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Postal Workers Unions Protest Staples Program

Postal workers protest on 34th Street against the U.S. Postal Service's pilot program to open counters at Staples stores on April 24, 2014. (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

Postal workers protest on 34th Street against the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters at Staples stores on April 24, 2014. (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Postal workers around the country protested in front of Staples stores on Thursday, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters in stores, staffed with retail employees.

Rallies were planned at 50 locations in 27 states. In New York City, about 100 workers marched from the main office on 8th Avenue to a Staples store about five blocks away, carrying signs and chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Staples deal has got to go.”

As 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis reported, postal workers in blue T-shirts with the red Staples logo crossed out protested outside the Staples store on 34th Street in Manhattan, shouting “U.S. mail is not for sale.”

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder to stop the privatization of the people’s postal service,” said Bobby Blum with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, Local 300.

Last year, Framingham, Mass.-based Staples Inc. began offering postal services under a pilot program that now includes some 80 stores.

The American Postal Workers Union objects, because they say well-paid union workers have been replaced by low-wage non-union workers. The union also worries it will lead to post office closures.

The union says that could lead to layoffs and post office closings. The union says postal workers “have taken an oath to protect the sanctity of the mail,” unlike retail workers.

Mark Dimondstein, president of the APWU representing 200,000 employees, called the Staples partnership “a dirty deal.”

“It represents a shift of good, living-wage jobs to low-wage jobs,” Dimondstein said.

John Hegarty, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, which represents about 45,000 mail handlers, also said the outsourcing endangers the sanctity and security of the mail.

“We are highly trained, skilled postal employees and they want to give it to employees who really don’t know anything about the mail,” he said.

Staples spokesman Mark Cautela would not address the workers’ concerns, only saying the store is always testing new ways to serve its customers.

The dispute comes as the financially struggling Postal Service looks to cut costs and boost revenues.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has said the Staples program has nothing to do with privatization. Rather, it’s a “direct response to the changing expectations of customers who demand greater convenience and a one-stop shopping experience.”

It’s also an opportunity “to grow the business,” the Postal Service said in a statement Thursday.

Aside from Staples, the Postal Service has roughly 65,000 other retail partner locations around the country, such as CVS pharmacies and Wal-Mart stores that sell postal products. The Staples program, however, allows customers to buy stamps, send packages and use Priority and certified mail.

The aim is to increase access “to customers in locations where they already shop,” the agency says.

The service lost $5 billion in the 2013 fiscal year and has been trying to get Congress to pass legislation to help with its financial woes, including an end to Saturday mail delivery and reduced payments on retiree health benefits.

It lost $15.9 billion in the 2012 budget year.

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