APWU Standing up for Safe Jobs

November 17, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

The safety of all postal employees is one of the most important issues that the APWU faces. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the APWU led the charge to meet with the Postal Service, implement cleaning and hygiene protocols at all post offices, make sure personal protective equipment (PPE) was (and is still being) provided, and negotiate the numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) that have helped protect all of us.

“Safety enforcement at all postal facilities, no matter the size, is something everyone must take seriously,” said Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman. “We know that management sometimes views the importance of safety only when convenient. Of course, we know safety is not a matter of convenience, but a something that must be considered on a daily basis every time we go to work.”

To that end, additional Regional Safety and Health Representatives have been appointed to represent the APWU, assist the Regional Coordinators with safety issues in their respective regions, and assist local and state officers as necessary. Local officers should contact their Regional Coordinators when safety issues arise so that a Regional Safety and Health Representative can assist.


Steve Vaughn, svaughn@apwu.org

Dave Childers, dchilders@apwu.org

Michelle Elliott, melliott@apwu.org

John Hunt, jhunt@apwu.org


Tom Molanick, tmolanick@apwu.org

Victor Fields, vfields@apwu.org

Nannette Corley, ncorley@apwu.org

Kim Miller, kmiller@apwu.org


MaryLou Polverari, mpolverari@apwu.org

Artie DeGennaro, adegennaro@apwu.org

Michelle Nadeau, mnadeau@apwu.org

Rick White, rwhite@apwu.org


Don Barron, dbarron@apwu.org

Katina Range, krange@apwu.org

Leonard Dennison, ldennison@apwu.org

Muriel Holmes, muriel.holmes@apwu.org


Patricia Sartain, psartain@apwu.org

David McSulla, dmcsulla@apwu.org

Ashley Sorensen, asorensen@apwu.org

Jon Grumet, jgrumet@apwu.org


Knowing Our Rights: COVID-19

One key aspect to ensuring our health and safety at work is knowing our rights when it comes to being exposed to COVID-19 and subsequently quarantined. We have the right to be paid if any of us are placed on quarantine by the Postal Service due to a “close contact” at work.

On October 21, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated their definition of “close contact” for COVID-19.

Previously, the guidance stated that a person who was within six feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 consecutive minutes should be considered a “close contact.” However, if the person who tested positive and the “close contact” were wearing face coverings, they would not have to be quarantined.

Based on studies of the disease and contact tracing, the CDC changed their guidance. Now a “close contact” is defined as:

  • A person who has been within six feet of a person who tests positive for COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period. Meaning, if a person is around another for two minutes at start of shift, 10 minutes in the breakroom later, and then three minutes at end of shift, that is 15 total cumulative minutes, and they must be quarantined.
  • If both parties are wearing face coverings, it no longer eliminates the need to quarantine. Even if wearing face coverings, they must quarantine.

Based on this guidance, the USPS also updated their close contact tracing programming. The guidance now calls for quarantines if employees meet the CDC criteria. If an employee must be quarantined, the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act (FFCRA) allows the Postal Service to place the employee on emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) to quarantine. In this case, the EPSL will be at full pay. Postal Service policy in the “close contact tracing program” states that employees who have used EPSL will be placed on administrative leave.

Employees who are not paid properly in these situations need to contact their local union officers or stewards for assistance.

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