USPS Workers Protest Privatization

Jun 17, 2014

Shelly Tempalski who has worked for the USPS for 25 years yells to passing cars with a crowd of her fellow protestors.
Credit Jess Lasky / 90.5 WESA

The McKnight Road Staples store in Ross Township was covered in blue and red today as United States Postal Service (USPS) workers yelled “Whose post office? The people’s post office,” in protest of what they call a “sweetheart deal” to privatize the mail system through Staples.

The USPS has set up shop in 82 Staples stores across the country offering most postal counter services such as selling stamps, processing mail and sending packages. The USPS plans to expand the pilot program to 1,500 stores, but the “Stop Staples” movement is looking to put an end to the program.

“United States Postal Service came into being as a matter of our United States Constitution. It’s the people’s postal service. It is our right to have postal services. It is not a people’s right to be subject to the whims of a for profit cooperation,” said American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Regional Coordinator Mike Gallagher.

One of the concerns the union has is hours will be cut at existing post offices, eventually making Staples the main place to send mail. In San Francisco, one of the test markets for the pilot program, hours have been cut back in the post offices, which the APWU fears will lead to fewer USPS jobs.

“Postal Service employees swear an oath to protect the mail, the integrity of the mail system. Whereas staples employees are underpaid and under-benefited, so we have concerns about the security of the mail,” said Gallagher.

Currently USPS clerks make an average of $25 an hour whereas Staples employees doing the same job will make about $8 an hour according to Gallagher. The Staples employees will also not receive the benefits that come with working for the USPS.

Staples announced earlier that it will close 225 stores this year, making the "Stop Staples" movement concerned that this will also make the mail system less accessible.

Since January the APWU has protested outside of 146 Staples stores, and according to Gallagher the effort is showing promise after a Staples executive said that if the protests continue, they might consider pulling out of the deal. 

“We say put postal workers behind that counter that can be trusted with your mail” said Gallagher who has another idea on how to handle the protests, “That’s really where we’re at is we think that we think that the best thing for staples is to back out of this deal or to negotiate.”

According to the APWU protesters on McKnight, “U.S. Mail is not for sale.”