In an expected show of solidarity with postal employee unions, the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers will vote Saturday on a proposal to boycott Staples.
A leading postal employee union launched a boycott of the office supplies retailer earlier this year, after the U.S. Postal Service announced a new pilot program that would offer certain postal services at select Staples stores. With those services to be handled by non-union Staples employees, the American Postal Workers Union and its allies have criticized the move as a deliberate step toward privatization of the post office.
With the AFT possibly entering the fray, the boycott stands a reasonable chance of hurting Staples’ bottom line, especially just ahead of back-to-school season. Nearly all U.S. teachers shell out some of their own money to buy school supplies. According to one survey, the typical teacher spends hundreds of dollars per year to help stock the classroom.
The AFT will consider the boycott Saturday during the union’s convention in Los Angeles. A draft of the resolution states that union members, as well as their family members and friends, would be “urged to no longer shop at Staples stores until further notice.”
Due to the pilot program, “nonunion ‘postal’ jobs at Staples will inevitably replace living-wage, union jobs of U.S. Postal Service employees,” the resolution says. “[T]he American Federation of Teachers supports the American Postal Workers Union in its efforts to protect well-paying jobs and its insistence on the highest possible standards of customer service.”
Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, previously told HuffPost that the union didn’t object to the pilot program per se — only to the fact that Staples’ postal counters wouldn’t be “staffed with United States postal employees, in uniform, under oath and accountable to the people and sworn to protect the sanctity, security and safety of the mail.”
A Staples spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
USA Today first reported that the AFT was weighing the boycott. According to the paper, the president of the National Education Association, the other leading teachers’ union with roughly 3 million members, has notified the postmaster general that his union supports the postal employees.
The AFT was also planning a Staples protest in Los Angeles for Saturday.
At the convention, AFT President Randi Weingarten was expected to announce that the union had added more than 64,000 new members on net since its last gathering in 2012, according to a union spokesperson. The new members came from both inside and outside education, as the union has organized more nurses and health care workers, as well as non-school public employees. Last year, four state nurses’ unions affiliated with the AFT, adding 30,000 members.
The new members have helped offset losses due to education budget cuts during the recession and weak recovery, as well as new laws aimed at weakening public sector unions in places like Wisconsin.