The United States Postal Service is seeking to accelerate its plans to use non-union private sector workers to expand its market reach, according to documents obtained by the American Postal Workers Union through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The USPS has come under fire for a “pilot” program deal inked with Staples that allowed the office products retailer to sell USPS shipping services in their stores.

According to the union, that program allows USPS to use low-paid employees at Staples, who earn roughly $8.50 an hour to sell postal service products and shipping services rather than post office employees who earn upwards of $20 to $25 an hour.

While USPS upper management felt this made good business sense, the union believed it is part of a large-scale plan to privatize the agency and utilize cheaper labor, in effect, outsourcing unionized jobs to private companies.

That belief appears to be based on some strong evidence. Through an FOIA request, the union forced the Postal Regulatory Commission to release more than 200 documents that provided an in-depth explanation of the deal with Staples.

The documents revealed how the Staples initiative served as a “baseline model for an entire class of contracts with private providers” for similar initiatives, according to an article posted on the union’s website.

“Perhaps most jarring is the acknowledgement that the Staples’ deal was intended to serve as a model for transferring postal retail operations from the U.S. Postal Service to private retailers,” the article says.

According to APWU President Mark Dimondstein: “These documents show that the management’s dirty deal with Staples was designed to be a blueprint for offering postal services through private retailers. This privatization would dismantle the public Postal Service and close post offices.”

USPS management also apparently agreed to extend rebates to Staples for selling shipping services as a means to financially entice them to take part in the initiative. In other words, participation would be more lucrative for Staples.

“The material shows that the Staples deal degrades postal work,” Mr. Dimondstein said.  “It reduces postal retail service to a ‘product’ that low-wage employees sell, rather than a public service performed by highly-trained professionals.”

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against USPS regarding its arrangement with Staples, which was publicly unveiled in 2013.

Since then, USPS and Staples have expanded the program beyond its initial pilot phase in select stores.  It is now in place in approximately 1,000 stores.

A hearing on the complaint is expected to occur in August. The union claims USPS management violated their collective bargaining agreement by subcontracting their work to a private retailer and by failing to negotiate the initiative with them.

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