Delegations from the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) recently visited 13 Staples store in the San Francisco Bay Area to protest the company’s involvement in a postal privatization scheme.
In November, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced a one-year pilot of a partnership between USPS and Staples, Inc. that would allow the corporation to operate retail postal units in 84 Staples stores in four areas of the US: Atlanta, Pittsburg, Central Massachusetts, and California.
The retail postal units in the Staples stores sell stamps and accept letters and packages for delivery by USPS. They are staffed by Staples employees.
After the end of the pilot period, the privatization experiment could be expanded to 1,600 Staples stores throughout the US, which could result in the closure of local post offices.
“This is a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services,” said Mark Dimondstein, APWU president. “The APWU supports the expansion of postal services. But we are adamantly opposed to USPS plans to replace good-paying union jobs with non-union low-wage jobs held by workers who have no accountability for the safety and security of the mail. Postal workers deserve better, and our customers deserve better.”
Shortly after learning that USPS and Staples had finalized their deal, APWU began developing a campaign to stop the privatization effort.
Union leaders said that the campaign would resemble a similar effort that the APWU mounted in 1988 to stop USPS from opening outlets in Sears stores.
In that campaign, APWU members flooded Sears executives with hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail criticizing Sears for its involvement in a scheme that would lead to the loss of good paying postal service jobs and problematic service for postal customers.
APWU members were joined by thousands of other union members who expressed their anger at Sears.
That action led to an agreement between Sears and USPS to halt the experiment.
APWU’s most recent campaign began in earnest on January 8 and 9 when delegations from the union hand delivered letters, protesting the company’s involvement, to local Staples stores in the New York Metropolitan area.
Those visits were followed by store visits in Charlotte, North Carolina and Springfield, Illinois.
The actions in the Bay Area are the biggest to date. APWU leaders urged locals throughout the country to organize similar visits.
Staples has also received similar letters from leaders of New York and Connecticut state AFL-CIOs.
APWU plans to organize a day of action at Staples stores throughout the US. Additionally, it will organize sustained actions at a number of stores where postal retail units have opened.
Dimondstein said that the union would support partnering with Staples if the postal units were staffed by USPS workers.
The union also questioned Staples track record with regards to the way it treats its workers, citing a 2010 report that said that Staples agreed to pay $42 million to settle class action lawsuits alleging that the company misclassified assistant store managers to avoid paying them overtime.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said that the union’s fears about privatization are misplaced because USPS has no plans to do so.
Nevertheless, right-wing politicians and pundits continue to champion the idea of privatizing US mail delivery.
Such an idea received a huge setback during the Christmas Holidays when USPS outperformed its package delivery competitors UPS and FedEx.
The two private companies disappointed thousands of customers when they failed to deliver Christmas packages on time.
USPS, on the other hand, performed superbly reports Bloomberg Businessweek:
There was a lot of post-Christmas discussion about how UPS fumbled its last-minute holiday deliveries, and FedEx apologized for some late-arriving packages, too. What went largely unmentioned, however, was that the stellar performance of the US Postal Service.
The government-run competitor was swamped with parcels just like UPS and FedEx were, with holiday package volume 19 percent higher than the same period late year. But there were no widespread complaints about tardy deliveries by USPS.
According to Bloomberg, USPS attributed its success to “meticulous planning” and flexibility which included delivering packages on three Sundays before Christmas and making 75,000 deliveries on Christmas Day.
UPS considered Christmas Day deliveries but decided not to do so.