A hearing on charges that the Postal Service illegally subcontracted work to Staples was dominated by procedural wrangling on Aug. 17 and 18. The hearing before Administrative Law Judge Paul Bogas of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will resume on Nov. 2.
Region 5 of the NLRB issued a complaint against the Postal Service on June 26 in response to an “unfair labor practice” charge filed by the APWU against the Postal Service. The complaint asked the NLRB to order the USPS to cancel its Approved Shipper deal with Staples and return work that existed on July 31, 2014, to the APWU bargaining unit.
At the hearing, the Postal Service withdrew its request to defer the hearing to arbitration.
Both the Postal Service and Staples continued to resist complying with subpoenas issued by Region 5 of the NLRB and the APWU for use at the hearing, claiming that many documents contain confidential, proprietary information. Judge Bogas will rule on their claims at the Nov. 2 hearing.
Bogas granted a motion by Staples to intervene in the case, after Staples argued that it could not rely on the Postal Service to defend its interests in the proceedings. The Postal Service supported Staples’ motion.
The judge’s ruling is not supported by legal precedent, attorneys for the APWU and the NLRB General Counsel noted, and announced plans to appeal.
“The APWU deplores the ongoing collusion between the Postal Service and Staples to transfer the work of highly-trained USPS employees who are accountable to the people of the country to low-paid Staples employees,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. “This ploy enriches Staples executives while advancing the privatization of the public Postal Service,” he added.
“The APWU will fight with everything we’ve got in the legal arena, but we know the truth: We must defend our rights and interests by increasing members’ participation in the Stop Staples campaign and spreading word of the boycott,” he said.
“This is a watershed deal for antitrust,” said AAI President Diana Moss. “The proposed merger raises a number of threshold questions. If the government is faced with a merger to monopoly of the office supply superstores, the AAI wants to make sure those get addressed.”
The AAI white paper warns that the deal’s biggest threat could be to the merging firms’ biggest customers: national and multi-regional businesses that buy office supplies through negotiated long-term contracts. The AAI’s analysis shows that the two merging firms dominate this market for “enterprise” contract customers, and many of these large customers have no viable alternatives to Staples or Office Depot.
“While the deal deserves a lot of attention on retail market issues, we highlight that competition for the largest customers in the contract market is basically on life support,” said AAI Associate General Counsel Randy Stutz, who authored the white paper. “We don’t see any companies left in the enterprise contract market that can mount a serious challenge to Staples or Office Depot.”
The white paper explains that a merger to monopoly in office supply superstores (OSSs) would threaten enterprise contract customers not only with higher prices and diminished service, but also the loss of competition to provide the best cyber security in keeping sensitive customer data safe. Because the deal eliminates all redundancy in the OSS supply channel, it also puts these customers at risk of having no supply options in the event of a disruption to the merged firm.
“Leaving large customers to internalize significant risk of a shock to a merged Staples/Office Depot should be considered an adverse effect of the merger,” said Moss. “Whenever you get down to a few firms or a single firm, you should be asking what happens if these guys get hit by another cyber attack or some other unforeseen disruption, especially when Staples/Office Depot is the only competitor capable of serving a huge swath of customers.”
The AAI white paper also notes that there are serious concerns to be addressed in the retail channel. “The fact that consumers buy office supplies on Amazon and at Walmart should be the beginning of the analysis, not the end,” explained Stutz. “Three-to-one consolidation among OSSs should prompt the FTC to consider whether a merged Staples/Office Depot could use price discrimination or dynamic pricing strategies to harm consumers in local geographic regions that are underserved by such alternatives.”
07/09/2015 – In response to a lawsuit filed by the APWU, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has coughed up 231 documents that shed new light on the secretive deal between Staples and the Postal Service.
Perhaps most jarring is the acknowledgement that the Staples’ deal was intended to serve as a model for transferring postal retail operations from the U.S. Postal Service to private retailers.
07/01/2015 – In a major blow to the Postal Service’s deal with Staples, Region 5 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint charging that the USPS illegally subcontracted work to the office-supply chain and ordering the agency to return the work that existed on July 31, 2014, to the APWU bargaining unit. A hearing is scheduled before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge on Aug. 17.
If the NLRB sustains the allegations in the complaint, it could effectively end Staples’ foray into the mail business. Continue reading →
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) announced today that the 200,000–member union, with the assistance of the AFL-CIO, has engaged a team of financial advisors, lawyers and economists to challenge the merger between Staples and Office Depot.
The union is urging the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to block a merger that it sees as monopolistic and unlawful. The union also will reach out to members of Congress and state and local officials to raise objections. Continue reading →
01/16/2015 – Outgoing Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe made headlines when he blamed postal unions and big mailers for the Postal Service’s problems in a recent farewell address, but he made a few other surprising comments as well.
In a speech to the National Press Club on Jan. 6, Donahoe admitted that the union’s Stop Staples campaign has “disrupted” the Postal Service’s deal with the office-supply chain. It has also made it more difficult for the USPS to get other businesses to participate in management’s scheme to privatize postal retail operations, he said.
“Just last year the American Postal Workers Union mounted a protest campaign and disrupted our partnership with Staples,” the Postmaster General said. “Unfortunately, it’s now tougher for us to find retail partners,” he added.
“This shows the effectiveness of the Stop Staples campaign,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. “When you’re out there telling your co-workers, friends and neighbors not to shop at Staples, you’re making a difference. When you pass out flyers at Staples stores and ask their customers to shop elsewhere, you’re protecting living-wage, union jobs, and you’re protecting the public Postal Service.”
In the speech to reporters, Donahoe mischaracterized the union’s position, saying “the APWU approach is to try to keep all of our transactions in post offices.”
Not true. The union would have considered supporting the pilot if the Staples postal counters were staffed with USPS employees. As the APWU reported just after President Mark Dimondstein took office in 2013, “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.”
Dimondstein added, “The APWU supports the expansion of postal services. However, 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.”
As secret USPS documents later revealed, that was the management’s true motive: To replace Postal Service retail associates with low-wage Staples employees.
“We’re going to continue to fight the Postal Service’s dirty deal with Staples until they get out of the postal business,” Dimondstein said.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has charged the USPS with illegally spying on postal employees while they protested outside a Staples store in Atlanta on March 4 and 9, 2014.
“Respondent has been interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed” in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act and the Postal Reorganization Act, the board charged in a complaint issued Dec. 9. A hearing on the complaint will be held on March 11, 2015.
The complaint stems from charges made by the APWU that the Postal Service dispatched managers posing as “media representatives” to the union protests. Once there, the managers took notes and photos of the rallies. Union members and supporters were protesting the no-bid deal between the USPS and Staples that diverts postal work to Staples. The protests were not on or near postal property.
The charge follows the settlement of another complaint against the Postal Service for illegally interfering in the Stop Staples campaign in Pittsburgh. The settlement requires the USPS to post a notice to employees that acknowledges:
It is against the law to deny employees who are on “non-work time” access to outside and non-work areas, including parking lots, gates, swing rooms, and cafeterias, to distribute union literature and solicit support for APWU activities.
It is also against the law to discriminate against the union’s message by prohibiting the distribution and posting of union literature in locations where the Postal Service allows non-union literature to be posted.
“We will continue to protect the rights of APWU members to protest policies that threaten the public Postal Service and their jobs,” said President Mark Dimondstein.
The APWU has placed a full-page ad in The Harvard Crimsoncalling on Harvard University President Drew Faust “to do the right thing or resign.” The right course of action, the ad says, is for Dr. Faust to use her influence to end the no-bid deal Faust serves on the board of Staples, where she earns $300,000 per year.
Staples is notorious for paying its employees poverty-level wages, the ad points out. A 2012 study by the National Employment Law Project listed Staples among the 50 largest low-wage employers in the country. Since 2007, Staples has paid roughly $80 million to settle more than a dozen class-action lawsuits alleging ‘wage theft.’
Staples foray into the postal business will have serious repercussions: It will facilitate the transfer of stable, living-wage jobs to high-turnover, poverty-wage jobs; downgrade the quality of postal services, and hasten the privatization of the United States Postal Service, the ad says.
“If Dr. Faust can’t use her influence to end this dirty deal, she should resign from the Staples board,” it concludes.
Lots of postal workers (and school teachers) have been avoiding Staples recently, thanks to their deals with the US Postal Service to outsource postal workers’ jobs. Now there’s another reason to buy your stamps at the post office:
In the latest cyberattack on American retailers and restaurants, Staples said Tuesday that its computer systems were compromised in an intrusion involving customers’ credit and debit card information.
Staples, the office supplier based in Framingham, Mass., said it was working with law enforcement agencies to determine the extent of the problem. The company did not say when the attack occurred or in which stores, or how many payment cards might have been affected.
09/24/2014 – The president of the American Federation of Teachers has a message for Staples CEO Ron Sargent: We’re not buying!
AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote to Sargent on Sept. 17, “As you know, teachers are critical to your profits. Last year, educators spent over $1.6 billion of their own money on school supplies and a lion’s share of that money was spent at Staples stores all across the country. Some of our local affiliates have even entered into partnerships with Staples to offer discounts to teachers and other school-related staff with a goal of reducing costs to benefit the communities and families we serve.
“Regrettably, many of these partnerships have and will continue to end as long as your company continues to participate in the privatization of postal retail operations through the ‘Approved Shipper’ program, which replaces living-wage Postal Service jobs with low-wage Staples jobs and compromises the safety and security of the mail.”
The AFT voted to endorse the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ campaign at their national convention in mid-July. The National Education Association, with 3 million members, has also asked their members to buy school and office supplies elsewhere.
Union Privilege, which provides union members and their families with valuable consumer benefits, announced in August that it would stop ordering supplies from Staples. “We believe that all Americans have a right to postal services that are provided by uniformed USPS employees who have sworn an oath to safeguard our mail and who are accountable to the American people…. We will also use our email and social media channels, which reach some 1 million union members from more than 50 unions, to spread the word that the U.S. Mail should not be for sale.”
Also in August, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed the Staples boycott. “It is important that we stand up to companies and government entities that attempt to replace good union jobs with low wage labor,” said President Steven Tolman.