(July 14, 2014) ST. PAUL, Minn. – Organized labor officials say putting postal service in Staples stores is a move to privatize a well-loved public institution and a threat to middle-class jobs.
Peggy Whitney, business agent for the Minneapolis Area local of the American Postal Workers Union, said a secret, no-bid deal between the U.S. Postal Service and the troubled big-box office supply store chain cuts costs by shifting work to low-paid Staples employees.
According to Whitney, it trades employees of the Postal Service for retail workers making near-minimum wage, and undermines a public service relied on by millions.
“It’s outsourcing of an essential public service, one that’s mandated in the U.S. Constitution,” said Whitney.
Whitney added that the Postal Service is the highest-rated government agency for satisfaction, security and reliability. She said people feel they can count on it to deliver medicines, since employees must pass FBI background checks. And, postal workers take an oath to protect the “sanctity of the mail,” which is enforced by laws that wouldn’t be binding at a Staples store.
Whitney also pointed out that one-quarter of postal employees are veterans, one of the highest rates of any profession.
“This is impacting veterans that have served this country and are entitled to a living wage,” said Whitney. “Those jobs are going to be replaced by minimum wage, part-time jobs at Staples.”
Staples officials say the deal brings traffic into stores hit by declining sales of paper and printing products, while the Postal Service says it’s also battling the rise of electronic communications.
But according to Whitney, the real source of the Postal Service’s problems is a $5 billion annual pension liability imposed by congress. She said if it didn’t have to fund retiree health costs 75 years into the future, the mail service in the U.S. would be profitable.
“An obligation that no other entity public or private has to pre-fund retiree health care benefits,” said Whitney. “Not only for people that aren’t employees, these would be people who aren’t even born yet because it’s 75 years in the future.”