Philadelphia IRS offices battling bed bugs

by nobugsonme on April 22, 2010 · 2 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, pennsylvania

Another Internal Revenue Service office building, this time in Philadelphia, is apparently battling bed bugs.

Remember when the Covington, Kentucky IRS offices were infested with bed bugs two years ago?  We heard about that story from WLVT news.

And then just last month, someone going by the username of “bp” posted a comment on the Covington story saying that there were now bed bugs in the Philadelphia IRS offices.

This week, I received an email from a man who said he was the Chief Steward (Nightshift) of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) Local 71 in the Philadelphia IRS building.

With his permission, I am posting the signed message, just as it was sent to me, below.


Regarding the comments on an article from January of 2008, dealing with bed bugs at an IRS office in Covington, Kentucky, from a poster named “bp”, said comment regarding a problem with bed bugs at the IRS in Philadelphia … well, we’ve been dealing with this for several months.

(I’m the Chief Steward on Nightshift of the union chapter here [at the Philadelphia Internal Revenue Service Center, representing some 4,000 employees], and have been spending a lot of my time on this issue.)

Apparently, an employee on one shift had them in her home, and they came here with her. The employee on the other shift started complaining of bug bites–on an official problem reporting website here–back in December of 2009. Management did not take any action until March of this year, by which point, several cubicles were infested. The cubicles and chairs were removed and destroyed, and several employees who were affected were made to fumigate their homes with their own funds, with management refusing to reimburse them. (Further, Management would not provide administrative leave to employees who had to be out waiting on exterminators for more than the first day.) The employees who work in the area were moved to another part of the building as their area of the (very large commercial building) was treated.

Mind you, it was not treated well; that area is on a raised floor, and there are of course rodents. Nothing was done other than the initial treatment (spraying, then sprinkling powder over the affected areas). The employees were told that they would not be able to return to their area for a period of six weeks, after which the smell of the chemicals would dissipate enough that the bedbug-sniffing dogs could recheck the area.

Now, in the new temporary area, they have found the bugs again. They treated the area once last weekend–after knowing about the issue for two weeks–but have mandated that the employees remain in the area.

Despite the fact that–according to the WLVT article you referenced in your post–when bedbugs were found at the Covington building (which is part of the Cincinnati Service Center), officials there ordered all floors of the building treated, Management here refuses to have the entire building treated, they refuse to reimburse the employees for any extermination services they may need, and they refuse to face reality.

Mind you, this is an area dealing with taxpayers who have foreign income, and the average taxpayer need not worry–YET–about receiving letters from the IRS with bedbugs inside, it becomes a worry if it continues to go unaddressed, and if any infestations spread.

If you can figure out any way to publicize this, to force management to own up to their responsibilities, and to help our workers (we are already making overtures to local media and the area Congressmen and Senators), we would be greatly appreciative.

(After all, this is YOUR tax dollars at work.)

Alex Jay Berman
Chief Steward, Nightshift/3rd V.P.
NTEU Chapter 71

Note: we cannot verify the details Alex Jay Berman has shared.

We’d be very happy to hear from management at the Philadelphia IRS building and to share their perspective on this story (you can contact me here).

Interestingly, the local news media has not yet covered this story.

Bed bugs in the workplace are increasingly common — bed bugs can infest any workplace.  It is important for office buildings to have a plan to deal with bed bugs when they are encountered, and to act swiftly.

Once bed bugs spread to employees’ homes, a situation may arise where they keep coming back indefinitely if not treated swiftly and thoroughly.

(Read more articles on bed bugs in the workplace.)

Update (8/21/2010):

Four months later, in the midst of a flurry of media attention surrounding bed bugs in the workplace, the story of bed bugs in the Philadelphia IRS offices has finally hit the mainstream media.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (8/15/2010):

Getting rid of bedbugs is costly, complex, and arduous. But ignoring them – and their intensely itchy, icky, intimate bites – is about as easy as ignoring the Internal Revenue Service.

Just ask the IRS. To the chagrin of the federal tax-collection agency, its Northeast Philadelphia campus has had to battle the bloodsuckers.

“Upon being made aware of the presence of bedbugs,” IRS spokesman Mike Hanson wrote in a terse e-mail, “IRS leadership implemented actions to remove these insects.”

Not according to Brian Rudolph, head of the union chapter that represents the 4,000 employees who work at the Roosevelt Boulevard campus. After eight months, he said, the place is still bugged.

USA Today also picked up the Philly case in its August 20th story on bed bug infestations in offices:

The IRS had bedbugs in its offices in Philadelphia and Covington, Ky. It had exterminators into those offices and is still monitoring the situation.

1 bed bug man April 23, 2010 at 4:36 am

bed bugs at the IRS, payback 🙂

2 nobugsonme April 24, 2010 at 10:37 am

bed bug man,

Alas, the people suffering from this are working people, just like you and me.

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