Postal privatization protest is having an effect, so Staples resorts to trickery

Postal workers protested in front of Staples stores at 50 locations in 27 states on Thursday, April 24, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters staffed with low-wage retail employees.

Postal workers protested in front of Staples stores at 50 locations in 27 states on Thursday, April 24, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters staffed with low-wage retail employees.

Staples says it is dropping plans to administer mailing services in retail stores, but Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union claims that the the company’s announcement terminating its no-bid deal with the U.S. Postal Service is a ruse.

“This attempt at trickery shows that the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ movement is having an effect,” said Dimondstein. “Staples and the USPS are changing the name of the program, without addressing the fundamental concerns of postal workers and postal customers.”

Dimondstein claims the Staples announcement and a July 7 letter from the USPS make it clear: They intend to continue to privatize postal retail operations, replace living-wage Postal Service jobs with low-wage Staples jobs, and compromise the safety and security of the mail.

A USPS spokesperson appears to have confirmed the APWU’s claim, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

The newspaper quoted Postal Service spokesperson Darleen Reid saying, “We think this is a win-win for our customers, for us, and for Staples. We look forward to continuing the partnership.”

Postal workers have protested the program for months, objecting to expanding post office services to Staples stores, staffed with non-union workers.

Staples announced it was ending the pilot program to sell postal packaging and accept mail in 82 stores a few days after the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), representing 1.6 million members, approved a resolution to join APWU’s boycott against the office supply chain.

save_postal_serviceDennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association (NEA), told Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in May that his organization’s three million members “stand united in unequivocal support” of postal workers.

In the pilot program, Staples sold only USPS shipping products and services, but now the retailer will offer some postal products alongside those of alternative shippers, such as UPS and Fedex.

“Staples will continue to explore and test products and services that meet our customers’ needs,” said corporate spokesperson Carrie McElwee.

In March, Staples said it would close up to 225 stores in the United States and Canada – 12 percent of its North American outlets.

The Postal Service has been plagued by financial troubles as more people pay their bills and communicate electronically instead of sending stamped mail, and as it struggles to prepay health expenses for future retirees, as required by a 2006 law.

“In 2006, the Bush White House and GOP Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years,” explained Jim Hightower, a progressive commentator, who called the action “Right-wing sabotage.”

The Approved Shipper Program another Bush-era initiative that promotes privatization of postal products and services.

The postal union said its clerks are paid an average $25 an hour while Staples sales associates earn $8.52 an hour.

As Hightower explained: “Each day, six days a week, letter carriers traverse 4 million miles toting an average of 563 million pieces of mail, reaching the very doorsteps of our individual homes and workplaces in every single community in America. From the gated enclaves and penthouses of the uber-wealthy to the inner-city ghettos and rural colonias of America’s poorest families, the U.S. Postal Service literally delivers. All for 45 cents. The USPS is an unmatched bargain, a civic treasure, a genuine public good that links all people and communities into one nation… So, naturally, it must be destroyed.”


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