Web News Article #: 166-14 – 09/10/2014
Opponents of a no-bid deal between Staples and the USPS are taking the fight to the Massachusetts-based company’s home turf. In August, postal workers, teachers and customers staged rallies in and around Boston, and they’re planning to conduct continuing protests in the region.
The APWU is also reaching out to workers and students at Harvard, whose president, Drew Faust, sits on Staples’ board of directors. The union hopes the Harvard community will embrace the Stop Staples movement.
Massachusetts is one of four test sites for the Staples-USPS deal, which established postal counters in 82 of the office-supply stores. The counters are staffed with low-wage Staples employees rather than USPS workers. The Postal Service and the retailer hope to expand the program to all of Staples’ 1,500 U.S. stores.
Union members and customers have staged hundreds of rallies in front of Staples stores around the country in opposition to the deal, with rallies on an almost-daily basis beginning in California in January, then Atlanta, Pittsburgh and now Massachusetts. Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Staples store in the busy City Hall Plaza on Aug. 27 at 5 p.m., as people left for home after work. A similar event was held on Aug. 20 in Saugus.
An internal USPS document makes clear that the goal of the deal is to replace the jobs held by postal employees with low-paying jobs at Staples.
Propping Up a Struggling Company
“But this isn’t just about postal jobs,” said John Dirzius, Northeast Region Coordinator. “It is about protecting the public Postal Service. Many people are outraged that a cherished public asset is being used to prop up a struggling private company.” Staples recently announced another quarter of declining sales, and confirmed plans to close 140 stores in 2014. “Staples makes business decisions based on the bottom line, not service to the people of the country,” Dirzius said.
“A failing private company doesn’t belong in the postal business,” said Bob Dempsey, Vice President of the Boston Metro Local. “Postal consumers want reliable service from highly-trained workers who have taken an oath to protect their letters and packages. Staples can’t offer that.”
Teachers in the area offered wholehearted support for the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ campaign. They are an essential element in the boycott because school supplies account for approximately 30 percent of the company’s revenue.
“The Boston Teachers Union and its 11,000 members strongly support the postal workers who provide an excellent service to the American public,” said BTU President Richard Stutman. “Contracting that service out to a third party will diminish that service and weaken a great American institution. We stand behind our postal workers 100 percent and will urge our members to boycott Staples.”
In the middle of the crucial back-to-school season, Seeking Alpha, a leading investment website, reported that Staples is so “desperate” to win sales that it is offered a 110% price-match guarantee on school supplies. “The retailer is admitting that the only way that it can get customers in the door is to practically give some of its products away,” the website reported.
“If Staples wants to give away products that’s their business,” Dirzius said. “But when the U.S. Postal Service tries to give away a public resource, that’s everybody’s business.”
A week earlier, postal workers and supporters joined members of the Lynn Teachers Union for a rally at a Staples store in Saugus on Aug. 20.
Staples, facing declining sales and revenue, has announced plans to close 225 stores by the end of 2015. “The Post Office is a public asset, and we’re here to provide a public service – not a backdoor bailout to a struggling private company,” said Bob Dempsey, Vice President of the APWU’s Boston Metro Local. “If it is allowed to continue, this program will lead to the closing of neighborhood post offices.”