Five years ago the Post Office began a series of moves aimed at the step-by-step privatization of the U.S. Postal Service, the country’s largest unionized employer. One such move was a 2013 program to farm out postal window services to so-called “postal counters” at 500-plus Staples office supply stores.
The American Postal Workers Union confidently swung into action, with an ambitious campaign to beat back the Staples challenge – from nationwide boycott, internet organizing and mass demonstrations at Staples stores, to legal action, Inspector General investigations and Labor Board appeals.
Union activists organized a mailing of 100,000 postcards to the company CEO, attended stockholders’ meetings, and intervened to help scuttle Staples’ proposed $5.5 Billion merger with Office Depot. The two big teachers unions, AFT and NEA, acting in solidarity with the postal workers, saw to it that Staples’ substantial revenue from sale of school supplies suffered a drastic cut.
On Jan. 5, the Postal Service informed the union that its scab partnership deal with Staples was finished (effective the end of February). The union, in its victory statement, announced that the Staples boycott was over, and that “the U.S. Mail is not for sale”!
“This is a big win,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Staples is out of the mail business. This is also a big win for those who care about their neighborhood post office, and for all those who think that workers should earn a fair living wage with decent health care and a pension, rather than the Staples model of minimum wage, part-time hours and no benefits.” (Daily 202 Newsletter)
“If Staples was going to take our work and jobs for their private profit, we were going to hit back and affect their bottom line,” Dimondstein said. He added that this is not only a victory over Staples, but will affect USPS plans to privatize retail services using other corporations, as well. “Those companies,” he said, “have largely backed-off and gotten the message – mess with postal workers and our customers and you will have to tangle with the APWU family.” (Union website)
He thanked the many Stop Staples activists who worked day-in and day-out to see this struggle through. “A job well-done, sisters and brothers,” he said. “This victory helps strengthen and steel us for the battles ahead.”
The author is a retired letter carrier with the Postal Service in California.