Postal Updates

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

Union at odds with USPS-Staples plan

January 31, 2014 08:15 AM

Shades of 1988: The United States Postal Service is once again at odds with the American Postal Workers Union over a USPS plan to sell stamps and other postal items in a retail chain.

What has APWU furious is Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s plan to have 84 Staples office supply stores offering postal services.

“It’s a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein told the Associated Press.

He accused Donahoe of trying to privatize the agency.

“The privatization discussion is a ruse,” Donahoe told the AP.

“We have no interest in privatizing the Postal Service,” he said. “We are looking to grow our business to provide customer convenience to postal products.”

In 1988, the APWU undercut the efforts of another postmaster general who wanted to sell stamps and postal services inside Sears stores in the Chicago area.

After the union threatened a national boycott of Sears stores, Postmaster General Anthony M. Frank backed down.

A 2003 presidential commission report during the first administration of George W. Bush found that post office counters are among the most expensive places for the Postal Service to sell stamps.

It is much less costly to let grocery stores and retail outlets sell stamps on consignment, the commission said.

Ever since, successive postmasters general have sought new ways to sell stamps away from postal lobbies.

The agency’s continuing financial problems have fueled the current Staples effort, which began in November at Staples stores in California, Georgia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

The union told the AP it is not out to shut the Staples outlets. It just wants them manned with dues-paying Postal Service workers, not nonunion Staples employees.