Union blames privatization deal for reduced Post Office hours

The US Postal Service reduced Post Office hours at 21 of its 39 stores in San Francisco. The reduced access comes at a time when the Postal Service is experimenting with a privatization deal with Staples, the office supply corporation, in the San Francisco Bay Area and other areas of the US.

“They’re shutting the doors (to the Post Offices) at 5 P.M. and posting signs sending people to private locations–including Staples–to conduct postal business,” said Geoffray Dumaquit, president of the San Francisco local of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). “This will inconvenience and irritate our customers who often need to visit a Post Office after work.”

In a related development, the AFL-CIO has endorsed the APWU boycott of Staples and sent a letter to affiliated unions urging members to honor the boycott.

The no-bid deal with Staples is a pilot program that involves 80 stores throughout the US, including several in the Bay Area. Under terms of the deal, Staples employees will provide a variety of postal services including accepting and handling packages and letters bound for the Postal Service.

APWU opposes the privatization deal because low-paid, high-turnover Staples employees with little training are handling the mail, putting the integrity of postal service at risk.

When the privatization deal with Staples was announced, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that the deal would not result in any closures of the 33,000 US Post Offices.

But the reduced hours at the San Francisco Post Offices, some of which are near Staples stores, is an ominous sign.

“First they take an hour, then they’ll take the whole day,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “We’ve said all along that this is a plan to close Post Offices and outsource postal work. They’ve got a sign on the door that says ‘We’re closed, go to Staples.’ It couldn’t get much more obvious than that. After driving customers away, postal management will conduct a study of traffic in Post Offices and find that it’s gone down. Then they’ll claim to have the evidence they need to justify closing Post Offices.”

To keep Post Offices open and accessible, APWU has launched a campaign to stop the privatization deal with Staples.

In April, thousands of postal workers and community supporters demonstrated against the privatization deal at 56 Staple stores in 27 states.

More recently, APWU members demonstrated at the June 2 annual meeting of Staples shareholders.

“Staples is a company with declining sales, with plans to close 200 stores by the middle of next year,” said Dimondstein in a statement issued prior to the shareholders meeting. “Shareholders need to ask management why they are involved in this kind of controversial deal when they have so many problems to fix in their core business.”

The endorsement of the Staples boycott by the AFL-CIO could create more problems for the troubled office supply chain.

Fifty-six unions representing 12.5 million members and potential Staples customers are affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Prior to the AFL-CIO’s boycott endorsement, three statewide teacher unions–the California Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, and American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire–endorsed the boycott.

School supply purchases comprise about one-third of Staples sales.

“Opposition to the Staples deal is growing,” Dimondstein said. “(In addition to the boycott), thirty members of the US House of Representatives from California have called on the Postmaster General to scrap the program. We’re going to keep educating consumers about this dirty deal. The U.S. mail is not for sale.”

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