BOYCOTT STAPLES! SOLIDARITY WITH THE POSTAL WORKERS UNION!
by Labor Fightback Network, laborfightback.org
The U.S. Post Office system that we have all depended upon was founded in 1775. Since then, It has grown by leaps and bounds so that today it employs some 500,000 workers -- the nation's second largest employer -- and has had a highly successful $68 billion in annual revenue operation. Yet now it is confronted with a privatization assault that threatens its very existence.
Postal workers have a history of militancy. In 1970, postal workers faced with low wages and poor working conditions took their destiny into their own hands and shut down the entire mail system for two weeks, demonstrating the power of the workers and disrupting business as usual. As a result, what used to be work for poverty wages became a living-wage job, with a union contract to protect their rights. (Prior to the strike, the workers had no collective-bargaining agreement.)
Incidentally, an immediate trigger for the strike was the Congressional decision to raise the wages of postal workers by only 4% at the same time that Congress raised its own pay by 41%.
Now fast forward to the present. U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has shown himself to be a corporate pawn promoting privatization of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), closing post offices, decreasing services, and pushing for a 5-day delivery week. These are all maneuvers to lessen the viability of USPS as a service organization and make the public believe that a corporate-owned post office could supply better service to the public.
The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) slammed the postmaster's actions as criminal attempts to dismantle USPS, including a deal with Staples to manage postal-sales operations. At the APWU July 2014 convention a resolution reached the floor calling for Donahoe's resignation, after a number of charges were cited:
"We charge Donahoe with slowing down the mail, undermining service and demolishing tens of thousands of good jobs by closing processing plants, . . . [and] dismantling the Postal Service through post-office closings, reduction in customer service hours, constant efforts to end 6-day and door delivery, subcontracting Motor Vehicle Service work and outsourcing Maintenance Craft duties . . . with privatizing retail work and transferring decent, union living-wage jobs to low-wage jobs with Village Post Offices and dirty deals like the one with Staples."
During the Labor-Management Committee report at the APWU convention, a resolution was introduced to "Dump the Postmaster General (PMG)" that read: "Resolved, that this body of the APWU calls for the resignation of Donahoe, and his replacement with a PMG who will defend public postal services instead of dismantling them."
In a complaint issued in February, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) upheld the APWU claim that USPS had improperly refused to provide the union with information about its agreement with Staples. In a rare move, the NLRB, also recommended that the board seek an injunction in federal court to compel the USPS to provide the information to the APWU.
Staples' actions have revealed their intentions, and those of Donahoe, by closing stores and cutting jobs, and announcing in March 2014 that they would close 255 outlets, 15% of their stores.
The deal between Staples and the U.S. Postal Service jeopardizes mail service and the viability of local post offices. In fact, post offices across the country are at risk -- along with thousands of good jobs.
The Staples deal will replace full-service U.S. Post Offices with knock-off post offices in Staples stores that are not staffed with U.S. Postal Service employees.
Consumers have a right to post offices staffed by workers who are accountable to clientele and to postal services provided by highly trained Postal Service employees, who are sworn to safeguard your mail.
The Staples deal is bad for consumers, who will pay the same for less service. And if Staples and the USPS move forward with this deal, it could lead to the end of the Postal Service as we know it. In the meantime, the Staples deal is replacing good-paying jobs that our communities depend on with low-wage, non-union jobs that hurt our economy.
The APWU has initiated the campaign, "Stop Staples: the U.S. Mail Is Not For Sale," and launched a petition drive directed at Staples to demonstrate the resolve of labor and consumers to boycott Staples (see http://www.stopstaples.com/).
Corporate attacks on U.S. workers and attempts to privatize public services must be countered with mass public education, resistance against privatization pawns, and a boycott of Staples and other job stealers.
The legislative strategy by itself -- trying to influence Congress -- is not enough. Too many Congressional politicians, members of both of the major parties, do the bidding of the corporate elite. In the absence of mass pressure, they come down on the anti-working class side every time, as we saw with the bipartisan failure to extend unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed.
These politicians won't listen to us unless and until we are out in the streets in massive numbers. Fortunately, the APWU's leadership, led by newly elected president Mark Dimondstein, has called for solidarity and mobilization. The AFL-CIO and the National Association of Letter Carriers have both endorsed the Staples boycott and the entire labor movement and our community partners need to do the same. Safeguarding postal workers' jobs as part of a U.S. postal system must be a top priority for labor and a key part of a fightback strategy to counter the corporate assault on workers' jobs and living standards.
Donations to help fund the Labor Fightback Network based on its program of solidarity and labor-community unity are necessary for our work to continue and will be much appreciated. Please make checks payable to Labor Fightback Network and mail to the above P.O. Box or you can make a contribution online. Thanks!