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Postal Union Likens Staples’ Addition of Postal Services to Privatization, Corporatization

Taking jobs is _____.

Taking jobs is _____.

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The success of a pilot program which places United States Postal Services in Staples stores manned by Staples employees has lead to protests from the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) which wishes to see the stores staffed by union members.  In November, 84 of these stores were successfully launched in California, Georgia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.  Union leaders fear that postal service stores will be installed at over 1,500 Staples stores, a step towards privatization which could negatively impact traditional “brick and mortar” post offices.

Sarah Ryan, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College in Washington, has researched the situation and believes the deal with Staples will do little to improve service to underserved neighborhoods.  She also notes that the situation is similar to one faced by the Postal Workers Union when the Postal Service made a similar deal with Sears in the 80’s.  From CNN:

“The interesting thing is this won’t do anything to help people who are in rural or lower income neighborhoods,” Ryan said. She has studied privatization and the Postal Service and is a former retail clerk at a Seattle post office and held elected positions in the local postal union.

“This is the first time since the Sears deal that there’s an effort to move the retail into a national, corporate chain,” she said.

In the 1980s, the Postal Service and Sears struck an arrangement similar to the one at Staples today. Postal unions protested and the program was eventually canceled.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has dismissed claims that this is an attempt at privatization and said the move is being made to “drive up demand for the agency’s products,” according to ABC News:

“The privatization discussion is a ruse,” 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.”

President of the American Postal Workers Union, Mark Dimondstein, disagrees and calls the move “a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services.”

The union plans on holding “sustained” protests in the Bay Area starting next month.  They are also looking into ways to exert pressure on Staples shareholders.  For the union, the post offices in Staples is not the concern, it is who will be working them.  While the average postal clerk makes roughly $25 an hour with benefits, a Staples employee often makes the minimum wage or close to it which could drive down wages industry-wide.  

“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,” Dimondstein said.


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