FAIRFIELD — Postal employees from across the East Bay came together Saturday to protest Staples stores hiring their own employees to work in the stores’ mail centers.
The U. S. Postal Service has opened 82 mail centers across the United States inside Staples stores in a pilot program in an attempt to cut costs. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Georgia are also participating.
“Having these stores could be the first step to privitazation of the postal service,” Alan Menjiva, Staples initiative organizer and postal employee said.
“If the programs are successful, more retail stores will be opening mail centers inside and then the Postal Service will start closing local post offices,” he said.
He said that this Staples and other stores in the East Bay are very near to post offices, “Some of them are only minutes away.”
One of the bigger issues is the use of Staples employees to work the postal centers and not postal workers. Customers think they are working with postal service personnel when, in fact, the Staples employees have not received the on-the-job training the Postal Service provides, nor have they taken the written test for the Postal Service, Menjiva said.
Postal workers are also paid considerably more than Staples employees, who are minimum wage workers.
“If this program is successful, this could lead to the post office closing stores and leaving postal employees out of jobs,” Menjiva said.
Menjiva is a 30-year veteran of the Postal Service, and he has seen his share of changes.
“The Postal Service is denying that they are selling buildings and cutting jobs, but they are closing buildings. This is just one more step,” Menjiva said.
“Staples has been closing stores over the past few years, and if the postal centers are inside these stores that close, and the postal service has closed the post offices, then where are people going to go for their mail? What happens to the communities then?” he asked.
The pilot program comes at a time when post offices are suffering a steady decline in revenue and are attempting to save costs and lower expenses. A 2006 Congressional mandate to pre-pay $5.6 billion annually in workers’ health care costs has not helped matters.
“Congress passed funding for post offices for the next 75 years, but they are going to try and pay all of that in a 10-year period,” Menjiva said.
The Staples store had no comment and were instructed not to talk to the media about this issue.
“We want them to know that the United States Postal Service is not for sale,” Menjiva said.
Reach Susan Hiland at 427-6981 or firstname.lastname@example.org.