SAN FRANCISCO - In the wake of a secretive, sweetheart deal to outsource postal operations to low-wage, high-turnover Staples stores, the U.S. Postal Service is reducing customer service hours at 21 of 39 U.S. Post Office stations in San Francisco. Cutbacks in hours are also planned in surrounding Bay Area communities.
"They're shutting the doors at 5 p.m. and posting signs sending people to private locations - including Staples - to conduct postal business," said Geoffray Dumaguit, president of the San Francisco Local of the American Postal Workers Union. "This will inconvenience and irritate our customers, who often need to visit a Post Office after work."
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe has denied that Staples stores would replace any of the nation's 33,000 traditional Post Offices, but six months into the program, hours are being curtailed at nearby USPS offices.
The Postmaster General also claimed there would be no loss of USPS jobs as a result of the Staples deal, which allows the retail giant to conduct most of the business U.S. Post Offices handle. But the postal counters in Staples stores are staffed with low-wage Staples employees with no experience and little training, rather than highly-trained uniformed Postal Service employees.
The no-bid deal with Staples began at more than 80 retail outlets in California and three other states, with plans to expand to 1,500 locations nationwide.
Donahoe claims the Staples deal will "grow the business" but according to USPS documents obtained by the American Postal Workers Union, business in 21 San Francisco offices will be shrinking, not growing. At least nine of the affected stations are two miles or less from a Staples store.
Most of the affected Post Office stations will now close at 5 p.m., instead of staying open until 5:30 or 6 p.m., as they did in the past. USPS has identified "budget savings" based on reduced hours at the affected locations.
"First they take an hour, then they'll take the whole day," said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. "We've said all along that this is a plan to close Post Offices and outsource postal work. They've got a sign on the door that says 'We're closed, go to Staples.' It couldn't get much more obvious than that.
"After driving customers away, postal management will conduct a study of traffic in Post Offices and find that it's gone down. Then they'll claim to have the evidence they need to justify closing Post Offices," he said.
The cutback in hours at San Francisco Post Office stations comes at a time when the USPS is experiencing rapid growth in package delivery as a result of ecommerce. Letters and packages dropped off at Staples stores, however, don't enjoy the legal protection of the U.S. Mail.
Thousands of postal workers and community allies protested the outsourcing of postal jobs and the decline of customer service at 56 Staples stores and Post Offices in 27 states on April 24.
"Opposition to the Staples deal is growing," Dimondstein said. "The California Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) New Hampshire and other unions are answering our call to boycott Staples. Thirty members of the U.S. House of Representatives from California have called on the Postmaster General to scrap the program. We're going to keep educating consumers about this dirty deal. The U.S. mail is not for sale."
For more information about the APWU campaign to save public postal services, visit StopStaples.com. A copy of the agreement between Staples and the USPS - heavily redacted - is available on the APWU website.
Photo: APWU Facebook page.