By Christie Duffy
Postal workers on the picket line say their livelihoods and public safety have been put in jeopardy by a postal service partnership with Staples. The retail giant is now offering mail, stamps and other services at over 80 stores.
“I’m a single mother, I have a son in college. I’m his sole supporter. All that would be down the drain. He’s a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh and that would be gone, that would be gone for me,” said postal worker Donna Reel.
“It’s gonna impact probably 100,000 jobs throughout the country. Here in the city of Trenton, probably 100 window clerks would lose their jobs,” said Trenton Local Postal Union President Bill Lewis.
But the postmaster general says the pilot program is about customer convenience, not privatizing the postal service into non-existence.
“Partnerships like the one we have with Staples are all about growing our business. This is not new. In fact we’ve established partnerships with over 65,000 retailers over the years, giving our customers greater access to postal products,” said Postmaster General Pat Donahue.
In recent years, USPS has seen a sharp decline in visits to their retail locations. The post office already offers up stamps and other services at other big box stores like Walmart and Walgreens. So far, there have been no announcements on plans to expand the pilot program with Staples. Postal workers say having potentially part-time employees versus trained postal workers behind the counter could be a threat to national security, pointing to the 2001 anthrax attacks, which were executed via U.S. mail.
“Our window clerks are trained 32 hours in the classroom and 40 hours on the window looking for potential hazards going through the mail. The window clerks here will receive a four-hour training session. And what’s even more concerning to us is that our mail is not safe in these facilities,” Lewis said.
“We’re not against them having these services there, we just want to man these services,” said Reel.
“When you become a postal worker, all the background checks you have to go through, all the training you have to go through, clearly that’s not gonna happen here,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson.
Again, the postmaster disagrees.
“Your mail is safe and you’ll receive high quality service at our partnership sites. Retail partner employees receive classroom and on-the-job training from the postal service,” Donahue said.
Staples released a statement saying the pilot program is testing services and offers added convenience for customers. And as a matter of policy, they would not discuss it further.
Postal workers here say if nothing gives, they’ll be asking union workers across the state and the country to join them in a boycott against the retailer.