A postal workers union is planning to picket along the sidewalks Friday outside Ben's Crafts & Floral because the downtown Belleville retailer houses a new post office.
Edward Eversman, vice president Southwestern Illinois Area Local 407 of the American Postal Workers Union in St. Louis, said the informational picket outside 112 E. Main St. is in response to the post office that opened last inside Ben's last month. Eversman, whose union represents maintenance workers and employees who staff the customer counters at the Belleville Post Office at 120 W. Washington St., said his union and others believes this new in-store post office threatens the jobs and integrity of the Belleville Post Office.
"Our belief is post office retail centers like the one inside Ben's, which is only three blocks away from the post office, will pull business away from the Belleville Post Office and lead to reduced hours reduced business at the Belleville Post Office," Eversman said.
The post office retail center, or "contract postal unit," is one of 65,000 that the U.S. Postal Service operates inside retail stores across the country, said U.S. Postal Service Gateway District Spokeswoman Valerie Welsch. She said the contract postal unit that has opened inside Ben's is not intended to reduce or phase out services at the downtown Belleville post office.
"The concept of the postal union is not all at all new to the postal service," Welsch said. "The fact that we have 65,000 across the nation says a lot. The CPUs have not taken away from the postal service and has not eliminated jobs. They have just provided greater access to our customer service and postal products."
Eversmann said as many as 60 to 120 will be picketing the downtown Belleville store between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Friday and will include members of the local AFL-CIO.
Ben's store manager Beth Wamble said she and the store staff are extremely upset about the planned picketing. In a statement released Wednesday said the in-store postal service provides convenience for customers. She has been told that this will not impact current postal employment.
"We entered into this contract in good faith and with good intentions," Wamble said. "We are a locally owned business and have made a sizeable investment to help support the post office in Belleville and we feel that the union should take their issues to the post office rather than taking actions that could negatively affect our business and our future."
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.