A Growing Workplace Danger APWU

(This article first appeared in the November-December 2017 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

By Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman

In 2001, Anthrax-laden letters were sent through the mail sickening 22 Americans, including nine postal workers. Five died, including two APWU brothers – Joseph P. Curseen Jr. and Thomas L. Morris – at the Brentwood Mail Processing Center in Washington, D.C., that would later be named in their honor.

This is a reminder that we all need to be extremely aware of the dangers we face at work. Maybe you are less careful when it comes to spills. Maybe you are one of the tens of thousands of new employees working for the Postal Service since 2001, and are not aware of the history and protocols put into place. Deadly agents are illegally sent through the mail every day – and you need to be prepared in case you come across a powder or other spill.

Opioid Crisis

We face an opioid addiction crisis. The disease affects addicts, their families, friends and co-workers. Overdose deaths are at all-time highs and they happen to those who are not only users, but also first responders, caregivers and everyday people.

Many of the overdoses are due to powerful synthetic opioids Fentanyl, Carfentanil and their derivatives. These drugs are much stronger than heroin and easily obtained. The substances enter the U.S. by international mail, are repackaged as pills or powder, and re-shipped all over the country via first-class, priority and express mail.

These chemicals are extremely dangerous and should not be taken lightly. As one law enforcement officer said when discussing 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of chemicals that were sent through the mail and intercepted, “There was enough there to kill millions of Americans.”

Protect Yourself

My goal is not to scare you. It is to make you aware, observant and to protect yourselves.

The Postal Service has established procedures in the case of suspicious mail, unknown powders or sub-stances. You need to know the procedures and follow them! The following is taken directly from a USPS handout about suspicious mail:

“Leave the piece of mail or substance where it was found. Do not disturb it.
“Clear all employees from the immediate area where the piece of mail or substance is located. Prevent others from entering the area.
“Notify a supervisor or manager immediately. If a supervisor or manager is not available, contact the Postal Inspection Service.
“Wash hands and exposed skin with soap and water.”
At this point, management has a checklist:

Don’t clean up the substance.
Keep people away.
Shut down mail processing in the immediate area.
Shut down the HVAC systems to prevent any spread.
Do not put yourself at risk! You must protect yourself! If you report a spill and management does not follow proper protocol, complete a 1767 Form and contact your steward. They should contact your Regional Safety and Health Representative. Find yours at apwu.org/issues/regional-sh-representatives.

You are allowed to wear nitrile gloves at work, USPS will provide them. Management Instruction EL-2009-4 explains the glove policy. This will help prevent exposure to any substances through your skin. Wash your hands at work and before you go home. Monitor how you feel. If you begin to feel strange, let your supervisors know – tell a co-worker to get help.

Symptoms for these drugs include weak muscles, dizziness, confusion, extreme sleepiness, pinpoint sized pupils, drop in blood pressure, profound slowing of heart beat and bluish tint to your nails and lips.

Your Industrial Relations Department has met with the Postal Service and is working to ensure this threat is taken seriously and an appropriate action plan to protect all is developed.

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Ohio State House Rep. Wes Goodman resigns after ‘inappropriate behavior’

Speaker Rosenberger announced that a screening panel will be formed in the near future to select a new member for the vacant 87th House District seat
NBC4 Staff Published: November 15, 2017, 9:12 am Updated: November 15, 2017, 9:43 am

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio State Representative Wes Goodman (R-Cardington) has resigned after reported inappropriate behavior.

A release from Speaker of the Ohio House Clifford A. Rosenberger stated:

It is with deep regret that I have asked State Representative Wes Goodman to offer his resignation as a member of the Ohio House. I was alerted to details yesterday afternoon regarding his involvement in inappropriate behavior related to his state office. I met with him later in the day where he acknowledged and confirmed the allegations.  It became clear that his resignation was the most appropriate course of action for him, his family, the constituents of the 87th House District and this institution.”
Following the announcement of his resignation Goodman released the following statement:

Serving as the state representative for the 87th Ohio House District has been one of the great honors of my life. We all bring our own struggles and our own trials into public life. That has been true for me, and I sincerely regret that my actions and choices have kept me from serving my constituents and our state in a way that reflects the best ideals of public service. For those whom I have let down, I’m sorry. As I move onto the next chapter of my life, I sincerely ask for privacy for myself, my family, and my friends.”
Speaker Rosenberger announced that a screening panel will be formed in the near future to select a new member for the vacant 87th House District seat.

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Catching Up with APWU Young Leaders APWU

Lisa Dunbar

(This article first appeared in the November-December 2017 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

At the All-Craft Conference, the American Postal Worker sat down and spoke with a few young APWU leaders about why they decided to get involved in their local. Many shared the same sentiment – they saw things on the workroom floor they did not like and decided to take action.

“As a PSE, I worked 12-hour days, all the time,” recalled Lisa Dunbar, 29, acting president of the North Platte Local and state representative for the Nebraska Postal Workers Union. “I also saw what the workplace was like…We have safety issues.”

Denisha Dean

Ashley Cargill, 34, who serves as Oklahoma Postal Workers Union President and clerk trustee and steward for the Oklahoma City Area Local, agreed. “Things were not getting resolved and I didn’t like it,” she said. “When you start, you don’t even know what the violations are.”

Chris Johnson, 32, Maintenance Craft Director of the Indianapolis Area Local, noted that in his office, “Everyone else serving as stewards and directors were on their way to retirement, so I stepped up to learn the ropes…I did it because I had to protect the workers.”

Importance of Union

Johnson’s great-grandfather was a letter carrier and his father a mail handler. He used to be a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers before joining the APWU five years ago. He noted a lot of them other young members he speaks with “do not fully grasp or understand what the union does and how it works. Even though I explain it to them, they just think it’s always going to be there.”

Denisha Dean, 28, is president of the Long Beach Area Local (CA). She said she saw the importance of being in a union at a young age when her mother was injured working at the post office. “Management lied to her,
but the union helped her get back,” Dean recalled.

Chris Johnson

Ashley Cargill

“Without the members, there is no union,” Cargill said. She noted that sometimes workers do not report an issue because they do not want to “cause a wave in their office.” However, if the worker does not report it, and the union does not enforce workplace standards and the contract, the protections will disappear. “It is important for us to be involved.”

Johnson stressed the importance of educating yourself, “If you don’t like what’s going on, you have to fix it,” he said. “You can’t sit on the sidelines and hope someone else does it for you.”

Dean noted that belonging to a union comes with opportunities for growth. “Health care, solidarity, education – I wouldn’t have any of that without the union,” she said, adding that she is an active member of Post Office Women for Equal Rights (POWER) and Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). “The union has all these sub-branches to help you not only become a good worker and know your rights, but to become a better person, too.”

“If not for the union, we don’t have a future,” Dunbar said. “It’s our job to continue the legacy that’s left before us.”

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