| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Jan 28 Dozens of United States
Postal Service workers took to the streets of San Francisco on
Tuesday in the first of a series of planned protests against
expanding post office services to Staples Inc stores
using non-union workers.
Post office employees and mail carriers shouted from
loudspeakers and held picket signs outside a busy Staples store
in the city's Nob Hill neighborhood, seeking to draw attention
to an arrangement they say threatens the quality of mail service
to U.S. residents.
The USPS and Staples agreed in October to allow Staples
employees to sell postal packaging and accept mail that is later
picked up from the stores by postal workers.
The Postal Service has been plagued by financial troubles as
more people pay their bills and communicate electronically
instead of sending stamped mail, and as it struggles to pay into
a health fund for its future retirees, as mandated by a 2006
Members of the American Postal Workers Union and the
National Association of Letter Carriers said that allowing
non-sworn postal workers to handle mail could cause issues
including identity theft and an uptick in mismanaged parcels.
"We're concerned about the safety and sanctity of the mail,"
said Omar Gonzalez, a 59-year-old post office worker from Los
Gonzalez was among roughly 100 postal workers and supporters
who joined the Northern California rally. Many wore T-shirts
fashioned in the dark blue color of mail drop boxes and
displaying the words, "The U.S. mail is not for sale."
Gonzalez said post office workers, concerned about layoffs
and office closures, did not oppose expanding services. "What
we'd like to see is that these Staples stores are staffed with
postal workers," he said. "If you want to serve the American
public, let us do our jobs."
SERVICE OUTSIDE NORMAL HOURS
Supporters of the Staples contract say the arrangement makes
it easier for people to access postal services.
"It has been received well, and customers like the
convenience," USPS spokesman Don Smeraldi said.
Smeraldi said the deal with Staples was made to save
customers time and allow them to receive services outside normal
post office hours. He said the agency, which has contracted out
services to private companies before, has addressed the mail
safety concerns by giving special training to the employees
staffing the Staples postal stations.
Smeraldi said the program was also aimed at generating
revenue for USPS, which has reported taking aggressive
cost-cutting measures, including a drastic reduction in employee
A Staples spokesman declined to comment on the protests or
the contract with USPS.
"We are currently operating a pilot program in select stores
that is testing specific services and offering added convenience
for our customers," Staples spokesman Kirk Saville said in an
emailed statement. "As a matter of policy, we don't provide
details on our pilot programs or on our agreements with
The yearlong pilot program was launched in 82 Staples stores
in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. USPS
intends to expand the service to more Staples locations,
Following the San Francisco rally, protesters said they
would gather in San Jose late Tuesday afternoon. After that,
similar demonstrations would be staged around the country, said
Michael Evans, 60, a union leader who has retired from his job
of 32 years as a Pasadena postal distribution clerk.