‘It’s hotter than firecrackers’: San Antonio postal workers rally for better working conditions

South Texas lawmakers urged USPS to give San Antonio letter carriers water in a letter sent out in early August

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio postal workers and supporters rallied on Sunday for what they say is a basic human need -- water.

Earlier this month, several South Texas lawmakers sent a letter to the postmaster general, asking them to start giving letter carriers water again on their routes.

Letter carriers said USPS stopped giving bottled water and returned to water fountains due to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re all concerned about it, and we care,” said Homer Hernandez, Alamo Branch 421′s political director.

Hernandez said he and his fellow mail carriers want relief.

“We work about eight to 10 hours out in the heat,” he said.

Earlier this month, we spoke to Hernandez about how hard it was to hydrate.

“Actually, at my station, at Dobie station off of East Houston, we don’t have a water fountain working,” he told us on Aug. 10.

Since then, Hernandez said his station made some changes.

“It took them two years to comply because of you guys, the congressmen, and the mayor speaking out on our behalf,” he told us. “It took them two days to fix that.”

Now, he and his fellow union members are fighting for others.

“I would like to see every letter carrier in the surrounding area -- and San Antonio -- to get bottled water like yesterday,” said Hernandez.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg showed his support at the rally.

“They have a voice,” he said. “We listen to them and when we elevate and amplify their voice, we’re gonna do that.”

Bob Comeaux, a retired union organizer and community activist, said he’s standing with the postal workers on a problem he believes is a simple fix.

“This is a very simple solution,” Comeaux said. “Provide water.”

Hernandez said getting water bottles is the bare minimum.

“It’s hotter than firecrackers down here, so we need them A/C trucks,” he said. “Bags of ice would help us out too -- keep our water cool out there.”

KSAT reached out to USPS for a reaction to the rally, and they issued this statement late Sunday, shared below:

“As a point of information, the Postal Service certainly respects the right of unions and employees to participate in off-the-clock rallies or other gatherings on issues of concern to their membership. The positions being presented by the leadership of the NALC local Branch 421 in San Antonio, TX are inaccurate and largely absent of anything based in reality.

The facts are that local management at the Dobie Station, and throughout San Antonio, take seriously the safety and well-being of all employees. Postal leadership in San Antonio has validated that two new water fountains were installed at the Dobie Station and are fully operational. Bottled water was provided until the installation of this upgraded equipment was completed. Carriers and all employees have full access to potable water at all times. Additionally, the air conditioning system at the Dobie Station is fully functioning and all areas of the facility, including the workroom floor, customer lobby, and offices are being cooled and temperatures are being maintained to provide a comfortable working environment for all employees.

Regarding training concerns, the safety of employees is a top priority for the Postal Service. Our national Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) provides mandatory heat-related and other safety training and instruction to all employees and assures they have the resources needed to do their jobs safely. The Postal Service is also committed to ensuring that our future vehicle fleet supports safety. The Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs) will feature air conditioning among other features including improved ergonomics, and some of the most advanced vehicle and safety technology — including 360-degree cameras, advanced braking and traction control, air bags and a front-and-rear-collision avoidance system that includes visual, audio warning and automatic braking. The first NGDVs are expected to be deployed for use on carrier routes in late 2023.

By developing the high-performing operation envisioned by our Delivering for America (DFA) 10-year plan, we will create the safest and healthiest environment possible for our employees. As we move into year three of our DFA plan, we remain focused on improving our employees’ experience and providing a stable and empowered workforce. Our bond with our employees has never been more important than it is today.

For additional details on our progress, please see our Delivering for America Second-Year Progress Report.”

About the Authors:

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.