January 15, 2014
By Stephanie West
USPS has concluded an arrangement with Staples over the objection of the American Postal Workers Union . The pilot project is supposed to create a “one-stop shopping” experience for customers and eliminate some post offices. USPS wants to expand the program with other retailers.
The effort has upset the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), which is threatening to stage demonstrations throughout this month.
“This is a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services,” APWU’s President Mark Dimondstein said in a union newsletter in November. “The APWU supports the expansion of postal services. But we are adamantly opposed to USPS plans to replace good-paying union jobs with non-union low-wage jobs held by workers who have no accountability for the safety and security of the mail. Postal workers deserve better, and our customers deserve better.”
The agreement between Staples and USPS allows the retailer to use its own employees. This decision didn’t come as a surprise to outsiders, considering that 78% of the Postal Service’s costs are employee-related (salaries and benefits).
Setting up small postal units in retail locations has become something of a trend for USPS, as use of mail has declined due to widespread use of email and social networking. Postal clerks are also finding themselves being phased out of their counter jobs in post offices as the agency replaces them with automated self-service machines.
The Postal Service responded to the union’s complaint by saying it respects the right of its employees to protest. But it did not offer any conciliation.
“The U.S. Postal Service recognizes and respects the right of its employees to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Darlene Reid-DeMeo, an agency spokeswoman, told Government Executive. “Postal Service employees who choose to participate in picketing activities must do so while off-duty and abide by all local laws regarding public gatherings.”
APWU says it will first meet with Staples store managers to express its concerns. If a solution cannot be reached, union officials intend to proceed with the demonstrations.