U.S. Postal Service workers on Thursday convened at Staples stores across the country to protest a deal the agency has made to offer its services at the retail locations.
The American Postal Workers Union organized the demonstrations at more than 50 Staples locations in 27 states, calling the public-private partnership an affront to the USPS workforce and a thinly veiled attempt to privatize mail delivery.
The Postal Service initially announced a pilot program with Staples in October, in which the stores would offer postal services in 80 retail locations. USPS will expand the program dramatically to 1,500 stores across the country, according to APWU. Staples is staffing the postal centers with their own employees, which the postal union said would lead to a lack of trust with customers.
“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.
The Postal Service denied it has any formal plans to expand the pilot, and a spokeswoman said any expansion forecasts would be “premature at this point in the pilot.”
Postal workers maintained the American people’s mail could not to any degree be entrusted to minimum-wage, untrained workers.
“I know what I had to go through to get into the Postal Service,” Dena Briscoe, president of local APWU 140 and a USPS clerk for 34 years, said at a rally in Washington, D.C. “This is a high-level service and it shouldn’t be put into the hands of people who don’t have the same training.”
Hundreds of protestors from APWU and other unions marched in the D.C. demonstration, holding signs and chanting, “The U.S. mail is not for sale,” and “Who’s post office? The people’s post office!”
“This is work that the Postal Service does,” said Nannette Corley, a 20-year procurement and supply clerk for USPS, “and there’s going to be a trickle-down effect” to all postal jobs.
Gloria Hinton, a postal retiree who worked for the agency for 35 years, said Staples workers will not have the same level of accountability as postal employees. When USPS workers are found tampering with mail, they are prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law.” When Staples employees are found guilty of wrongdoing, she said, they are simply fired and a new underpaid, undertrained employee is brought in.
Dimondstein said at the rally APWU could accept postal services being offered at Staples on a limited basis, provided the positions were staffed by unionized USPS workers and it didn’t disrupt the infrastructure of the agency. He added the protests would help spread the message of the partnership, which Dimonstein said USPS has attempted to keep secret, and instruct consumers not to shop at Staples.
J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government employees, also attended the rally along with more than 50 AFGE members to promote “union solidarity.”
“We’re all bound together by the same U.S. Congress,” Cox said, as well as the “same miserable chairman,” referring to the head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Cox added the Postal Service “shouldn’t be contracting out services,” an issue for which he and AFGE have consistently fought.
Issa released this week a discussion draft for a new postal reform bill, this time largely drawing from an Obama administration proposal. Dimondstein said APWU would not support any bill that mirrors the White House’s plan.