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A call for change after alleged mistreatment of Western New York USPS workers during Christmas blizzard

Posted at 5:50 PM, Apr 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-24 17:50:37-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The deadly Christmas blizzard in Western New York halted essential services including the United States Postal Service.

Months later, federal lawmakers are now fighting to protect Western New York postal workers who worked through the treacherous conditions.

"There were driving bans and yet postal workers were forced to go out and deliver mail during all of this," Congressman Brian Higgins said.

Higgins, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Chuck Schumer recently sent a letter to the USPS Inspector General and Postmaster General asking them to investigate mismanagement by postal managers during the storm.

Western New Yorkers experienced whiteout conditions and blistering wind during the Christmas Blizzard of 2022.

The lawmakers highlighted what the mail carriers experienced during the storm and said that "one employee noted that he was unable to drive away from his facility in Williamsville, and instead spent two nights at his facility until he was able to leave on Christmas Day. Another carrier’s infant son who was breastfeeding had to go two days without his mother. Another worker who was eight months pregnant was delayed until nearly 4:00 PM on the 23rd, became immobilized attempting to drive home due to the blizzard, and had to be recovered by volunteer firefighters. For another carrier, her vehicle careened into a ditch, only to be rescued by a nearby resident, who took her to safety and allowed her to stay with his family."

The letter also states that it was alarming to learn reports of managers allegedly threatening to call the police on employees who were trying to shelter at their postal offices.

"We heard from a lot of postal who were very concerned about being forced to go out and deliver the mail in these extraordinarily bad conditions," Higgins added," Provisions should have been made to delay the delivery of those services so as to protect the workers. it wasn't done and that's our primary concern."

Lawmakers also wrote that postal service managers did not tell employees they could go home until the afternoon of December 23rd and that management ignored storm warnings.

letter usps
Gillibrand, Schumer and Higgins sent this letter to USPS on April 19.

"From my perspective, the treatment of letter carriers during the storm was completely unacceptable and downright dangerous," Senator Gillibrand said, "It's infuriating and it's worrisome because they're lucky there wasn't someone who lost their life."

Gillibrand, Schumer and Higgins are requesting that USPS develop and implement procedures with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect postal workers during a severe winter weather event.

7 News' Kristen Mirand did reach out to USPS for an interview. A spokesperson declined the request and stated that they will be in touch with the senators and congressman. Gillibrand said they have not received any correspondence since sending the letter.