Pilsen community calls for bilingual clerks at USPS offices after Spanish-speaking customers turned away, berated

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CHICAGO — The Latino community in Pilsen is calling for bilingual clerks at post offices after some customers were turned away because they didn't speak English. 

Community activists held a rally outside the Cesar Chavez Post Office on 19th Street and Ashland Avenue in Pilsen to call attention to what they say is a problem of systematic racism. Pastor Emma Lozano, of the Lincoln United Methodist Church, said the Latino community makes up 30% of the Chicago population and said not a single person in the post office speaks Spanish.

An incident last week, posted on Facebook went viral in which Evelyn Gonzalez said she witnessed several Spanish-speaking customers being berated and turned away by a postal worker.

"With a very bad attitude she would say, 'Speak English,' I'm not going to help you, next'" Evelyn Gonzalez said.  

Gonzalez said the employee even threatened to call the police on her when she called her out for her bad attitude.

"I come here often and I've witnessed her treat people like this before, this is not the first time," she said.

Pilsen Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez wrote a letter to Congressman Jesus "Chuy" Garcia requesting he help in getting an immediate investigation in the incident.

"We deserve and we will demand bilingual staff and bilingual materials not only here in Pilsen, but across the city, across the state and across the country," Sigcho-Lopez said. 

State Rep. Theresa Mah said people living in Chinatown, including her parents, have had the same problem. She said an investigation needs to take place at all levels of government.

"Whether they speak english or not, [they should] have equal access to the services that are provided," Mah said. 

"This reported incident is being fully investigated and the postal service will take appropriate action to improve customer service," USPS spokesperson, Tim Norman, said. 

Norman said there were signs inside every post office that customers can scan with translation apps that can help when there are language barriers. However, when he went inside the post office in question, he discovered there weren't any.

USPS issued the following statement:

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.

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