Postal union: Albuquerque offices are in shambles with bats, rats

Mail carrier Leticia Agencia delivers a package Friday afternoon on Camino Santiago. Postal workers in Santa Fe say the problems faced by Albuquerque offices with staffing shortages affect them too. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

A rat fell through the ceiling onto a customer’s shoulder earlier this year, they say.

Another one scampered across the counter.

Mail has been delivered late, the offices are dingy, and a bat swooped through in the middle of the day.

Members of the union that represents some 400 U.S. Postal Service workers in Albuquerque say the postal facilities in New Mexico’s largest city are a shambles, without enough employees to keep offices clean or ensure mail arrives in post office boxes on time.

Representatives blame staffing cuts and a lack of capital improvements, saying the Arizona district that oversees New Mexico’s mail operations leaves its neighbor to the east with the heavy end of the mailbag.

“We’re just like this bastard child,” said Dan Huerta of the American Postal Workers Union Local 380. “We can tell there’s a big difference. They’re taking care of Arizona, and New Mexico gets nothing. The residents of New Mexico continue to get disrespected.”

A regional Postal Service spokesman, asked about the union’s complaints that the Land of Enchantment has received a shorter shrift since New Mexico operations were absorbed into the Arizona district in 2011, sent an emailed statement calling the safety of postal facilities “paramount.”

“Any and all repair concerns related to structural or environmental issues are assessed and addressed as they are identified,” said Rod Spurgeon. “We encourage all employees to promptly report maintenance and/or safety issues to management through well-established referral processes.”

“The U.S. Postal Service is a responsible employer that prudently matches our workforce to an evolving workload,” Spurgeon said, adding that overall volume declined by more than “5 billion pieces” in the last fiscal year despite some growth in package business. “As the market changes, we will continue to manage our operations while providing first-rate service to the American public.”

The Albuquerque union sent a series of “stakeholder reports” outlining its concerns to the Arizona district manager earlier this month, including delayed mail deliveries and less-regular custodial work because of shortages. This has led to dirtier post offices, wrote Ken Fajardo, president of the Local 380, calling the general decay “dire.”

“The union asks, ‘Does this instill confidence, excellence and sustainability to our customers?’ ” Fajardo wrote.

Spurgeon said he was “not aware” of any maintenance issues “that are unaddressed.”

“As far as staffing in Albuquerque, we have sufficient staffing for the facility infrastructure, and all hiring is done in lockstep with the [union],” he added.

A representative with the Santa Fe postal union chapter did not return a message Friday. But the manager of the downtown Santa Fe post office on Federal Place said his office has had no problems with personnel.

“And this is one of the cleanest post offices you’ll see,” added Donny Rascon.

An American Postal Workers Union member who works at the post office in the DeVargas Center — and who asked that her name not be used so she could speak frankly — said she had heard of staffing shortages in Albuquerque.

“It’s a huge, huge, huge problem for us here, too,” the employee said. “Not so much the cleanliness thing. But people here can’t pass the drug test.”

The worker said the staffing shortages hadn’t affected deliveries of mail in Santa Fe. “But it does affect us,” the employee said. “We’re working longer, we’re working more.”

The Albuquerque union has shared its tales of woe with New Mexico elected officials. A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said the senator’s office was “looking into it to see what we might be able to do to help.”

“It’s just no longer sustainable,” Huerta said. “We’ve got about 23 stations in Albuquerque — post offices. And they are just in deplorable conditions.”

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Tripp Stelnicki covers City Hall and Santa Fe County for The New Mexican.

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