Postal unions have planned nationwide demonstrations for Thursday to protest a recent U.S. Postal Service deal that allows office-supply retailer Staples to sell USPS products such as stamps, mail services and package delivery.

The financially struggling Postal Service has touted its agreement as part of a plan to boost business through partnerships with retail giants and provide customers with greater convenience. But labor groups contend that the deal amounts to a move toward privatization and that the agency is replacing its workers with low-paid employees while putting the quality of its services at risk.

A USPS customer uses a self-service machine. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images).

“Staples employees receive minimal training, and the company’s low pay results in high employee turnover,” American Postal Workers Union Local 140 president Dena Briscoe said in a statement. “Mail should be handled by highly-trained, experienced postal employees, who swear an oath to protect your letters and packages and who are accountable to the American people.”

MORE: Staples’ selling postal products without USPS workers stirs fears of privatization

The USPS defended its partnership in a statement on Wednesday, saying the expansion to retail stores is “an opportunity ‘to grow the business’ and has never been an earmark to pave a way to privatization.”

“The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations,” the agency added. “This retail partnership program could be an innovative step towards generating revenue to ensure the long-term viability of the Postal Service.”

APWU national president Mark Dimondstein suggested the deal makes little sense in light of Staples’s recent struggles. The company announced in March that it would close 225 stores in an effort to trim costs amid weakened sales.

The groups participating in Thursday’s protests include the APWU, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers. They planned demonstrations at more than 50 Staples locations throughout the country, including in D.C., Baltimore and Richmond, Va.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to