Protests in 50-plus cities say: ‘U.S. mail is not for sale’

Philadelphia postal workers picket low-wage Staples store. The postal service wants to outsource jobs there.WW photo: Joseph Piette

Philadelphia postal workers picket low-wage Staples store. The postal service wants to outsource jobs there.
WW photo: Joseph Piette

More than 50 protests were held in 27 states on the April 24 “National Day of Action Protest to ‘Stop Staples!’” Postal worker unions demonstrated outside Staples stores with the theme “The U.S. mail is not for sale.”

They were protesting an ominous privatization agreement between this office supply chain and the U.S. Postal Service. The agreement would take work away from unionized postal workers and allow Staples, whose workers are low-paid and unorganized, to provide those services.

This scheme would hurt not only postal workers. People who lose their neighborhood post office to Staples could then lose services altogether if the company, which is closing 225 stores nationwide, opts to close operations in a location with low overall sales. The right under federal law to a hearing before a post office is shuttered will be lost if a Staples store becomes the de facto local post office.

The struggle against the Staples plan has united four unions — the American Postal Workers Union, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association — in a “Grand Alliance.” Postal unions in other countries have voiced solidarity.

Workers World participated in the actions in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and San Francisco. In New York City, about 200 postal workers and allies marched from a post office to a Staples store. The rally featured APWU Metro New York President Jonathan Smith, NALC Branch 36 President Charlie Heege, Larry Adams of the Mail Handlers and a representative of APWU Mid-Hudson Area Local 3722. Support came from Community Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services, Community Postal Workers United, the Peoples Organization for Progress, Fight Imperialism Stand Together, the Peoples Power Assembly Movement and the May 1 Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights.

Philadelphia-area postal workers handed out thousands of fliers and talked to passersby for six hours about why they should oppose the privatization deal. “The link between the postal struggle and the low-wage worker struggle was very clear to people. There was a very good response on the street,” reported retired letter carrier Joe Piette.

Protests outside Staples stores in Dearborn and Clawson, Mich., both suburbs of Detroit, together drew more than 250 postal workers and other unionists. Among the creative chants was “The post office is not broke! Free our mail from Wall Street’s yoke!” This chant exposed the false claims by the USPS that it must close locations, privatize and end Saturday delivery due to financial strain.

In California, Bay Area activists were outside stores in San Leandro, Campbell and San Francisco. Retired letter carrier Dave Welsh praised the protest in San Francisco: “The demonstration was tremendous. This issue has a resonance with people. Drivers in their big rigs honked enthusiastically. People see the working-class character of these demonstrations and take pleasure in seeing these militant protests against privatization.”

Johnnie Stevens, Dave Welsh and Joe Piette contributed to this article.

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