USPS workers demand hazard pay amid coronavirus, over 630k sign petition

The USPS currently employs around 630,000 employees. Almost 500 of those employees have tested positive for COVID-19, with 6,000 in self-isolation due to exposure. Nineteen have died.

U.S. postal service trucks sit parked at the post office in Del Mar, California (photo credit: REUTERS)
U.S. postal service trucks sit parked at the post office in Del Mar, California
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An online petition commissioned by United States Postal Service (USPS) workers demanding hazard pay for work performed during the coronavirus pandemic has garnered over 630,000 supportive signatures, as of Thursday.
"We are demanding hazard pay for working during Coronavirus considering we are essential during this epidemic we should at be paid for it," the petition read. "The union is no help to employees during this at all they should be fighting for this hazard pay or threatening for another shutdown. We have to get louder post office!! Hopefully this is an outlet to make change happen."
The petition was directed at United States Postmaster General Megan Brennan claiming the USPS is not doing enough to protect their employees working during this time, adding that at the time of the petition's posting there were 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 - the disease caused by the novel coronavirus - within the postal entity, three weeks back. Since then that number has increased by more than ten-fold.
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The USPS currently employs around 630,000 employees. Almost 500 of those employees have tested positive for COVID-19, with 6,000 in self-isolation due to exposure within the workplace. Nineteen have died.
"We are grateful for the heroism and commitment of our 630,000 postal employees who continue to serve the American public during this pandemic, and we look forward to working with policymakers on ensuring the solvency of the Postal Service,” Brennan said in a statement last week.
However, the petition authors note at the time of writing the USPS had not provided their employees with any personal protective equipment and throughout the coronavirus crisis USPS workers have been "forced to work" upwards of 12 hour days, during which they are exposing themselves to the possible danger of contracting COVID-19.
While employees are requesting hazard pay from the USPS, the USPS pleaded with Congress last week, requesting grant assistance from the federal government, noting that it's possible the parcel deliverer will run out of funding by the end of the fiscal year due to a "devastating" fall-off in business stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.
"The Postal Service relies on the sale of postal products and services to fund our operations, and these sales are plummeting as a result of the pandemic. The sudden drop in mail volumes, our most profitable revenue stream, is steep and may never fully recover," said Brennan in her statement last week.
"We now estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic will increase the Postal Service’s net operating loss by more than $22 billion dollars over the next eighteen months, and by over $54 billion dollars over the longer term, threatening our ability to operate."
The requested $13 billion grant for the USPS was denied, however, where a $10 billion loan was instead incorporated into the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package - to which the USPS will eventually have to pay back.
This portion of the package came under much contention, mainly from United States President Donald Trump and his administration, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Trump claims that the USPS's financial troubles can be solved by simply raising fees for packages delivered by e-commerce giants such as Amazon, or other shipping vendors such as UPS and FedEx, against the advice of shipping experts well versed on the butterfly effects this type of move could have on the US economy.
“We told them very clearly that the president was not going to sign the bill if [money for the Postal Service] was in it,” the Trump administration official said, according to the Washington Post. “I don’t know if we used the v-bomb, but the president was not going to sign it, and we told them that.”
The USPS has been facing financial troubles for decades, and as long as the coronavirus pandemic lasts they are projecting to lose around $2 billion a month. If the USPS ceases operations, politicians have warned that it could invoke serious consequences for the overall health of citizens around the country - adding that if they don't receive this assistance, they might not survive the summer.
"At least six days per week, and in some instances seven, Postal Service employees accept, process, transport, and deliver vital mail and packages like medicine, products that sustain us, benefits checks, and important information, in every community, to every home and residence, and we will continue to do so," Brennan said in a USPS statement.
"As Americans are urged to stay home, the importance of the mail will only grow as people, including those in rural areas and senior citizens, will need access to vital communications, essential packages and other necessities."