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Postal workers plan protest uptown

U.S. Postal Service workers are planning a protest uptown Thursday, as they rally against a plan to sell more postal services at Staples without postal service employees.

The 220,000-member American Postal Workers Union has been fighting the USPS for months over the Staples plan. In November, the postal service began placing counters selling stamps and offering services such as sending packages and priority and certified mail in more than 80 Staples stores.

Union leaders worry the postal service will expand the program to Staples’ 1,500 North American stores. So far none of the Staples stores with postal counters are in Charlotte.

The USPS says such partnerships with retailers are crucial as the postal service continues to struggle financially. But the union says the deal puts their jobs at risk and will farm well-paid positions out to low-wage retail workers who won’t be able to properly send or secure the mail.

“We are not against the postal service placing these additional units in Staples,” said LeRoy Moyer, general president of the Charlotte-area APWU local. But he said USPS employees, not Staples workers, should staff any operation that handles mail.

“What we’re saying is there should be qualified individuals in there working the mail,” he said. Retail employees, Moyer said, don’t necessarily have the training or expertise to secure and properly handle mail.

The workers are set to protest from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the post office on North McDowell Street. The Charlotte protest is one of 50 planned demonstrations nationwide by the APWU on Thursday.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein, a former postal clerk from Greensboro, said a private retailer such as Staples would make decisions “based on the bottom line, not service to the people of the country.”

A spokesman for Staples told The Wall Street Journal: “Staples continually tests new products and services to better meet the needs of our customers.”

The USPS has said it doesn’t have any intention to privatize the mail, but that adaptations such as the deal with Staples are necessary if the service is to survive.

“The Retail Partner Expansion Program is an opportunity to grow the business and has never been an earmark to pave a way to privatization,” said spokeswoman Monica Coachman.

Officials say the idea of selling more postal services through retailers gives customers more flexibility and options – and is being implemented in response to customer demand.

The postal service lost $5 billion in fiscal 2013, after reporting a nearly $16 billion loss the prior year, weighed down by the declining volume of first-class mail and payments to its retiree health care fund.

“If we don’t adjust, we’ll become another outdated 20th-century business – stuck with a rigid business model that doesn’t work,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement.

Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo
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