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Miami Postal Workers Demand Closing of Facilities Amid Anthrax Scare - 2001-10-26

Amid the continuing anthrax scare, union representatives for postal workers in Florida are demanding swift action to protect their members from the potentially lethal bacterium.

Judy Johnson, who heads the Miami office of the American Postal Workers' Union, is adding her voice to a growing chorus of alarmed and angry mail handlers. She says mail sorting depots and other facilities in Florida should be closed until thorough and complete testing for anthrax is conducted and the buildings are deemed safe.

"Nobody in their right mind, except the postal service, would continue to have a building open that has so much potential [for anthrax exposure] in the four states that have been identified repeatedly in this country," said Ms. Johnson.

Postal workers' representatives in New York have issued similar calls.

The anthrax scare began in Florida nearly four weeks ago. Two of three fatalities blamed on anthrax so far have been postal workers, both in the Washington area. In Miami, a postal worker has tested positive for anthrax exposure, but has yet to develop any symptoms of the disease.

According to Judy Johnson, the postal service has been slow to test for anthrax and protect its workers, with deadly results. "If you delay our testing, we are as good as dead, which has already been proven in Washington," she said. "The health department, the medical professionals say we do not have a doctor's license; that is true. But we have common sense. If you have to get tested early on, if you have to have antibiotics early on, then do not deny our people what everybody else gets."

Postal officials insist they care deeply about the health and well being of their employees and are moving aggressively to assure safety.

But union representatives say they are leaving nothing to chance. Judy Johnson says the union will file a federal lawsuit next week to force postal officials to discuss the union's concerns.