Thursday, April 24, 2003

Postal Worker Anthrax Coverup, Continued

According to the New York Times, postal workers in Wallingford are a bit upset that they were lied to by the Postal Service about anthrax contamination in 2001 (see below).
It took seven months for managers to respond to a request for a full report on the contamination, said John Dirzius, president of the American Postal Workers Union local, which represents two-thirds of the 1,200 people who work in the Wallingford center. Today, postal workers here said they wanted an explanation.

"Why hasn't somebody come to a podium saying, `We made the wrong call'?" said James Willard, a mechanic who has worked at the Wallingford center for eight years. "The morale is down a lot and I don't know if that will be bridged."

Postal Service officials said today that it was the responsibility of health agencies to release medical information.

"On that score, we deliver mail," said Gerry McKiernan, a Postal Service spokesman. "We're not medical experts. We took the advice the medical experts gave us at the time."

But one of those experts, Dr. James Hadler, Connecticut's chief epidemiologist, said the State Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control had told postal managers that the information should be released.

"They told us, `We want to be the ones to tell the media and our employees,' " Dr. Hadler said.
The union membership now hopes for a formal apology said Mr. Dirzius.Asked if one was forthcoming, Mr. McKiernan said he could not comment on a matter between labor and management.

The American Way?

This may not be a health and safety issue, but indicative of the same corporate mentality. You are probably aware of the brou-ha-ha over American Airlines convincing their unions that concessions were needed to avoid bankruptcy, but then revealing that (oops), the airline had failed to disclose before the voting that it planned to pay bonuses to six top executives next year and protect part of the pensions of 45 executives if the airline sought bankruptcy. The bonuses since have been rescinded (not the pensions), but the unions are demanding a revote. Molly Ivins had awarded it her “Boneheads of the Month” title.

Well, to the rescue rides (who else) the Wall St. Journal editorial page which says it might have been nice for American to have disclosed the information “for transparency's sake,” but that the favors to the executives were justified because what with the terrorism, falling stock prices and the “nighmares” of regulatory and labor relations problems, “CEOs,aren't exactly falling all over` each other to land airline jobs these days… That would have left the carrier with a management vacuum.” As Molly Ivins says, “I don't know if you've looked around the airline industry lately, but there is not a whole lot of executive head-hunting going on. What are they going to do, go to work for US Airways? United? Delta?”

Certainly not to Northwest, which announced yesterday that it “plans to cut the salaries and benefits of its 3,000 management employees by 5 percent to 15 percent to help the company return to profitability.” Even Wall St. likes it (not the Journal); Northwest’s stock prices rose yesterday.

And as if American’s not having a bad enough day, St. Louis University has rescinded its invitation to American CEO Donald Carty to be the university’s commencement speaker. Carty was to have received an honorary doctor of laws degree.

But the Wall St. Journal still doesn’t get it. They're worried that “because they are mad about Mr. Carty's bonus, the unions plan to take revenge by voting to put the airline into bankruptcy under which their members will take even bigger pay cuts or will lose their jobs altogether.”

So, workers are supposed to accept all the lies and disrespect the company can dish out -- and do it with a SMILE on their faces -- and then trust the company to be concerned about their welfare in the future? Someday people will understand that workers join unions not just for more money and better benefits, but also for a little fairness and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. At least Don Carty should now understand that, even if the WSJ doesn’t.