Staples Removers

Not content with stifling education reform and school choice, teachers unions have a new target.

Dang! The teachers unions have been busier than ever lately. Trying to kill charter schools in California. Fighting teacher evaluations in Florida. Demonizing vouchers, well, everywhere. But now the unions’ have a new bête-noire: Staples.

Staples?

Yes, Staples.

The troubled office supply chain (closing 225 of its stores) has made a deal with the troubled U.S. Post Office (which lost $5 billion last year, in part due to a serious decline in volume) to open mini-USPS outlets in its stores. This move could bring customers to Staples and at the same time save the USPS money.

Sounds like a win-win, right?

Not if you are the American Postal Workers Union. The APWU is hopping mad, in fact. Back in April it staged a “National Day of Action” to protest the move. The union began to picket Staples stores and called for other unions to join their “Don’t buy campaign.” (Having a post office in stores was the norm when Ben Franklin created the P.O. concept two and a half centuries ago.)

Appalled at the mini-move to privatization, the California Federation of Teachers joined the fray and put out a press release on April 29th in which it expressed outrage and disgust at the deal, and asked teachers to boycott the chain. Never missing an opportunity to say something loopy, CFT president Josh Pechthalt pontificated,

These no-bid contracts point to a dirty deal. The consumer will suffer—a lack of postal training means less mail security and worse service, without any cost savings for the consumer…By this simple act—asking our members and educators across the country to buy their school supplies elsewhere—we put USPS management and a profit seeking corporation on notice that the quality of mail delivery is not for sale. (Emphasis added.)

The consumer will suffer? When’s the last time you stood in line for 20 minutes at Staples, cooling your heels, while the bulk of the employees were hanging out in the back enjoying their break, leaving one worker to deal with a dozen ticked-off customers?

But Pechthalt saved the best for last:

… When it comes to privatizing the U.S. mail, we say ‘no sale.’ Our members have choices where to buy school supplies, and we won’t shop at Staples as long as they operate postal counters without uniformed postal workers.

So, choice where to buy school supplies is good, but not where to mail a letter. Maybe if workers at Staples wear spiffy uniforms, that would make Mr. Pechthalt happy?

Then last week, the Michigan affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers joined the CFT boycott. As reported by POLITICO,

The unions made the move in solidarity with the American Postal Workers Union, which is furious over a plan to let Staples employees operate postal counters inside dozens of stores. The APWU has blasted the deal as a first step to privatizing the postal service. Teachers understand ‘how much we all have to lose when essential public services — like schools and post offices — are put in the hands of private companies with lower standards,’ said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan. His group will press for a national boycott at the AFT convention this summer. (Emphasis added.)

Lower standards than the USPS?! Granted the P.O. is better than it used to be, but the improvement unsurprisingly coincided with the emergence of FedEx. The P.O., however, still trails the privately-owned company in reliability, courtesy and efficiency.

The bottom line here is that the teachers unions are monopolists. They despise the “right-to-work” concept which allows for choice in union membership. They fight tooth and nail against giving parents a choice where to send their kids to school. And now they don’t want to give us a choice where to buy stamps and mail a letter.

A competition-free world is a quality-free world. But the unions don’t give a rip about quality. They’re simply hell-bent on preserving their influence and protecting their bottom line by any means necessary.

It’s time for the rest of us to fight back. Go to Staples. Buy something. Tell them you like their postal venture. Give the manager a hug. At the same time, send an email to the unions and tell them that, as a consumer, you don’t approve of monopolies.

Well, at least the unions haven’t told us to boycott Staples “for the children” … yet.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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