On the picket line

‘Stop Staples: The U.S. mail is not for sale’

Chanting “Stop Staples! The U.S. mail is not for sale!” about 200 members of the American Postal Workers Union, representatives of many other unions, and their supporters protested outside Staples stores in San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., on Jan. 28. Demonstrators oppose a deal between the company and the U.S. Postal Service that has Staples employees staffing “postal” counters in Staples stores. APWU President Mark Dimondstein stated, “We cannot accept USPS plans to replace good-paying union jobs with nonunion, low-wage jobs held by workers who have no accountability for the safety and security of the mail.” With 40 percent of APWU members working in retail operations, the threat to postal jobs and to public post offices is very real, he added. (apwu.org, Jan. 28)

The union is demanding that postal employees be assigned to perform postal work at Staples stores. If Staples and the USPS refuse, the APWU will ask customers to take their business elsewhere.

More than 80 Staples stores in California, central Massachusetts, and in the Pittsburgh and Atlanta regions are participating in the trial program. If Staples and USPS executives consider it successful, the program would be expanded to the chain’s 1,600 other stores.

The union is planning a national day of protest in the near future. Stay tuned.

Federal case threatens home health workers

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the National Right to Work Committee’s Harris v. Quinn case on Jan. 21. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees International President Lee Saunders noted that by bringing the case “the NRTW seeks to end collective bargaining for home health care and other independent providers. It would also do away with exclusive representation; severely limit the topics for collective bargaining; and eliminate fair share in the public sector.” The court’s decision is expected in June. (afscme57.org, Jan. 22)

The case, filed against the state of Illinois, SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, Service Employees Local 73 and AFSCME District 31, threatens the right of home care workers to collectively bargain with states to improve working conditions. If the Supreme Court rules against the workers, it would be a major blow to national efforts to unionize home health care workers, the vast majority of whom are low-paid women of color. It would also be a huge attack on the ability of seniors and people with disabilities to get the reliable care they need to remain in their homes.

A number of disability and senior advocacy organizations, along with 20 states and the District of Columbia, filed amicus briefs in support of Illinois and the unions. (seiu.org, Jan. 13)

Illinois public unions sue to protect pensions

A coalition of public employee unions filed a long-awaited lawsuit Jan. 28, seeking to overturn so-called “pension reform” measures passed late last year. “We Are One Illinois,” which has fought the reform for months, says the resulting decrease in pension benefits violates the state’s constitution. Noting that pension theft is unfair, Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said in a statement, “The Legislature and governor shirked their responsibility to uphold the constitution, so we are seeking justice in court to right their wrongs.” (journalstandard.com, Jan. 28)