The Postal Service has been attempting to sell off some of the most architecturally stunning and valuable real estate it owns on the cheap for a while now, ostensibly to raise capital. Now those who run the Postal Service and their masters are taking the next step in the dismantling of the US Post Office: union busting.
On Nov. 10, in a deal that has been in the works at least since March, the USPS announced it was launching a pilot program to put postal retail units in Staples stores across the country. Some sites opened quietly in October and others have opened in the last two weeks...Eighty four trial sites have been selected, and many of them are already in operation - one in Berkeley, California just a few blocks from my house. The Post Office counters are being served by low-wage Staples employees, not living-wage Postal Service workers.
The new President of the APWU, Mark Dimonstein, does not pull any punches as to what this portends:
This is a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services.He didn't quite come right and say it, but I will: that's union busting at its down and dirtiest. It may be a "trial" of eighty-four sites today, but cannot anyone doubt that that the goal is to spread the program around the country, ultimately eliminating the need for service counter postal workers?
The APWU supports the expansion of postal services. But we are adamantly opposed to USPS plans to replace good-paying union jobs with non-union low-wage jobs held by workers who have no accountability for the safety and security of the mail. Postal workers deserve better, and our customers deserve better.
Not only living wage jobs are at stake, but taking the Postal Service completely out of the realm of public service is a possibility. Dimonstein continues
This is a huge step toward privatizing retail services. If we don't draw a line in the sand, mail processing and other operations will soon follow.How does Dimonstein propose to take on the Postal Service over this issue? Along with investigating legal challenges to the Staples program, Dimondstein makes the call for community support:
We must build a grand alliance between the people of this country and postal workers. We must mobilize our allies and their organizations, including seniors, retirees, civil rights organizations, veterans groups, the labor movement, community and faith-based organizations, the Occupy movement, and business groups in defense of America's right to vibrant public postal services.There are 500,000 Postal Service jobs. If they all become McJobs a lot of bad things will happen. Labor will lose another big chunk of its still-decreasing unionized segment. Assuming a $20K cut it pay per worker, $10 billion in paycheck spending per annum will vanish, while another bunch of people will be relying on government subsidies for food and health care. If the Postal Service is privatized you can be sure that prices will increase and service in remoter areas will decrease.
Its lose-lose for the American public, with the only ones to gain the real estate moguls selling off our Commons and UPS, Fedex and Pitney-Bowes executives acquiring the Postal Service's less tangible assets to increase their already bloated compensation packages.
Many of you who have read my diaries these last seven months are familiar with the struggle to save the Berkeley Post Office (progress report: they haven't been able to sell it yet!). (The most recent diary, with links to previous ones.) By opening a Post Office counter in the downtown Berkeley Staples the Postal Service has created yet another front in a war where they have not, of late, been getting the best of it in the press.
... opponents are gaining traction with an unorthodox zoning restriction: that the mustard-colored building must remain open to the public.Ding!
The Berkeley Planning Commission last month approved a measure that would restrict the use of the post office and adjacent government buildings to government agencies or public uses like a theater. Residential use and many other private functions would be banned by the action, which requires City Council approval...
So far, they appear to have succeeded in rattling the market. "This one struck me at the get-go as one to stay out of," said Patrick Kennedy, an active developer in Berkeley. He isn't planning on bidding, he said.
By creating "scab" postal services in a Staples in Berkeley and thus allowing for the possibility of a real "Grand Alliance" the Postal Service may have outthought itself (or not thought at all).
I can't tell you how it will all end, but this seems like the start of a new beginning in the battle to save the Postal Service from itself.