AUGUST 2014, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO joins national federation and APWU on boycott of Staples stores
BY PAUL TUCKER
REGION, August 1st- The Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Harrisburg announced the labor federation has endorsed the boycott of Staples office supply stores.
In June the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, announced a boycott of all Staples Inc. stores throughout the nation.
The APWU is boycotting all Staples office supply stores in the United States, Staples.com and Staples Advantage. The boycott also covers all Staples branded proprietary products.
In 2013 the United States Postal Service (USPS) entered into an agreement with Staples to establish a ‘pilot program’ that placed knock-off ‘post offices’ in 82 Staples stores nationwide. The APWU stated the office supplier chain was utilizing nonunion, low-paid Staples employees instead of unionized, and well-trained USPS employees.
The APWU has filed labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because the USPS will not provide information about the contract with Staples.
The APWU, which represents mail processing employees of the USPS throughout the nation, began a campaign against Staples Inc. stores and held a ‘national day of action’ in May by protesting at the retailers stores throughout the nation and in Pennsylvania because some of the Staples stores of the chain now provides the postal services.
The action was conducted in 27 states including a store in Easton, which was protested by members of Local 268, which represents APWU members throughout the Lehigh Valley. The Easton location is the nearest Staples store that the newspaper is aware of that currently provides postal service work. According to Local 268 President Bernie Ogozalek, the pilot program with the USPS will hurt his members by providing postal services that are now done by APWU members.
On July 21st, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, which approximately 800,000 union members from throughout the state are affiliated through their local labor organizations, endorsed the Staples boycott.
“We are asking our members, friends, family members and colleagues to take their business elsewhere,” stated Richard Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
The USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe suggested that the partnership between the postal service and Staples will not result in job losses at the USPS, but will grow the business. However, the APWU is finding that hard to believe.
According the the APWU International Union office, the USPS and Staples are attempting to incorporate postal revenues into Staples Inc. stores, not expand the business.
The APWU fears that if the new pilot agreement between the USPS and Staples is considered successful it may be expanded to the retailers other 1,600 stores and other retailers may follow, resulting in job losses for their members, therefore the reason for the boycott.
The AFL-CIO stated the labor federation along with the APWU will work together in developing methods to convince Staples to withdraw from the partnership with the USPS.
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO stated that since the deal with Staples was announced, the USPS has reduced the hours of service in more than two dozen San Francisco area post offices, all of which are near a Staples store with a postal counter.
“It is apparent that more cuts in postal services are planned, along with the eventual closing of U.S. Post Offices,” added Mr. Bloomingdale.
Meanwhile, the APWU wonders why the USPS would enter into an agreement with a company like Staples that announced in March it would close fifteen percent fo their stores this year, putting the health of the retailer in question.
“Staples itself is experiencing a decline in sales and has plans to close at least 225 stores by the end of 2015. we are concerned that in pursuing its arrangement with Staples, the USPS will leave many customers without access to any nearby Post Office,” added Mr. Bloomingdale.
The APWU and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union represents the majority of the USPS workers. The two labor organizations have a combined membership of around 390,000 workers.