Staples Protests Take Off!
01/28/2014 - More than 150 APWU members and supporters took part in a lively protest outside a Staples store in San Francisco on Jan. 28, challenging a deal between the company and the U.S. Postal Service that staffs “postal” counters in Staples stores with non-postal employees. The deal threatens good-paying union jobs and jeopardizes public post offices, they said.
The protesters chanted, held signs saying “Stop Staples: The U.S. Mail is Not for Sale,” and passed out flyers about the deal to customers and passersby.
“The U.S. Postal Service is the people’s postal service,” said APWU Western Region Coordinator Omar Gonzalez. “We have to spread the word. We want post offices staffed with public servants who are accountable to the people,” he said.
The union is demanding that postal employees be assigned to perform the postal work at Staples stores. If Staples and the USPS refuse, the APWU will ask customers to take their business elsewhere.
“The APWU supports the expansion of postal services and retail hours,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein notes. “But we cannot accept 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,” he said. The program is a direct assault on postal jobs and on public postal services, and with 40 percent of APWU members working in retail operations, the threat to postal jobs and to public post offices is real, he said.
The event garnered considerable press coverage, with local television stations, radio and newspapers reporting on the activities.
Alan Ross of the East Bay Area Local told ABC 7 News in San Francisco, “Our biggest fear, obviously, is that if Staples is successful in staffing those units with their workers, then our opinion is it may lead to the closing of some of the smaller post offices located near Staples centers.”
A protest is also planned for a Staples store in San Jose, and a nationwide day of action at Staples stores around the country will take place soon, APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. Sustained protests will be organized in locations where Staples stores have postal counters.
“We will take this issue far and wide, looking for support among all those who believe in a public Postal Service and in protecting jobs that pay a living wage,” Dimondstein said.
At the San Francisco protest APWU members were joined by postal customers and representatives of the American Federation of Teachers, American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), United Food and Commercial Workers, the National Union of Healthcare Workers and the National Association of Letter Carriers. Several APWU members from Southwest Coastal Area Local attended, along APWU members from in and around San Francisco.
More than 80 Staples stores in California, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Central Massachusetts are participating in the trial program. If Staples and USPS executives consider the trial successful, the program could be expanded to the chain’s 1,600 other stores.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told the Associated Press that he would like to expand the program “as soon as possible.”
“We intend to stop it,” Dimondstein said. “We believe we can, and we will.”