NLRB Judge Orders Staples to Stop Handling U.S. Mail
Backroom Deal with Postal Service Violates Labor Laws
(This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The Postal Service’s deal with Staples is indeed dirty.
On Nov. 8, 2016, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Administrative Law Judge Paul Bogas upheld all of the APWU’s charges leveled at the Postal Service’s Staples Approved Shipper program. The ruling came almost two years after the APWU filed an unfair labor practice complaint in November 2014, against the USPS for its actions in illegally transferring work to Staples.
“The Postal Service provided the union with incomplete and misleading information about its retail partnership with Staples, resisted the union’s requests for additional information that likely would have revealed that its plans included the diversion of bargaining unit work,” Bogas said.
“We said from day one this was a dirty backroom deal that was bad for postal customers and postal workers,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “Customers expect and deserve to have their mail handled safely and securely. And, the USPS has a contractual obligation to negotiate with us before moving our work to a private company with low standards.”
The ruling stated the USPS intentionally ignored its legal obligation under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to bargain with the APWU over the Staples deal and its effects on members of the union.
During the discovery process, the APWU found that the USPS was actually paying Staples between $4,000 and $5,500 per store to provide these substandard services. It was further revealed that the goal was to secretly and illegally divert as much as 40 percent of mail services from local post offices to Staples and other retailers.
An internal Postal Service report, dated Sept. 12, 2012, made clear the goal of the expansion of its “retail partnerships” was about “migrating [the] majority of volume to retail partners (new and existing).” The judge ruled the USPS failed to inform the union of this report “at any time prior to it being subpoenaed in this litigation.”
“Judge Bogas called this one exactly right,” President Dimondstein said. “It’s time to get the U.S. Mail out of Staples and back to neighborhood post offices where it will be handled properly.
“It is clear from the Postal Service’s own documents and testimony, the real goal for their ‘Retail Partnership’ program was to eliminate APWU members’ jobs and to close post offices,” he added.
Voluminous additional evidence was cited proving postal management hid their true intent – the privatization of postal retail operations – from the union. One document noted a USPS consultant’s question to Brian Code, then head of the USPS Retail Partnership Program. The consultant asked whether they will “decrease [bargaining unit clerks] and will have to shut down P[ost] O[ffice]s to finance the program.”
Code replied, “You are right.”
“It is clear we were right to challenge the Staples deal,” President Dimondstein explained. “It was the correct decision to mobilize our members and initiate the Stop Staples campaign and boycott. The campaign continues to be a key part of the battle to maintain the public Postal Service against management’s privatization scheme.”
Among other remedies, the decision went on to instruct USPS to “discontinue its retail partnership with Staples.”
“The Postal Service will probably appeal this decision, but we call on them to do the right thing and immediately end the Staples dirty deal,” President Dimondstein said. “In the meantime, the Stop Staples campaign and boycott continues full speed ahead! The U.S. Mail is not for sale!”
‘Boycott Staples is Our Call’
The Bay Area Stop Staples Team (BASST) poets submitted the following poem:
We’ve got a protest way out west
We boycott Staples and do not rest
The boycott continues until we win
And Staples postal work is in the bin
Staples took jobs from you and me
Some folks said just let it be
But postal workers said no no no
We’ll get ‘em back from this corporate foe
Don’t let our USPS go away
We need our free mail delivery to stay
Union brothers and sisters around the bay
Tell us we’re with you as they turn the other way
Security guards come and act real tough
We stand our ground and call their bluff
Boycott Staples is our call
Explaining to customers one and all
Some will listen and turn around
Others hurry by giving us a frown
Five Bay Area Staples stores have closed
Staples’ postal deals are being exposed
Come join us in this historic fight
After three years we begin to see the light
With Alan as our leader and Darla by his side
We’ve had ups and downs but ride the tide
We’ve endured a lot over these years
Going through illness and shedding some tears
It seems this protest will continue on longer
But staying together our team becomes stronger
Stop Staples Goes Global
UNI Post and Logistics World Conference passed a resolution, brought forward by President Dimondstein, in support of the Staples boycott and the APWU’s Stop Staples campaign.
“The UNI Post unions encourage their members and sister unions to refrain from doing business with Staples, Quill.com and any Staples subsidiaries,” the resolution said.