April 25, 2014- United States Postal Service employees demonstrated in front of 50 Staples stores in 27 states on Thursday, protesting the partnership between the USPS and the office supply chain.
In Washington, D.C., over 200 people protested outside of a Staples store carrying signs that read, “Stop Staples. The US Mail is Not for Sale”.
The USPS has been burdened with financial losses for years, and has been struggling to find new ways to boost revenue and slash operating costs.
Last year, Staples began offering postal services at its retail counters in a pilot program. It’s speculated by unions that the USPS will continue with this program and expand it to over 1,500 stores. While both Staples and the USPS describe this new service as an improvement in convenience for customers, postal workers are worried about job security and accuse the USPS of trying to privatize the mail service.
The largest complaint from Postal Service employees is the fact that the mail counters at Staples are not run by federal employees, but by nonunion Staples employees. “This is a fight against the Wall Street privatizers,” said American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein. Postal workers argue that the counters are taking well-paying jobs away from trained federal employees and handing them over to “lesser skilled” employees.
The USPS visualizes this partnership as a way to cut costs and provide better service. “The privatization discussion is a ruse,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in an interview. “We have no interest in privatizing the Postal Service. We are looking to grow our business to provide customer convenience to postal products.”
In a similar statement, Staples spokeswoman Carrie McElwee said that the chain “continually tests new products and services to better meet the needs of our customers.”
The protesters seek to convince Staples to replace nonunion employees at their mail counters with USPS employees. Donahoe said that choice is for Staples to make, not the Postal Service. “They make their own business decisions and it has nothing to do with us,” she said.
Dimondstein said he plans to place pressure on Staples to agree to use federal employees. “If Staples insists on continuing to refuse to staff those stores with postal workers, we’re going to urge people to take their business elsewhere,” he said.
More protests are planned later this month in California and other areas.
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