Postal Workers Protest Staples Deal

By Stan Washington | 3/7/2014, noon
Changes are coming to the financially-troubled U.S. Postal Service and Tuesday local workers let management know loud and clear that ...
More than 50 U.S. postal workers and supporters protest outside the Staples store in Buckhead Tuesday. The postal union is upset with the new test postal outlets in the office supply stores that will use Staple employees instead of postal workers. (Photo by Stan Washington/The AV.

Changes are coming to the financially-troubled U.S. Postal Service and Tuesday local workers let management know loud and clear that they were not happy at all with the agency’s most recent change.

Waving placards and shouting “The U.S. Mail is not for sale!” over 50 postal employees and their supporters protested outside the Staples Buckhead store across from Phipps Mall in Atlanta.

Atlanta is one of four pilot cities where the postal service has opened a service desk inside a Staples store. The deal with Staples which began in October puts between 82 to 84 postal service desks in the stores with limited service. If it is successful it could expand to 1,600 locations according to the postal service. In addition to Georgia, Staples-operated and Staples-staffed postal counters are operating in Northern California, Pittsburgh, and Central Massachusetts.

American Postal Workers Union (APWU) aren’t upset with the pilot program but they are pissed off that the service desks will be run by Staple employees and not postal workers.

The union claims that your mail will not be the main priority of the Staples employees because they will still have their regular store duties to attend to.

“When you go inside a Walmart and you see a Subway or a McDonald’s, those aren’t Walmart workers, but employees of those companies,” said local union spokesman William Flanagan.

“They (Staples workers) don’t have the same training as a postal employee,” he added. “They don’t take the same oath as a postal employee to protect the sanctity of the U.S. mail and to guarantee that it will get to wherever it’s going.”

By offering more convenience to its customers, postal service management is hoping that the Staples project will be a needed revenue shot in the arm to the agency that has been experiencing shortfalls over the past decade. And it could work, seeing that Staples will be opened later hours and on weekends when most post offices are closed.

Over the past several years, the only news that has been coming out of the postal service is bad news. There has been proposals of reducing mail delivery to five days a week, closing post offices and giving buyouts to reduce the labor force.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein claims the postal service management wants to be privatize the service piece by piece. But Postmaster Patrick Donahoe has previous stated that the postal service is not interested in privatizing. He adds that the Staples deal won’t displaced workers.

“As a nation, we need to decide what kind of Postal Service we want,” Dimondstein said. “Are we going to have a vibrant, modern, public mail system or are we going to let privatizers kill this great institution?”

“There is potential for a bright future for the Post Office. “Although first-class mail is declining, package delivery is exploding, due to e-commerce. We should be offering longer hours and more services, including public notary and basic banking,” he said.

Dimondstein told other news outlets that the postal service could make approximately $8.9 million if it offered the new financial services.

“If we’re going to have mini-Post Offices in Staples stores they should be operated by uniformed postal employees, who have taken an oath and are accountable to the American people – especially during this time of rampant identity theft and concerns about privacy,” Dimondstein said.

To drive home their argument against the Staples deal, Dimondstein points out that Staples is not without its own financial struggles having recently shut 40 stores in the last quarter.

“Our union wants to shed a light on this bad deal,” he said. “We’re confident that when the public learns what’s going on they will say, ‘No sale.’”