece!
‘One Thing They Couldn’t Hide’
The fire on a conveyer belt at the Dallas Bulk Mail Center on Aug. 29, 2015, was “one thing they couldn’t hide,” said Jonathan Cage, BMC Director for APWU Local 732.
Several employees attempted to put out the fire before Dallas Fire-Rescue Department personnel arrived, but were unsuccessful. The firefighters eventually extinguished the blaze, which traveled through the building as the conveyer belt, loaded with mail, moved. One firefighter was injured.
Workers were kept out of the section where the fire erupted for about a week, Cage said, while machines were brought in to clean the air.
Back to ‘Business as Usual’
But management is too quick to get back to “business as usual,” he said. “There’s been no movement to improve anything, just hurry up and get back to business.”
“That’s why I believe the safety campaign is important,” Cage added.
The Fire Department’s Investigation Report said it appears the fire started when a piece of mail got wedged in a “diverter,” and the friction of the belt caused it to ignite. The burning item probably ignited other items as they passed by, “spreading the fire down the length of the conveyor belt.”
“Postal workers interviewed at the scene told investigators that items have gotten wedged in the system several times prior to this incident,” the report notes. During the previous incidents when they smelled smoke, they tracked down the items and removed them.
The fire wasn’t the first serious hazard at the facility, Cage said. Two years ago, after mercury was found, removal was haphazard and there was no follow-up on the health of employees who may have come in contact with it. And protocol was violated three years ago when an employee came in contact with an unknown substance and anthrax was suspected, he said.
Workers at the facility often said, “Something serious is going to happen around here one of these days,” Cage reported.
“We can’t let management sweep this under the rug.”