Dozens of protesters carrying signs and banners marched inside a Staples store in Northeast Portland June 20, where they attempted to present a petition signed by 500 Portland residents who have pledged to boycott the office supply stores. The protesters are angry because Staples signed a no-bid, sweetheart deal with the U.S. Postal Service to staff postal counters inside its stores — at the same time the USPS is eliminating public post offices and reducing work hours.
A pilot program was launched in 82 stores last October (none in Oregon). USPS plans to expand the scheme to all of Staples’ 1,500 locations nationwide starting in September. Staples employees who work full time earn about $18,000 per year and receive minimal training on how to handle U.S. Mail, said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, which is spearheading the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ campaign.
The AFL-CIO bolstered the boycott campaign with its endorsement last month. The California Federation of Teachers was the first to sign on to the campaign in April, followed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-Michigan and AFT-New Hampshire. On June 23, delegates to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council voted to join the boycott. The American Federation of Teachers is expected to consider a ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ resolution at its national convention this month.
Teachers play an especially important role in the boycott, because roughly one-third of Staples’ revenue comes from the sale of school supplies, said Jim Falvey, president of Portland-based National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82.
When management of the store on Northeast 122nd off Glisan Street in Portland refused to accept the protesters’ petition, the protesters began chanting “the U.S. Mail is not for sale” and “privatization has got to go,” while blocking the store entrance. After the person in charge agreed to convey their message to upper management, the protesters filed out, chanting “we’ll be back.”
“Staples is setting up fake post offices inside their stores that jeopardize our nation’s public post offices, the sanctity of the mail and thousands of good jobs at living wages,” said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier now with Communities and Postal Workers United, the organization that sponsored of the action.
“The public should not be fooled by claims of better service. Staples workers are not sworn to safeguard the mail. The risk of theft from the mail deposited in a Staples post office is very real,” Partridge said.
Protesters vow to increase pressure on the office supply chain nationwide until it drops the postal contract.