Postal workers protest outside a Staples in New Hampshire in April 2014.

Postal workers protest outside a Staples in New Hampshire in April 2014. Jim Cole/AP

USPS Contracted Services to Staples Illegally, Board Says

Complaint comes from regional level and will move to administrative law judge.

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board delivered an initial ruling against the U.S. Postal Service for outsourcing some of its services, finding the agency failed to uphold its obligation to collectively bargain.

USPS created a pilot program with Staples in 2013, in which postal services are being offered in 80 of the retail store’s locations. Much to the chagrin of postal unions, Staples is staffing the postal centers with its own, non-union employees. The American Postal Workers Union hailed the preliminary decision as a “major step in the fight against privatization.” The case will now go before an administrative law judge.

The NLRB regional director in Baltimore found the Postal Service violated the National Labor Relations Act when it failed to provide information on the Staples deal after APWU had asked for it. The Postal Service also subcontracted the services without giving APWU a chance to bargain, another NLRA violation.

The regional director called the subcontracting issue a “mandatory subject for purposes of collective bargaining.” The Postal Service, the director wrote in the complaint, “has been failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith with the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the employees,” in violation of labor laws.

APWU has fought against the Staples pilot since its inception, claiming USPS plans to expand the program to 1,500 locations. The union has organized nationwide protests against the contract and called for a boycott of Staples and its subsidiaries.

“The Postal Service should settle this case and dump its failed privatization scheme,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. “Americans want a vital, growing and public U.S. Postal Service, and we’re ready to work with postal management to deliver what consumers need in the 21st century.”

USPS must file a response to the complaint by next week. The next hearing will take place on Aug. 17.