Postal Workers Plan Workers’ Memorial Day Vigils
Workers injured or killed by their jobs are honored every year on April 28, Workers’ Memorial Day. (It’s the anniversary of the date the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect in 1971.) This year the somber occasion is especially urgent, in the midst of the biggest workplace safety disaster this country has seen in decades.
More than 50,000 people in the U.S. and 192,000 worldwide have died of COVID-19. Many of them likely caught the virus at work. Employers’ stalling and inadequate safety measures, along with government inaction, are to blame for many deaths among health care workers, transit workers, postal workers, poultry plant workers, grocery workers, and more.
Postal workers in Des Moines, Portland, and Seattle are planning socially distanced vigils to draw media attention to the ongoing crisis for workers in essential jobs. Below are details. Let us know your plans: editors[at]labornotes[dot]org. —Eds.
30 CROSSES IN DES MOINES
Postal Workers (APWU) Local 44 is planning a day of action on April 28. I would like to thank brother Ajamu Dillahunt for bringing up the idea.
We will be holding a ceremony in front of the Des Moines Iowa Processing & Distribution Center. We will plant 30 white crosses into the ground to represent the postal workers who have died due to the coronavirus. We will also have a banner that will read “Postal Heroes! Gone But NOT FORGOTTEN!”
We are reaching out to all the media outlets to cover the story. We plan on issuing a press release to honor the employees who have fallen in the line of duty. We want to honor and respect their families that have had to deal with the grief of losing a loved one during an epidemic.
We will also be talking about the financial crisis that the Postal Service is facing during the crisis. Mail volume is down 50 percent, and we are not sure of it will ever recover. The postal service must be put on financial footing.
—Mike Bates, president of Des Moines Area APWU Local 44
MULTI-UNION VIGIL IN SEATTLE
In Seattle we are planning a vigil with a focus on frontline essential workers, in front of a downtown post office, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Appropriate protective garb and social distancing will be mandatory.
The initiative began with Seattle postal unions—Letter Carriers, Mail Handlers, and APWU local leaders have committed to participate. We hope to broaden this to include representatives from other unions representing essential frontline workers in the pandemic.
It will just take 10 people—the limit requested by the governor—spaced six feet apart, wearing face masks, each with appropriate signs. There will be some combination of the banging of a drum or the ringing of a bell in recognition of workers who have died from COVID-19. Since the event is in front of a postal facility, this will repeat once a minute for 30 minutes, 30 being the minimum number of postal employees across the country who have fallen from the pandemic, including union member Querubin “Sonny” Quitlong, who worked at the Seattle Processing and Distribution Center in Tukwila.
Since participation on the actual line is limited to 10 at a time, participating unions will be asked to send one or two representatives. Those not on the actual line will wait at a distance to rotate into the line or talk with the media. We invite those participating to bring signs reflecting their union and the specific situations of their members, with any appropriate message they wish to convey, such as demands for personal protective equipment and other protective measures. No speeches are planned.
At that time of day, many postal mail carrier vehicles will be leaving the nearby Seattle Carrier Annex, and we will ask that they flash their lights as they pass by; we could broaden that to a public request as well.
—David Yao, vice president of the Greater Seattle Area APWU Local