Politics & Policy

Why Angry Postal Workers Should Buy Staples Stock


Staples’ decision to close 225 stores in an order to save $500 million in expenses is grim news for the company’s shareholders, and the stock price tumbled by 15 percent on the news. It’s also an unwelcome development for the U.S. Postal Service, which had hoped to open 84 postal outlets in Staples stores. The fate of the outlets remains unclear, but the closings can’t help.

Yet one group that couldn’t have been happier with the news is the American Postal Workers Union, whose leaders feared that the Staples partnership would lead to the privatization of members’ jobs. “This proves, more than ever, that it’s a bad idea to turn public services over to a private company that can close stores at will, with no public input and no public comment.” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein in a statement.

Dimonstein has a point. Yes, there is a risk to outsourcing postal operations—and private-sector companies don’t always stay in business. But the USPS hasn’t been trying to replace existing post offices with Staples outlets, it was looking for inexpensive ways to extend its reach, so customers might send more letters and packages.

In a recent interview, USPS Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett said the opponents of the Staples plan seem to have forgotten that the USPS was taking the business from UPS (UPS), which previously held the Staples contract. In other words, this would have been new business for the postal service and thereby beneficial to postal union members as well.

Here’s a further reason why Dimonstein shouldn’t become too giddy. He wants to create a coalition of postal workers and liberal members of the public to oppose U.S Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s reform agenda, which includes service cuts, and he’s been trying to do that with a boycott of Staples stores. If Staples goes under, he’ll have find another cause to built a movement around.

That’s tough. Maybe the APWU should try investing in Staples stock instead.

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Leonard is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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