By ELIZABETH DONALD
Illinois representatives are calling on the leaders of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to step up protections for the union postal workers increasingly subject to violence.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Sean Casten and Jan Schakowsky all co-signed an open letter on Oct. 20 asking the USPS board of governors to take “the necessary steps to ensure postal workers across the nation can carry out their jobs in peace.” This comes after a similar letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was ignored, according to the legislators.
Reports of mail carrier robberies have tripled from 80 in 2018 to more than 260 in 2021, according to the letter.
ACTION REQUESTS IGNORED
The legislators had previously sent a letter to DeJoy in July, and in response, the Postal Inspection Service created a special task force to address crimes against postal workers. However, the letter indicates postal workers in Illinois continue to suffer attacks.
This has repercussions beyond the mail delivery itself, according to the legislators. The stolen checks leave retirees and others bereft of their payments while the banks process the thefts, they said.
“We have been here before,” they wrote. When similar attacks occurred in 2011, the Postal Service launched a significant effort to help letter carriers stay safe with alerts and information – alerts that were recently discontinued by the Postal Service, according to the letter.
“Our offices have repeatedly heard from Labor groups that the absence of these alerts is causing serious distress among letter carriers, many of whom have had to start their routes later in the day, forcing them to be out late at night to complete their rounds,” the letter read. “Crimes against letter carriers continue to grow while Postal Service management continues to ignore the safety concerns of its workforce and labor groups.”
Several incidents have been reported in recent months:
- In August, a Chicago man was charged with carjacking a postal carrier and attempting to sexually assault her.
- In September, an Evanston man allegedly robbed and assaulted a mail carrier one day after two offenders robbed another mail carrier.
- Just a few weeks ago, a mail carrier was robbed at gunpoint in Bucktown and a day later one in Oak Park.
“Letter carriers are a vital part of every neighborhood, seven days a week,” said Frederic Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “Their safety is a top priority of the NALC. We will continue to work with Postal Service representatives and the Postal Inspection Service to take any and all steps necessary to prevent crimes from being committed against letter carriers and to ensure their safety.”
In many cases, the robbers are targeting the carriers for their master keys to allow them access to cluster mailboxes, Chicago Police told ABC News.
30 INCIDENTS IN AUGUST
The National Association of Mail Carriers (NAMC) reported that there had been approximately 30 incidents in August alone. “We’re concerned because something needs to be done,” Mack Julion with NAMC told CBS.
The website for Chicago’s Branch 11 of the National Association of Letter Carriers has a running ticker of “street alerts” that show at least 17 incidents in recent weeks, including robberies and sexual assaults.
The legislators addressed the letter to the board of governors of the U.S. Postal Service, and calls on them to “restore confidence in the leadership of the Postal Service” and address safety concerns.
This comes shortly after DeJoy told Government Executive Magazine in mid-October that he wants to restructure how postal workers operate, in which letter carriers no longer go to the local post office to pick up mail for their route, and instead travel farther distances from a consolidated location.