Opponents of the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to allow Staples to operate postal counters at its stores have set up camp outside the Downtown Berkeley Staples.
For more than a week, the protesters have been handing out fliers and encouraging passersby to boycott Staples in response to what they call the “privatization” of the postal service. The USPS-Staples partnership, which is a pilot program, allows Staples employees to handle postal service transactions at 82 Staples locations.
Mike Zint, 47, a former Occupy San Francisco activist, was among the handful of people stationed outside of Staples. He said he was concerned that Staples employees performing postal service duties are potentially getting paid near minimum wage rather than union-level wages.
According to Andrew Carriaga, an officer of the American Postal Workers Union’s Oakland chapter, most postal workers earn about $25 per hour with benefits and $15 per hour in entry positions. Carriaga said Staples pays some of their employees minimum wage, which in California will be $9 in July.
Protesters also were concerned that Staples employees may not be trained like postal service workers, which could result in mail being mishandled.
USPS has commented on these and related concerns. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe stated in his February State of the Business message that the USPS has no intention of replacing postal service jobs and that the partnership will generate more business for the postal service.
“Having options like Staples and many other companies where we’re out selling postage and postal products — it’s convenience, it’s access, it’s the way for the world,” Donahoe said in the message.
Staples did not respond to requests for comment in time for the story’s publication.
According to Carriaga, APWU and three other postal unions are all committed to boycotting Staples. Carriaga said groups like the California Federation of Teachers have gotten on board — which is significant because Staples receives a large portion of its income from teachers’ purchases.
The group Berkeley Post Office Defense is also active in the Staples boycott, having joined with the postal workers union to stop the privatization of the Postal Service.
The group formed in May of last year, after the USPS announced its sale of the Downtown Berkeley post office and have been pushing for a zoning ordinance that would restrict the use of the post office to community purposes.
“We will work with and support the people at work in front of Staples as long as they can hold on there,” said Mike Wilson, a member of the organization, about the protesters.
The implementation of USPS counters within Staples began in the fall of last year. If the pilot program proves successful, there could be upwards of 1,500 Staples locations that have USPS counters.