Following Death of Texas Mail Carrier, Oversight Democrats Press Postmaster General for Information Related to Working Conditions
Washington, D.C. (July 7, 2023)—Today, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, and Rep. Jasmine Crockett led their colleagues in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy expressing concerns over working conditions for Postal Service employees following the death of a letter carrier in Texas who died on June 20, 2023 while delivering mail during an extreme heat wave.
“We write to express our deep concerns over the working conditions and labor policies of the U.S. Postal Service, specifically with respect to letters carriers. On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, Eugene Gates Jr., a letter carrier in Texas, died while delivering mail during an extreme heat wave. Mr. Gates had worked for the Postal Service for almost 40 years. His unnecessary and untimely death was likely preventable and a stark reminder of the costs of the global climate emergency and the effect of more frequent and damaging extreme weather events,” wrote the Members.
Unfortunately, this is not the first tragic, yet preventable, death of a Postal Service employees caused by extreme heat. In 2012, John Watzlawick, a postal veteran of 28 years from Missouri, died after delivering mail in excessive heat despite notifying management that he felt ill from the heat. In 2019, Peggy Frank, a mail carrier from California, was found dead “in her non-air-conditioned mail truck” at a time when temperatures reached 115 degrees. Following Ms. Frank’s death, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the Postal Service for failing to provide and maintain a work environment free from recognizable hazards, such as extreme heat, that are likely to cause death or serious harm.
According to a recent local news report, in one area of Central Texas, roughly 80 delivery fleet vehicles do not have working air conditioners. Further, according to recent reports, despite the Postal Service’s investment of roughly $9.6 billion in new fleet vehicles, it appears that deployment of the next generation delivery vehicles will only begin starting mid-2024.
With the increase in extreme heat indexes across the country, the Committee Members expressed serious concerns that the Postal Service’s failure to invest in and fix existing vehicle air-conditioning units and failure to effectively implement policies to reduce employee exposure to extreme conditions place federal employees at risk, especially in the coming months.
“We understand that employee unions attempted to mitigate the risks to letter carriers by requesting commonsense solutions. For instance, we understand that some local unions requested the opportunity to begin mail delivery earlier in the day to avoid being on their routes when temperatures hit their peak. A 2020 analysis of OSHA records showed that OSHA issued more than $1.3 million in initial fines against the Postal Service for heat hazards in eight years. Despite these numerous and continued violations, it appears the Postal Service has yet to comprehensively address this issue and adopt nationwide work conditions policies that prevent these avoidable, tragic deaths,” continued the Members.
In addition to Ranking Member Raskin and Rep. Crockett, the letter was signed by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation; Rep. Kweisi Mfume, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce; Rep. Katie Porter, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services; Rep. Cori Bush, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy, and Regulatory Affairs; Rep. Robert Garcia, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; Rep. Stephen Lynch; Rep. Ro Khanna; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Rep. Shontel Brown; Rep. Melanie Stansbury; Rep. Greg Casar; and Rep. Dan Goldman.
Click here to read today’s letter.