Last fall, a new partnership between the United States Postal Service (USPS) and Staples, Inc was announced. The pilot project called for the opening of 82 Contract Postal Units (CPUs) in Staples stores across the country. The initial announcement said that if successful the program could be expanded to the remainder of Staples' 1,500 domestic locations.
But not if organized labor has anything to do with it. Since January, there have been protests in front of Staples stores in California and 26 other states by members of the USPC, along with members of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Union of Healthcare Workers. The Golden State alone has 32 Staples stores offering postal services.
At Monday night's Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting, member Dave Bernstein informed fellow Democrats about the boycott, and announced it's only going to get bigger in the coming weeks.
"Staples is trying to break the union," Bernstein stood up and told members at their monthly meeting at the Hillsborough County Children Board's building in Ybor City. "They’re trying to put them a mile or two away from the Post Office and close the post office and put good union members, who live in our community making a decent wage, out of business." Bernstein is retired and currently serves as the legislative director for the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Tampa area local 295. He fears that the arrangement is another potential step in privatizing the postal service.
Last month, the Executive Council of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), representing 120,000 educational employees from Head Start through university, voted unanimously to boycott Staples, and Bernstein says that the national American Federation of Teachers is backing it as well.
"Think of how many teachers take money out of their own pocket for supplies with their kids," Bernstein told his fellow Democrats at the conclusion of their meeting. "They believe this is wrong, and they're boycotting them already right now."
Bernstein says that the Staples workers handling mail are doing so making at a low wage, aren't trained, and were never subjected to a background check. "This is 78,000 jobs across the country that that they’re trying to cut out of union members," he complained. And he said that if they had one, people should cut up their Staples debit cards as well.
The Postal Service denies that the Staples locations are a way to phase out traditional postal deliveries. CNN Money quoted a spokeswoman earlier this year as saying that it's just one of several moves to "grow the business." The retail partnership has "never been an earmark to pave a way to privatization," spokeswoman Darleen Reid-DeMeo told the publication.
The Postal Service lost $5 billion in the last fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013.
As the Associated Press has reported, a large majority of its financial problems stem from a 2006 congressional requirement that it make annual $5.6 billion payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees.