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New York Postal Workers Union Holds Press Conference

Aired October 31, 2001 - 15:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BOBBIE BATTISTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to drop in on this news conference of the New York Postal Workers Union.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM SMITH, PRES., N.Y. METRO AREA POSTAL UNION: Because members need to see this, because you are the one that's going to get the message out to the members and field officers, to help run this union. I want to just say that I'm glad to be in New York metro members' house. This is their home. They own it, when they paid our dues, and all other things that belong to this union.

As you know, we're in a legal battle with the United States Postal Service. And I would impress to go forward and clarify a statement they made yesterday. The judge called for immediate conference with the parties involved. Lou Nicolitis (ph) was in New Jersey at the time, because he's the law firm representing more than just "New York Metro." They have other clients.

A lot of you have reported that the judge had dismissed the case. That's not the case. The case is set for to start trial on the 6th of November. The courtroom on the 24, 20 seat on 50 Tayne (ph) Street. OK, that's in the federal building.

We understand that you need to get that out to the members, so the members are calling me all day. They have heard, I think on Radio 88, that the judge had dismissed the case because Lou Nicolitis did not show up in the courtroom.

That's not the case, sisters and brothers. The trial is due to start on the 6th of November. That is Tuesday. You all know what the trial is about. Most of you had the case that Lou filed in court, so we should know what exactly this case is all about.

Right now I'm going bring Phyllis forward to read the press release to you, and we will pass it out to you, so you can understand what our position is on a lot of lies that the United States Postal Service told you Monday when they had that press conference. Thank you. Phyllis.

PHYLLIS WHITLEY, NEW YORK METRO POSTAL UNION: My name is Phyllis Whitley. I'm the editor for New York Metro. The hypocrisy at the postal service never ceases to amaze us. When we called our first press conference on October 19th, postal managers suddenly decided to entertain us with the discussion on their concerns about anthrax in the mail.

During that meeting, managers admitted that they did not have an action plan in place to combat the threat of anthrax in our facilities. They assured us that they would let us know of their findings. They also told us they would close the building, in the event anthrax was found, citing the deaths of postal workers in D.C.

Now that it has been reported that four machines in Morgan PND tested positive for anthrax, postal service area manager, VP David Solomon, has changed his story to a new tune. He's told the press that the Morgan building is safe. Suddenly they want us to believe that only postal workers with symptoms of the disease should be concerned with exposure to anthrax.

We are even more disturbed over the statement from the doctor from the Center for Disease Control, who seems to agree with the postal service's change of heart for New York City postal workers. Unfortunately, we don't have much confidence in the CDC right now.

These are the same people who, two weeks ago, told us you could not get anthrax from unopened mail. It was only after postal workers tested positive for fatal inhaled strains of the disease that a CDC spokesman admitted that the disease could apparently be contracted from touching a tainted letter.

Certainly, we were not amused by the CDC doctor who told the media he sorted mail at the Morgan facility and felt safe in the building. It is clear that the CDC is still learning about the anthrax bacteria, by their own admissions of new findings. We are absolutely appalled over the unprofessional way the Morgan facility has been handled, in lieu of the tragic deaths that have been caused by this disease.

As late as last Thursday, we have heard reports that the ventilation system was still operating. We are confident that most scientists will agree that the ventilation systems of any building will give the anthrax spores easy access to all areas of the facility. The problems involving Legionnaire's disease substantiates the problem with airborne bacteria.

In addition, we have reports that the tainted machines on the third floor have not been properly secured, and gloves, masks and the proper waste receptacles are still limited. New York Metro is very concerned about the criteria used to determine who should be exposed to anthrax.

It is a sad commentary, if the United States government allows a flagrant violation of human rights because of a person's occupation, political, and/or ethnic background. We would hope that the facts that a vast majority of New York City postal workers, who are minorities, should not weigh against their constitutional right to work in an environment devoid of health hazards.

It is obvious that the Supreme Court justices, senators, CIA and other government agencies are not waiting for symptoms to occur before they take actions, nor are these agencies allowing the CDC or any other agency to experiment with their lives.

The closing of their facilities along with the thorough fumigation of the Senate buildings substantiates their concern and ability to enforce the eradication of the -- any traces of anthrax in their facility.

We are critically aware of the Postal Service's need for damage control. And we believe that their assistance on containing information and distorting the truth is inspired by their desire to retain these fallacies.

It is not business as usual for postal workers. We believe that the blanket issuance of the antibiotics Cipro is a way for the U.S.P.S to conceal the fact that perhaps hundreds of employees may have been exposed to the bacteria.

The fact that they have stopped testing employees is testament that postal officials don't want to know who has been exposed. They don't want the employees to know, and they definitely don't want the public to know.

We also believe that once Cipro has been taken, employees that have been exposed will test negative. We have warned all our members that Cipro is an antibiotic and not a vaccination. New York Metro is emphatic about employees -- informing employees that they should not be misled into a false sense of security with the Postal Service.

We are insistent that all workers and facilities need to be thoroughly tested and all buildings that test positive need to be closed for proper disinfection.

We will continue to pursue any means that will ensure the safety of all workers. We believe that the public needs to be informed about these abuses. If the postal worker is unprotected, the mails are unprotected -- which invariably reach the homes of every citizen. We may only be...

BATTISTA: All right -- an update there on the lawsuit that is being filed by the New York Metro Postal Union against the United States Postal Service, their contention being that any facility that tests positive for anthrax should be shut down.

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