Local News

Raleigh Postal Workers Await Decision On Injunction

Posted November 20, 2001

— Some Raleigh postal workers are going ahead with legal action despite the

latest test results

that show the Westgate distribution center is free of anthrax.

Trace amounts of the bacteria were discovered at the facility Thursday as part of a nationwide study to track how anthrax was spread through the mail.

A lawyer for Raleigh postal workers filed an injunction in federal court Monday, asking that the facility be temorarily shut down until tests can determine whether it is safe to work at the mail processing plant.

Union officials also want anthrax tests for all employees and antibiotics made available to every employee who wants them.

Since learning that anthrax was found at the mail facility, employees said that the U.S. Postal Service cares more about the bottom line than their safety.

"This concern about moving the mail above anything seems to be the driving factor here," said Ajamu Dillahunt, president of American Postal Workers Union Local 1078 in Raleigh.

Monday afternoon, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced that additional testing at the facility after decontamination were negative for anthrax.

"There is no risk to employees or visitors to the facility," said acting state Health Director Leah Devlin.

After learning of the test results, Dillahunt said that he is satisfied that the plant can remain open. However, the group's lawyer has not heard from the judge yet as to whether the case will move forward.

Since last week, many employees said that the U.S. Postal Service should have moved faster to protect them.

"I have lost sleep, probably lost weight too," said Charlene Frederick. "I call my family constantly -- my children -- because it does bother me ... I'm very upset about being there. I don't want to be there, but I have to work."

Fredrick is one of many postal workers at the Westgate center who said that they are scared to go to work there.

The bacteria was found on the outside of three shrink-wrapped pallets that came from the Brentwood post office in Washington, D.C., where two postal workers died from inhalation anthrax. The sealed pallet of stamps was located in an isolated room at the facility, and postal service contractors spent the weekend decontaminating the area.

Health officials said that the amount of anthrax spores found was "medically insignificant" and not a threat to anyone's health.

But not all postal workers are reassured.

"They cannot convince us that the trace amounts that they talk about can be quantified," said one postal worker. "We don't know if they're small amounts or large amounts. We just know there are amounts there."

Union officials held a press conference Sunday to gain support for closing the facility until additional test results come back.

Wake County public health officials said that they will continue to monitor the health of employees and respond to their questions. Anyone with questions can call (919) 250-3097.

Abut 1,000 people work in the 400,000 square foot facility near RDU International.


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