Despite a persistent, chilly rain, more than 20 members and allies of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) marched outside the Germantown Avenue Staples on Thursday afternoon to protest plans to expand a recent retail agreement with the U.S. Postal Service.
As part of the agreement, Staples employees will eventually staff USPS service windows at more than 1,500 supply-chain locations nationwide.
That did not sit well with the protestors along the 7700 block of Germantown Ave. this week.
“We want Staples service windows to be staffed by certified USPS workers,” said Cindy Hayward, lead organizer for the APWU Stop Staples Campaign locally. “The people of the United States need to be aware of this problem, which significantly impacts a public service that is theirs by right.”
Privatizing U.S. mail service?
Thursday’s protest was part of a national campaign being waged against the Staples deal.
Involved with the APWU are many national labor unions including the American Federation of Teachers, which is leading its own boycott-Staples campaign.
In 2013, Staples announced it had begun a pilot program in which USPS products would be offered for sale at 82 retail locations in four cities.
After an initial round of protests, Staples ended the pilot program while allowing the agreement with the USPS to be incorporated into its “Approved Shipper Program.”
Staples has since closed more than 225 stores, including some in the initial pilot program. That prompted concerns about long-term prospects.
“If Staples continues closing stores, then where will people go to send their mail?” asked June Cohen, a postal worker for 33 years.
The USPS announced in October that it now intends to expand the Approved Shipper Program to all Staples locations. The APWU sees that as meaning lower-wage Staples gigs will replace livable-wage union jobs of USPS workers.
“It’s clear that this is part of a larger plan to privatize the postal service,” Cohen said. “Two hundred and 39 years ago, Benjamin Franklin established mail delivery in the United States as a federally protected public service. I took an oath to guarantee this service. Can Staples or some other chain store make that guarantee?”
Hayward underscored that point, noting that USPS workers get extensive training after passing a civil-service exam and background check.
Moreover, the USPS employs postal inspectors and investigators and, by law, must abide by specific regulations dictating how the service it provides may be discharged.
Under the expansion of the Approved Shipper Program, mail sent from one of the Staples service windows will sit until it is picked up by the USPS for delivery.
“We have the best postal service in the world,” she said. “Staples hopes that offering mail service windows will draw customers to its failing stores.”
Attempts to reach a Staples spokesperson for comment were unsuccessful Friday.