Protest Outside Chicago Post Office After Spanish Speakers Allegedly Refused Service: 'We Blame the Systemic Racism'

A Post Office branch in Chicago has come under fire for failing to represent non-English speakers after several Latino residents were allegedly refused service.

A rally attended by elected officials and community leaders was held outside the Cesar Chavez Post Office in Pilsen on Monday to demand more bilingual staff after a viral Facebook post detailed how one of its clerks allegedly refused to serve four customers because they did not speak English.

In the February 3 post, Evelyn Gonzalez claimed she saw a U.S. Postal Service agent at the post office telling at least four people: "I do not speak Spanish, I cannot help you."

Gonzalez said she tried to assist with three of the customers, while the clerk allegedly also refused to help an elderly woman who needed a letter sent, "cutting her off again and telling her no."

Gonzalez accused the employee of being disrespectful and claimed she called the police to have her escorted out the building, but officers never arrived.

"I hope this issue gets resolved," Gonzalez added. "I can only imagine how many people she does this to on a daily basis."

State Rep. Theresa Mah was one of those who attended the rally outside the Cesar Chavez Post Office. In a statement, Mah said that it is not only Spanish speakers who experience such problems in the Chicago area.

"Pilsen is not the only post office without needed bilingual staff. It is an issue in Chinatown as well, and that must change. It is also unacceptable for monolingual staff to treat customers who speak another language rudely or with disrespect."

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, of Chicago's 25th ward, told the rally officials need to hire staff that better represent and serve a diverse community.

According to a Census Bureau, nearly one-third of all Chicago residents are Hispanic or Latino.

"We don't blame the workers here that don't know Spanish. We blame the systemic racism that's kept us out of representing ourselves in our true numbers in the city of Chicago," Sigcho-Lopez said, reported the Chicago-Sun Times.

Rev. Emma Lozano, of Lincoln United Methodist Church, also noted the irony that a post office located in an area with a high Hispanic population and is named after Mexican-American labor leader Cesar Chavez has no Spanish speakers working there.

In defense, USPS spokesman Tim Norman offered to show reporters at the rally that the post office in Pilsen does have a "translation friendly" sign inside that encourages customers to use translation apps on their cellphones in order to use their services.

However, when Norman went in to show reporters, it was not there.

"It's supposed to be here," Norman said before leaving the post office, reported the Chicago-Sun Times.

"It doesn't sit well with residents when they hear there's a sign that can help them and then it's not there," said Sigcho-Lopez.

Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia has also written a letter to the USPS urging them to look into the alleged incident of discrimination at the Pilsen office.

"Pilsen is a multiethnic community home to many immigrants who have made a life for themselves while navigating bicultural and bilingual spaces," the letter said.

"Government offices and agencies, including post offices, should accommodate and be responsive to the communities."

In a statement to WGNTV, USPS said: "We were recently made aware of an incident at our Cesar Chavez Post Office last week which involved one of our employees denying service to some of our Spanish speaking customers.

"We want to sincerely apologize to any and all our valued customers who were affected by these actions and denied service. This reported incident is being fully investigated and the Postal Service will take all appropriate action necessary to improve service to our valued customers.

"The Postal Service expects all of our employees to treat each other and our customers with dignity and respect and we will work to identify any concerns and make corrections to better serve our customers."

It is unclear if the translation sign has returned to the Pilsen post office. Norman has been contacted for further comment.

USPS
United States Postal Service (USPS) trucks are parked at a postal facility on August 15, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. A community in Pilsen is calling for bilingual workers after customers were turned away because from a post office because they didn't speak English. Scott Olson/Getty
Protest Outside Chicago Post Office After Spanish Speakers Allegedly Refused Service: 'We Blame the Systemic Racism' | U.S.