April 25, 2014 in Business

Postal workers rally against Staples program

Rik Stevens Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Postal workers picket in front of a Staples store in Concord, N.H., on Thursday. Postal workers around the country protested in front of Staples stores, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters in stores, staffed with retail employees.
(Full-size photo)

CONCORD, N.H. – Postal workers in cities big and small protested in front of Staples stores Thursday, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters in stores, staffed with retail employees.

Rallies were planned at 50 locations in 27 states. In Concord, N.H., more than 100 boisterous workers donned bright blue shirts and lined a busy commercial road near a Staples store.

“Union busting, we say no,” they chanted. “The Staples deal has got to go.”

In New York, about 100 workers marched from the main office on 8th Avenue to a Staples store about five blocks away, carrying signs and chanting while in Washington, D.C., more than 200 people gathered at a Staples, drumming on buckets and holding signs that read: “Stop Staples. The U.S. Mail is NOT for Sale.”

One of them, postal service maintenance mechanic Robert Black, called the pilot program “a back-door way of privatizing the post office” and taking away jobs from postal workers.

“It seems as though they are doing whatever they can to break down the union,” he said.

Last year, Framingham, Mass.-based Staples Inc. began offering postal services under a pilot program that now includes some 80 stores. The American Postal Workers Union objects, because it says well-paid union workers have been replaced by low-wage nonunion workers. (A union spokesman said postal workers make $25 an hour on average, far more than retail clerks.) The union also worries it will lead to post office closures.

John Hegarty, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, which represents about 45,000 mail handlers, said the outsourcing endangers the sanctity and security of the mail.

“We are highly trained, skilled postal employees and they want to give it to employees who really don’t know anything about the mail,” he said.

Staples customer Jon Lenzner in Washington agreed that security was a concern.

“While the majority of postal workers are honest, it enlarges the pool of people who can take private, personal information,” said Lenzner, a prosecutor. “You have, in essence, doubled the pool of people who can steal your mail.”

Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union representing 200,000 employees, called the Staples partnership “a dirty deal.”

“It represents a shift of good, living-wage jobs to low-wage jobs,” Dimondstein said.

The dispute comes as the financially struggling Postal Service looks to cut costs and boost revenues.

The service lost $5 billion in the 2013 fiscal year and has been trying to get Congress to pass legislation to help with its financial woes, including an end to Saturday mail delivery and reduced payments on retiree health benefits. It lost $15.9 billion in the 2012 budget year.

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