A US Postal Service mail carrier tries to stay cool under an umbrella as it walks its way along East Grand Avenue in Dallas, June 20. (Elías Valverde II / Tribune Content Agency)
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WASHINGTON — Texas lawmakers urged the US Postal Service on Aug. 9 to provide bottled water to mail carriers in San Antonio, a long-standing practice workers say stopped last month despite sweltering heat roasting the state.
Dallas Letter Carrier, Eugene Gates Jr., collapsed at work He died on June 20 during a heat wave.
They called on the Postal Service to put in place a plan to ensure that letter carriers were allowed to take necessary breaks from the heat and get cold water – without having to pay out of pocket.
Kimitra Lewispresident National Letter Carriers Association Lone Star Branch 132said carriers accessing bottled water and ice machines in the Dallas area.
The decline coincides with a broader debate about government protections for outdoor workers forced to endure life-threatening temperatures.
For marriage I organized a thirst strike in July To protest a new Texas law that eliminates local requirements for mandatory water outages. Supporters of the new law saw it as a way to free companies from onerous regulations, but critics say it puts workers at risk.
🧵 San Antonio couriers used to get water bottles for their shifts, but in the middle of this summer heat wave – that’s it.
—Congressman Greg Cassar (RepCasar) August 9, 2023
The Postal Service did not respond directly to San Antonio’s complaints, but said in general carriers deliver mail in a range of “temperatures and weather conditions,” including the summer months.
“The safety of our employees is a top priority and the Postal Service has implemented a national Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) for all employees,” the Postal Service said in a statement.
This program contains mandatory heat-related safety training and materials that include awareness stickers, daily reminders, and stickers in each vehicle that identify signs of heat-related illness.
Carriers are reminded to stay hydrated, to take adequate amounts of water with them and to call 911 if they experience symptoms of heat-related illness.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently sent DeJoy another letter requesting air-conditioned vehicles in San Antonio due to the sweltering heat. Only 34% of current Postal Service vehicles have air conditioning.
Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas), in leading a group of 15 House Democrats to ask the USPS a series of questions about labor practices after the death of Gates, 66. His widow, Carla Gates, believes his death was related to extreme heat, although the cause has not been officially determined.
He worked for the Postal Service for over 35 years.
just in: USPS confirms that the messenger died on the job in Dallas Tuesday.
Family told me 66yo Eugene Gates collapsed in their front yard, and a neighbor performed CPR.
The USPS is not confirming whether the death was heat related at this time.
– Peyton Yager (@peytonyager) June 21, 2023
Told about reports that carriers in San Antonio are no longer providing bottled water, she said the Postal Service should take extreme heat into account when crafting its policies.
“It’s just common sense,” she said, “to make conditions better for the workers.”
The Postal Service reiterated its condolences in its August 9 statement.
“The Postal Service continues to be saddened by the loss of life suffered by Lakewood Lester Carrier Eugene Gates Jr,” the statement said. “Our thoughts remain with his family, friends and colleagues.”
Homer Hernandez, political director for National Letter Carriers Association Alamo Branch 421He said the department in San Antonio was told to stop ordering bottled water and Gatorade on July 14.
“We, the couriers, work outside for about eight to 10 hours in sweltering heat. All we ask is (that the USPS continue to provide) bottled water, and stop intimidating and harassing couriers when they take breaks.
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High temperatures are putting workers at risk across the state and country, lawmakers wrote, with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees and a record number of heat exhaustion emergencies.
“Message Carriers provide an essential service to our community and do so with earnestness and determination,” they wrote. “They deserve the resources they need to do their job safely.”
Rescinding free bottled water for postal workers in San Antonio appeared to contradict President Joe Biden’s stance at a July 27 White House event over sweltering heat, when he criticized efforts to roll back mandatory water cuts.
“We must protect workers from dangerous conditions, and we will,” Biden said. “And those states where they don’t, I will call them out, where they refuse to protect these workers in this dreadful heat.”
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