The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing next month to determine whether a deal between the United States Postal Service and Staples Inc. violates a collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union.
Staples and the Postal Service launched a pilot program to offer mail services in 82 of the retailer’s stores in 2013. The office-supply retailer ended the pilot a year ago and became an approved shipper for the agency. Under both programs, Staples employees staff counters inside the office supply stores and offer a variety of Post Office services.
The union, which represents 200,000 postal workers, has publicly criticized the partnership and said it amounts to privatization of a basic government function. The union contends that the Postal Service illegally subcontracted work to Staples and violated its exclusive labor contract with the agency.
The union filed charges against the Postal Service with Region 5 of the National Labor Relations Board in Baltimore in November. The regional office subsequently conducted its own investigation and found that the union’s claims held merit, according to a spokeswoman for the National Labor Relations Board. The board’s regional director filed a complaint against USPS late last month and ordered a hearing.
“This highlights that the Postal Service was ignoring its commitments to its workers and the union that represents them,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “I’m not calling it a win yet, but it’s a step forward in the right direction.”
Staples pointed out that it isn’t the only retailer to offer Post Office services in its stores.
More than 500 Staples stores and about 6,000 total retail outlets in the US, from small businesses to national chains, participate in the current Postal Service program, said Kirk Saville, a Staples spokesman.
Saville said Staples “customers love the convenience” of the in-store shipping services, noting locations, extended hours, and one-stop shopping for business products.
A spokesman for the Postal Service declined to comment while the case is under litigation.
An administrative law judge from the National Labor Relations Board will hear the case at 10 a.m. on August 17 in Washington, D.C.