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Mail Might Be Re-Routed Around Critical Anthrax Safeguards

Several postal workers of the Portland, Oregon Postal Workers Union Local 128 have filed official complaints to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) and to the USPS Postal Inspector that some managers of the local mail service have been re-routing mail around the anthrax-sniffing safeguards and equipment that Congress appropriated $1.4 billion for to prevent terrorism or other biological attacks through the mail system. In possible efforts to speed up production through the Portland, Oregon mail system, such a cutting of corners with safety could endanger both the postal workers as well as the public.

Congress quickly responded with the $1.4 billion dollar anthrax sniffing equipment funds after two Washington, D.C. postal workers were killed six years ago with anthrax that some terrorist or other individual sent through the mail system. The equipment installed by the postal service takes an air sample of all letters collected from postal boxes and from home mailboxes, and if some bio-hazard is detected, then an alarm warns the postal workers to evacuate the workplace and to call in agents trained to handle such a bio-hazard danger. Any bypassing of this critical anti-terrorism safeguard endangers both the postal employees and the public both, and gives terrorists or other elements an opening to create public mayhem.

The local labor union's own safety representative, Roseanna Foster-Mikhail, is a 22-year veteran employee of the local Portland, Oregon postal service, and has personally trained other employees in bio-hazard detection and handling. It defeats the important role of a dedicated union safety inspector like this if mail is indeed being re-routed around anthrax and bio-hazard safeguards. It becomes an unnecessary risk for the postal workers to work in such an environment where the high tech equipment which was developed by Northrop Grumman is not used to prevent a potential deadly danger. Even if a false positive is somehow detected, in the case of serious bio-hazards such as anthrax, you cannot be too careful around such serious threats that almost certainly result in death.

anthrax.jpgAfter 9/11 and the later anthrax threats, Washington responded with massive funding to plug-up some very serious security holes that allowed terrorists to wage attacks on American citizens. These critical safeguards have proven effective since 9/11 in preventing further attacks. It is only through the continued work of trained employees to maintain these safeguards that the American public has enjoyed safety since 9/11. When some involved in these critical public safety inspections fail to do their duty, then the public finds itself in needless danger and terrorists are only given an opening to do their dirty work. No doubt, both OSHA and the USPS Postal Inspectors office will take the complaints filed by these local postal workers in Portland very seriously and will take steps to be sure that the mail isn't also being re-routed in other local postal systems.

Labor unions not only protect the safety of their members, but also provide an important measure of safety for the consumer public as well. If the postal services were not unionized, likely this critical anthrax safety issue would have never have become an issue. In non-union workplaces there is a far higher incidence of worker injury and death than in unionized workplaces.

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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