The opening of Postal Service retail centers in dozens of Staples stores around the country is being met with threats of protests and boycotts by the agency’s unions.
The new outlets are staffed by Staples employees, not postal workers, and labor officials say that move replaces good-paying union jobs with low-wage, nonunion workers.
“It’s a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union.
The dispute comes as the financially struggling Postal Service continues to form partnerships with private companies, and looks to cut costs and boost revenues. The deal with Staples began as a pilot program in November at 84 stores in California, Georgia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania as a way make it easier for customers to buy stamps, send packages or use Priority and certified mail.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the program has nothing to do with privatization and everything to do with customer service and driving up demand for the agency’s products.
“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.”
Staples spokeswoman Carrie McElwee referred questions about union concerns to the Postal Service. She said the company “continually tests new products and services to better meet the needs of our customers.”
Union leaders fear that if the Staples program is successful, the Postal Service will want to expand it to more than 1,500 of the company’s other stores. That could siphon work and customers away from nearby brick-and-mortar post offices, taking jobs from postal workers and even leading post offices to close.
Union leaders have been visiting Staples stores to meet with managers, asking them to share the union’s displeasure with upper management.