In a complaint issued Feb. 25, Region 5 of the National Labor Relations Board found merit in APWU charges that the Postal Service has improperly refused to provide the union with information about its agreement with Staples. [NLRB decision-PDF] The pilot program has placed postal counters in 82 Staples stores — staffed with Staples employees rather than postal workers. A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge has been set for March 31.
Region 5 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has also recommended that the board seek an injunction in federal court to compel the USPS to provide the requested information to the APWU.
The decision to recommend an injunction is extremely rare, according to the union’s attorneys. Violations carry heavy penalties for management officials who fail to comply, up to and including incarceration.
APWU President Mark Dimondstein applauded the ruling. “This is an important victory for the APWU and for postal customers. The Staples deal is a brazen attempt to privatize postal retail services and it has been shrouded in secrecy,” he said.
“Postal officials seem to forget that the Postal Service belongs to the people,” Dimondstein said. “We intend to keep reminding them.”
The union president said getting the complaint issued was a group effort. “Special thanks go to Clerk Craft Director Clint Burelson and Assistant Director Lamont Brooks for all their work toward that goal.”
The information in dispute includes:
Measures to protect the sanctity of the mail;
Training of Staples employees;
Criteria for determining any Postal Service compensation to Staples;
Discounts, if any, to be offered by Staples, and
Cost analyses of the Staples project.
The APWU is demanding that postal employees staff the postal counters at Staples stores. If Staples refuses, the union plans to ask Staples customers to take their business elsewhere. Postal management, on the other hand, plans to expand the program to Staples’ 1,600 stores across the country.
The union submitted an extensive set of questions about the pilot program to postal management in November, shortly after the deal was announced. In January, management brushed off the request, claiming that the Staples project was a pilot that was not covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The APWU has filed a national-level dispute over the Postal Service’s contract violations.
The APWU is ramping up its campaign demanding that Staples and the USPS agree to place postal workers at postal units in Staples stores. Join the campaign at StopStaples.com or text POSTAL to 91990.
APWU President Mark Dimondstein has sent an email message to union members and supporters urging them to sign on to the campaign and the union has been sharing our message on Facebook and Twitter. The APWU has enlisted support from the AFL-CIO and others in the labor movement, and is expanding outreach to others groups that are likely to support the campaign’s goals: Staffing postal counters with highly-trained, uniformed postal employees who are accountable to the people; protecting good jobs, and defending a public Postal Service.
The deal between the office-supply chain and the Postal Service established postal counters at 82 Staples stores in four geographic areas, but staffed them with non-postal, low-wage employees. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told the Associated Press that he hopes to expand the program to Staples’ 1,600 other stores as soon as possible.
More than 200 APWU members and supporters participated in protests at Staples stores in San Francisco and San Jose on Jan. 28 and APWU locals and retiree chapters around the country have presented letters expressing opposition to the program to hundreds of Staples stores.
SAN FRANCISCO KGO — Bay Area postal workers are protesting in front of a San Francisco Staples store because they’re upset about a deal between the office supplies chain and the postal service.Postal employees are worried about losing their jobs because people can now mail packages and buy stamps at Staples.This is the first protest in the nation, but postal workers promise there will be more
APWU members and supporters in California are preparing for the first round of protests at Staples stores on Tuesday, Jan. 28. The first rally will take place at 10 a.m. in San Francisco, in front of the Staples store at 1700 Van Ness Ave, with a second set to begin at 4 p.m. in San Jose, in front of the Staples store at 121 Bernal Road.
The activities are designed to call attention to the deal between the Postal Service and Staples that jeopardizes the nation’s public post offices and threatens good-paying union jobs. Continue reading →
OAKLAND, Calif. — An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division resulted in the restoration of $1,979,779 in 401(k) pension benefits to 515 drivers working on U.S. Postal Service contracts for Lange Trucking Inc. because of violations of the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act. The company, along with its President, William A. Langenhuizen; Vice President, William H. Langenhuizen; Secretary Treasurer, Antoinette Langenhuizen; Vice President, Robert Langehuizen; and Vice President of Finance, Lisa Kulak, have been debarred from eligibility for further service contracts with any U.S. government agency for three years for their failure to pay drivers required fringe benefits.
"Contractors that do business with the federal government have an obligation to abide by the law and pay their employees the required contractual rates and benefits," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "Restoring the pension benefits of these workers and debarring this employer illustrate the department’s commitment to vigorous enforcement of government contracting laws and helps level the playing field for law-abiding employers."
Wage and Hour investigators found that Lange Trucking failed to fully fund the drivers’ 401(k) plan, resulting in a violation of the SCA. Wage and Hour has investigated the company several times in the past. Lange Trucking paid $500,000 of the unpaid benefits while Hoovestol Inc., which is based in Eagan, Minn., acquired the company subsequent to the violations and voluntarily agreed to fund the remaining $1.48 million in benefits. Hoovestol, which cooperated fully with the Wage and Hour Division during its investigation, has also: corrected record-keeping procedures, overhauled the plan to ensure timely payments into the plan going forward, posted wage determinations at the work site and made information about the contracts accessible to employees.
The SCA applies to every contract entered into by the United States or the District of Columbia, the principal purpose of which is to furnish services in the United States through the use of service employees. The SCA requires that contractors and subcontractors performing services on covered federal contracts in excess of $2,500 must pay their service workers no less than the wages and fringe benefits prevailing in the locality.
The APWU’s New York Metro Area Local sent delegations to three Staples stores on Jan. 8 and 9 to deliver letters protesting the establishment of postal retail units staffed by low-wage, non-union, non-postal workers.
“It felt good to take action,” said Chuck Zlatkin, the local’s Legislative and Political Director. “You see the Staples sign and you want to do something. This was easy — it was fun,” he said.
“The Staples managers all had a similar reaction,” Zlatkin reported. “At first they gave us that ‘deer in the headlights’ look. But they said they would pass our letters of protest on to their headquarters.”
Six members of the local who work at the USPS New Jersey Network Distribution Center (NDC) visited a Staples store in Jersey City on Jan. 8; five members who work in Manhattan walked a few blocks to a Staples store near their worksite on Jan. 9, and four members who work in the Bronx visited a Staples store in the city’s northern borough, Zlatkin reported.
Vito Fallacara explains the APWU’s objection to the Staples pilot to a Staples manager in Jersey City NJ.
The Manhattan crew was trailed by reporters for the Chief, a New York newspaper geared toward government employees, and Labor Press, a local organization that reporters on workers’ issues.
APWU President Mark Dimondstein has asked local and state presidents and retiree chapter leaders to organize delegations to visit Staples stores by Jan. 18 to put Staples on notice that we are about to embark on a serious campaign to win these jobs for postal employees.
After the visits with store managers, the APWU will organize a day of action at Staples stores around the country as well as sustained actions at a number of stores where postal retail units have opened.
Has your local organized a delegation to visit a Staples store?
Local, state and retiree chapter presidents across the country are preparing to send delegations to Staples stores in their communities to protest the establishment of postal retail units staffed by low-wage, non-union, non-postal employees.
The delegations will present letters of protest to store managers by Jan. 18. “I urge APWU members to participate,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “The meetings with Staples store managers are intended to put Staples on notice that we are about to embark on a serious campaign to win these jobs for postal employees,” he wrote to local and state presidents on Dec. 26.
The USPS notified the union in October that it was launching a pilot program to put retail units in more than 80 Staples stores. If Staples management and postal brass consider the pilot a success, the program could be extended to Staples’ 1,600 other stores. Agreements between the USPS and other big retailers could follow.
“This is a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services,” Dimondstein said when he learned of the deal. “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.”
About 40 percent of all APWU members work in retail operations, Dimondstein points out, so the threat to postal jobs and to the public Postal Service is real.
“But postal employees live and work in every city and town in the country,” the union president noted. “That is our strength. We must impress upon Staples that we intend to let their customers across the country know about our fight to protect living-wage, union jobs.”
After the visits with store managers, the APWU plans to organize a day of action at Staples stores around the country, followed by sustained actions at a number of stores where postal retail units have opened.
Customers often complain that the USPS process for closing post offices is just a formality- once the USPS decides to close a PO, it’s pretty much a done deal, regardless of customer feedback and public meetings. But what if you’re one of the growing number of customers served by a contract station? If you live in Salem CT, the “process” consisted of a sign on the door one morning saying that the office was closed:
Salem – When residents arrived at the town’s only post office to mail packages Thursday morning, they were greeted by a sign on the business’s door announcing that it had been permanently closed.
Salem has no official post office, and residents relied on a Contract Postal Unit operated by the Four Corners Country Deli. But when the deli closed, apparently unexpectedly on Wednesday, so did the postal unit.
The 46 residents with P.O. boxes will have to pick up their mail at the Colchester post office for now, said U.S. Postal Service spokesman Christine Dugas. And all residents will have to go out of town to mail a package or use other postal services.
A recent test in Louisville KY shows that the USPS can save money and preserve postal jobs by combining truck routes currently run by contractors with routes run by Postal Vehicle Service employees, says Motor Vehicle Service Craft Director Michael O. Foster.
The November test was the culmination of a months-long project that included a survey of Louisville transportation runs, which was conducted by a transportation consulting firm on behalf of the APWU. Using a technique known as “dynamic routing,” the firm developed new routes.
Last month, PVS drivers from Louisville and other areas drove the new routes so that management could observe a demonstration of the new configuration.
The test demonstrated that adding trips currently performed by Highway Contract Route (HCR) drivers (to city stations, associate offices and plants) to routes operated by Postal Vehicle Service drivers generates savings for the USPS. Using postal drivers on long-distance trips and other stops currently made by contractors also can lower costs, the test showed. The consulting firm presented an analysis of the test to the APWU in December.
“We have provided USPS headquarters the analysis,” Foster said. “We look forward to meeting with management to discuss implementation of routes that will save the USPS money and preserve postal jobs.”
The union has offered to conduct additional tests in other locations, including Fort Myers FL, Oklahoma City and Austin TX, where no PVS operations currently exist, Foster said. “We expect these additional tests to demonstrate that utilizing postal drivers can lower USPS costs and establish good union jobs at these locations as well,” he said.
The postal unit at the Staples store in Westborough MA.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Kalish, Going Postal)
On Nov. 10, in a deal that has been in the works at least since March, the USPS announced it was launching a pilot program to put postal retail units in Staples stores across the country. Some sites opened quietly in October and others have opened in the last two weeks, including some where ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held.
Staples is the largest retailer of office supplies in the country, with almost 1,600 stores. The pilot will begin at 84 sites, and, if it is successful, may be extended to other Staples stores. Agreements between the USPS and other big retailers may follow.
“This is a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein.
“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,” he said. “Postal workers deserve better, and our customers deserve better.”
In a meeting with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on Nov. 20, the union president insisted that if the plan proceeds, the postal units at Staples must be staffed by career postal employees. The APWU has requested information about the specifics of the deal, and has instructed the union’s attorneys to explore legal avenues to challenge the program.
‘Postal units at Staples must be staffed by career postal employees.’
The APWU also has requested a meeting with Ron Sargent, the Chairman and CEO of Staples, to discuss our concerns, Dimondstein said. He also expects to have additional discussions with postal management.
“While these efforts proceed, we will begin preparations for protests at Staple stores across the country,” he said. The APWU Executive Board discussed the issue via telephone on Nov. 22 and endorsed the plan to fight back.
“Postal management will undoubtedly try to convince our members that this arrangement is beneficial because it creates revenue for the USPS,” Dimondstein said. “But revenue without good union jobs is not in the interest of our members. Postal services that are performed by anyone other than well-trained postal workers will not serve the American people well,” he said.
“This is a huge step toward privatizing retail services,” Dimondstein said. “If we don’t draw a line in the sand, mail processing and other operations will soon follow.”
The Staples units will offer most postal products and services: They will sell stamps; accept first-class letters, Priority, Priority Express, standard mail, and first-class packages, and accept certified mail. The units will be operational during Staples’ business hours — as late as 9 p.m. on weekdays, on Sundays and many holidays. And, in a unique arrangement, the office supply giant will offer 5% Staples Rewards for the postage on packages paid for and shipped at its locations.
“We can only stop these privatization plans if we work and fight together,” Dimondstein said. “We will keep APWU members informed of any progress at the national level. In the meantime, prepare for action!”