Jacksonville postal workers protest Staples and privatization
Joined by letter carriers, mail handlers, and UPS Teamsters
Jacksonville, FL – Dozens of union workers rallied outside of the Staples store on Beach Boulevard here to oppose the proposed privatization of key United States Postal Service (USPS) jobs.
The protest was part of a nationwide day of action on April 24, called by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), the Mail Handlers Union, and National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) supported it. Rallies, pickets and protests took place across the country at 50 locations in 27 states and drew out hundreds of workers, according to the APWU.
The Jacksonville protest drew a sizable crowd from all four of the major unions that represent workers at the USPS. Several members of Teamsters Local 512 who work at UPS also came out to show their solidarity as fellow package handlers.
“It's important because the Postal Service employs a lot of workers,” said Doris Orr-Richardson, President of the APWU 7041 in Jacksonville. She said of the Staples move: “It's a back door way to privatization by hiring minimum wage workers to do skilled labor. Each and every postal worker has to sign a ‘sanctity of the mail’ affidavit. Staples workers are told, ‘Here is the product, sell it.’”
Waving signs that read, “Stop Staples,” and “U.S. mail, not for sale,” the protesters received honks and cheers of support from passing cars.
Early in the rally, a Staples manager came outside to watch the protesters and photograph the event.
The privatized outsourcing of major USPS functions to Staples is the latest in a long series of attacks by major corporations and monopoly banks on the publicly-owned postal service. Congressmembers and Senators from both the Republicans and the Democrats have pushed harmful legislation that puts undue financial burdens on the post office in order to make it fail. In 2006, a bipartisan Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which forced the USPS into a 75-year liability for retirement benefits. Although the Post Office is an incredibly efficient operation, this requirement has USPS overfunding retirement by paying for postal workers who have not even been born. No other federal agency is expected to fund their retirement plans 75 years in advance.
The USPS administration handled this artificial crisis predictably by cutting over 200,000 postal jobs, closing down mail distribution centers and local post offices, and now contracting work out to non-union employers like Staples. The American Postal Workers Union is demanding that these new Staples mail centers be staffed with union postal workers and not minimum-wage retail workers.
Earlier in 2014, International APWU President Mark Dimondstein announced a nationwide alliance between the APWU, the NALC, the Mail Handlers Union, and NRLCA. The focus of this historic unity between the four postal unions is to reverse cuts made to the USPS service, resist privatization attempts like Staples and work with the people to better the post office for workers and customers.