COVID-19 and Rochester Labor
NALC Branch 210
Interview with Kenny Montgomery (President, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 210), 24 February 2021
Each day nearly eight hundred Letter Carriers deliver between fifteen hundred and four thousand pieces of mail (depending on route) to Rochester residents, regardless of weather conditions and despite cutbacks to the budget of the United States Postal Service.
In accordance with contractual obligations, the USPS did provide PPE to postal workers. However, mandatory mask-wearing in postal facilities and near customers did not prevent Letter Carriers from being regularly exposed to the COVID-19 virus: locally more than one hundred and fifty members had to quarantine, especially during the September 2020 spike. Because of a hiring freeze, no replacement workers were available, resulting in carriers working seven days a week, twelve hours a day. This overtime work, together with COVID-related stress, led to exhaustion and work-related injuries.
Although nationally Letter Carriers were designated essential category 1-B workers, New York State left them out. As a result, these workers have not qualified for priority vaccination.
Throughout the pandemic the Letter Carriers Branch 210 office has remained open and, though officer meetings were suspended, thanks to Zoom, the union has not missed a membership meeting.
Despite other shortcomings, the Postmaster General has negotiated a contract with the NALC, which is in the member ratification process as of this writing.