In the fall of 2013, the US Postal Service entered into an agreement for a pilot program to subcontract postal work to 80 Staples stores across the United States. The USPS made this agreement without first bargaining with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and Staples employees, not USPS employees, were to staff these “mini post offices.” The APWU immediately criticized the agreement, stating that it amounted to privatizing public sector jobs, “transfer[ing] living-wage, union jobs to low-wage jobs, and compromises the safety and security of the US mail.”
In July of 2014, APWU voted to endorse of boycott of Staples and its online affiliate, Quill.com, noting that the deal had been made without consulting APWU contract negotiators and had circumvented the collective bargaining process. Soon after, USPS and Staples announced the end of the pilot program. Except instead of pulling out of the agreement entirely, the agreement was changed to allow products from competitors (like UPS and FedEx) in addition to USPS products, and this update program was extended to over 1000 Staples stores throughout the United States.
The Union then contacted the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), seeking a preliminary injunction to force the USPS to end the “approved shipper” program with Staples. The Baltimore Field office issued
APWU is not necessarily averse to the USPS privatizing some of its retail and delivery services, and in fact the USPS already works with thousands of privately contracted postal outlets nationwide. One notable example of this is Sunday delivery for Amazon customers in certain areas. But Sunday delivery means an expansion in services that does not affect regular postal services or delivery. APWU states that the partnership with Staples did the opposite, coinciding with cuts to customer service hours at many local post office locations with signs directing customers to the nearest Staples store instead.
The USPS has faced mounting financial difficulties in recent years and has been steadily losing money. While some of the shortfall stems from declining mail volume, much of the problems stem from a 2006 congressional mandate to “prefund” retiree health benefits for all current employees. This costs the Post Office over $5 billion annually and is the driving factor behind many of the organization’s extreme cost cutting measures.