Pilsen post office discrimination claims should be ‘swiftly’ investigated, Durbin says

“All USPS customers should have confidence that they will be treated with the utmost respect,” Durbin said in a letter to an agency representative.

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U.S. Postal Service’s Cesar Chavez station in Pilsen has come under scrutiny after several community members allege staff mistreat non-English speakers.

Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged the U.S. Postal Service Tuesday to hasten its investigation into allegations of discrimination against non-English speakers at the post office in Pilsen.

In a letter addressed to a government liaison for the independent agency, Durbin said he was “concerned” about reports that “point to the existence of a larger issue ... regarding the treatment of and accommodations for non-English speaking customers” at the post office named after late Mexican-American labor leader, Cesar Chavez.

Durbin called on the USPS to “move swiftly to investigate the recent reports and issue findings and recommendations for corrective action as soon as possible.”

The letter comes nearly two weeks after Evelyn Gonzalez, an eyelash technician who lives in Pilsen, accused a retail clerk at the post office of berating non-English speakers in a Facebook post that almost immediately went viral. Gonzalez also accused the clerk of calling the police after she asked the clerk not to be rude to customers.

Dozens of neighborhood residents shared Gonzalez’s post, adding their own stories of alleged disrespect and mistreatment of non-English speakers at the post office.

“All USPS customers should have confidence that they will be treated with the utmost respect,” Durbin wrote. “Furthermore, [the post office] is located in a predominantly non-English speaking neighborhood, so it is hard to understand why a plan was not in place for assisting non-English speaking customers.”

Gonzalez joined Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) and state Rep. Theresa Mah at a news conference in front of the post office last week.

Also in attendance was a USPS spokesman who said the agency was “actively recruiting” Spanish speakers to work at the post office.

The spokesman tried to show reporters a “translation friendly” sign at the post office that allows patrons to translate retail signage into their preferred language “using their favorite translator app” on their smartphones. The sign was nowhere to be found.

“Pilsen is a diverse, multi-cultural community and in order to effectively serve the people there, it is of the utmost important that the Cesar Chavez post office reflect that,” Durbin wrote.

USPS said the “translation friendly” sign is now installed in the post office’s lobby but did not directly respond to Durbin’s letter.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corp member of Report for America,a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.

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