Postal workers protest at Staples stores

Postal workers picket outside the Staples store on North Main Street in Providence, on Thursday, April 24, 2014.

A swarm of protesters descended on the Staples store on North Main Street Thursday morning.

Members of the American Postal Workers Union oppose a pilot program that's put 80 postal counters in Staple stores.

The counters are manned by lower waged Staples employees, and postal workers say they believe it's a step towards privatization.

"This is a step in that direction, which is not good not only for postal employees but the public in general because the mail is not safe," said Ann Albro-Mathieu, president of APWU Local 387.

The postal workers were joined by members of other unions who came out to support them. In addition to the protest in Providence, there were about 50 rallies planned in 27 states.

The protesters even got some support from those passing by the area.

"All these efforts to close post offices, transfer services. It's wrong. It's un-American," said Tony Affigne.

The U.S. Postal Service says it's not trying to privatize and that it's just trying to make more money.

"First class mail has declined over 25 percent with the onset of email. So, we need to find other ways to server our customers," USPS spokeswoman Christine Dugas said. "It's just a test to see if this is viable for both Staples and the postal service."

Dugas said the post office already sells stamps and other merchandise in thousands of alternative locations and that the deal with Staples is just one more attempt to grow the post office.

But protesters argue only federal workers should handle the mail.

"We're entrusted with the mail. We take an oath to protect the mail," Albro-Mathieu said.

The postal counters are manned by Staples employees, but the USPS said they were trained and supervised by postal workers.