By JoAnne Powers, June 16, 2016
Members of the American Postal Workers Union and Harvard students affiliated with United Students Against Sweatshops protested on Tuesday outside of Staples corporation’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Natick, Massachusetts. APWU has been leading a successful boycott against the company for two years over the Postal Service allowing Staples workers to handle certain postal duties within the company’s stores.
John Dirzius is Northeast Regional Coordinator for the American Postal Workers Union:
[John Dirzius]: “They have entered into an illegal agreement with the United States Postal Service, at least as far as the NLRB is concerned, where they have taken our retail jobs and moved them over to the Staples corporation, using their associates as postal clerks that are really not trained and really don’t know all the postal regulations. In our NLRB charge we got thousands of pages of documentation that kind of showed that this was the beginning of a much larger privatization by the service to eliminate retail jobs.”
This is not the first time the Postal Service has tried to privatize these jobs:
[John Dirzius]: “The service tried this one before with Sears, and as soon as 350,000 members at that time, in the AFL and other unions, started cutting up their Sears cards, the service and Sears backed out of this. This has been a bit more of a struggle, but they did back out of what was almost going to be like mini-Post Offices. Full-blown, full-service Post Offices. They backed out of that the first opportunity they got…I think it was from our heat…but we want them out of our business altogether.”
Stapes operates hundreds of so-called “postal counters” in their stores. Unlike postal employees, Staples workers are not subject to background checks, are not sworn to protect the U.S. mail, and have little or no experience or training in secure handling of U.S. mail products.
[John Dirzius]: “The safety and health of people that go on planes could be in jeopardy with what they’re allowing.”
Dirzius says now is the time for Stapes to move in a new direction and stop undermining the U.S. Postal Service:
[John Dirzius]: “We’d like to find peace with this company. We’d like to see that they get out of this program as soon as possible. There’s a great opportunity now. The Postmaster General that entered into this program has retired, and now the CEO from Staples, Ron Sargent, has also left, so I think it’s a golden opportunity for the parties to get together and get out of this program.”
Stapes has been singled out by U.S. President Barack Obama for its practice of limiting workers to less than 25 hours a week to avoid providing health benefits, and Dirzius says that allowing low-paid, non-union Staples employees to do postal work is a threat to good jobs in our communities:
[John Dirzius]: “It’s a threat to good jobs in our community, and that’s something I think all of us have to really understand. It’s not a company that really deals fairly and stuff with their own employees, never mind trying to take away good community, good union jobs and good living wage jobs in their community. The best message is a boycott, and that’s what we have right now.”