WASHINGTON – Thousands of members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and community activists will engage in National Day of Action on Thursday, April 24, to protest the Postal Service’s sweetheart deal with Staples that is moving mail service into Staples stores. Events will be held at more than 50 Staples retail locations [PDF] across 27 states.
In October, the USPS announced a no-bid deal to open postal counters in more than 80 Staples stores. The U.S. Postal Service plans to expand this “pilot” project to Staples’ 1,500 stores nationwide.
Staples employees, who work for low wages and meager benefits — and who have received minimal training — operate these unsecured postal counters.
Although Staples and the Postal Service have worked hard to keep the details of their arrangement a secret, the APWU recently obtained a heavily-redacted copy of the agreement. Despite the fact that many of the pages were blacked out, the document provides clear evidence that the Staples sweetheart deal will compromise the quality, security and reliability that consumers expect and deserve in the handling of their mail.
“The American people have a right to know that their mail is handled by highly-trained uniformed postal employees who have taken an oath to protect the sanctity of the mail and who are accountable to the people of the country — whether it’s at the Post Office or an office-supply store,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein.
Research shows that consumers have high regard for postal employees and are skeptical about the Staples deal, according to InfoTrends, which recently completed a report for the USPS Inspector General. Many postal customers, the firm reported, “were uncomfortable with co-location of Post Offices not staffed by USPS employees, such as with the Postal Service’s recent partnership with Staples stores.”
‘I want a real postal employee to handle my mail,’ said one woman from an urban location. ‘It’s like when you go in to a drug store to get a flu shot. You don’t want to get it from a regular Walgreen’s employee.’
An internal USPS document [PDF] makes clear that the goal of the program is to replace the good, living-wage jobs held by USPS employees with low-wage jobs in the private sector.
“But this isn’t just about postal jobs,” Dimondstein said. “Many people are outraged that a tremendous public asset is being turned over to a struggling private company.” Staples recently announced that it would close 225 stores by 2015.
“Staples makes business decisions based on the bottom line, not service to the people of the country,” Dimondstein said.
“As a nation, we need to decide what kind of Postal Service we want. Are we going to have a vibrant, modern, public mail system that serves all of the people, or are we going to let privatizers kill this great institution?” The APWU supports expanding postal service — by improving accessibility as well as the variety of services offered, he said.
Today’s National Day of Action follows protests by postal workers and community allies in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Berkeley and other cities since January.
Many teachers, who regularly buy school supplies at Staples, have joined the APWU in protesting this attempt to privatize postal services. On April 28, the California Federation of Teachers will vote on a resolution asking their members to buy school supplies from other retailers. This will likely be the first of many similar actions by educators to boycott Staples. It’s estimated that 30 percent of Staples revenue comes from back-to-school sales.
A copy of the agreement between Staples and the USPS – heavily redacted [PDF] – is available on the APWU website, at www.apwu.org.
For additional background information, see these recent stories from the Huffington Post, New Republic and the Associated Press: