A union representing U.S. Postal Service employees is staging protests later this month against a pilot program that opened retail postal spaces at Staples office supply locations, complaining the resulting jobs are staffed by non-postal workers.
The Postal Service reached an agreement with Staples in October 2013 to put retail units in more than 80 stores, with the possibility of expanding dramatically, to create a “one-stop shopping” experience for customers.
Staples, however, has staffed the postal areas with its own employees. For the American Postal Workers Union, this represents a lost opportunity to grow services using postal employees whom USPS customers can trust.
“This is a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services,” said APWU’s 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. Postal workers deserve better, and our customers deserve better.”
The contract between Staples and the Postal Service allows the retailer to use its own employees.
APWU first will meet with Staples store managers by Jan. 18 to express their concerns, particularly that postal-related positions within their stores are being filled by “low-wage, non-union, non-postal employees.” Then the union will organize a day of action and subsequent protests.
The Postal Service said it respects the right of its employees to protest, but fell short of offering any conciliation.
“The U.S. Postal Service recognizes and respects the right of its employees to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Darlene Reid-DeMeo, an agency spokeswoman. “Postal Service employees who choose to participate in picketing activities must do so while off-duty and abide by all local laws regarding public gatherings.”
USPS’ pilot program has launched in five metropolitan areas and is the first in the agency’s retail partner expansion program, designed to “increase choices customers have on where and when they can purchase postal products and services.” More than 80 percent of postal products and services are available at the participating Staples locations.
Reid-DeMeo said the Staples pilot program is similar to its existing Contract Postal Units, which allow customers to buy stamps at a pharmacy store, and its Village Post Offices where customers can use postal services inside of a local grocery store, for example. These locations also are not staffed by postal employees.