Will California Teachers Support the Staples Boycott?

The American Postal Workers Union has been calling for a boycott of Staples, to protest a plan by the U.S. Postal Service to open post offices in the the retailer’s stores. Now it’s trying to persuade teachers—as a group responsible for an estimated $1.3 billion in school-supply purchases every year—to do the same. On Monday, the 120,000-member California Federation of Teachers votes on a resolution calling on its members not to buy school supplies at Staples in solidarity with the postal workers.

The CFT’s endorsement would be the first big validation of Mark Dimondstein’s plan to create broad-based opposition to the Postmaster General’s efforts to downsize the agency, which reported a $5 billion loss last year and has seen its volume decline by more than 25 percent since 2008.

If the CFT doesn’t endorse the boycott, it could be a sign that Dimondstein’s plan to use the Staples controversy to build political support for his union, which represents about 200,000 clerks, maintenance workers, and drivers, is flawed. He also needs a big turnout today, when APWU members are staging a national protest against the Staples plan.

Dimondstein contends that the USPS is trying to privatize itself piecemeal. Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe says he’s just looking for new ways to increase his agency’s revenue. Post office visits have declined 20 percent since 2006, and it makes sense for the USPS to go after stamp buyers elsewhere. The USPS says the Staples plan won’t lead to any job losses at the 33,000 regular post offices.

With or without the California teachers, Dimondstein is taking a big risk in fighting the USPS’s efforts to make postal services more convenient. He could end up alienating people who otherwise sympathize with the labor movement. Take the guy who posted this comment on the last time I wrote about Dimondstein’s crusade:

“I’m a liberal, and I really don’t like the union-bashing right wing nitwits in this country, but good God these union guys make it hard. What in hell could possibly be wrong with making it easier to buy stamps and ship a package via USPS by having this available in stores like Staples?”

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