Postal workers union wants Harvard president to oppose Staples deal or resign company board

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The American Postal Workers Union is calling on Harvard University’s president to oppose a business arrangement between Staples Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service, or resign her seat on the office supply company’s board.

“We’re not talking about just selling stamps,” union President Mark Dimondstein said in a statement. “Staples is pretending to be a post office, using low-wage, poorly-trained workers in an environment with weak security. Mail handled by Staples isn’t even considered U.S. mail until it is handed-off to a uniformed postal worker.”

Staples, based in Framingham, began providing postal services at some of its stores last year under a partnership with the financially-struggling Postal Service.

But Kirk Saville, Staples’ Vice-President for Global Communications, noted the company discontinued that pilot program earlier this year.

“The 82 pilot stores were transitioned to the Postal Service’s Approved Shipper Program, a long-established program currently available at 6,000 retail outlets across the country,” he said in a statement. “Staples will continue to explore and test products and services that meet our customers’ needs.”

Dimondstein has said discontinuation of the pilot program isn’t enough; the union wants the company to stop offering postal services altogether.

The Postal Service’s “Approved Shipper Program” allows stores to provide the most commonly requested postal services, including providing stamps, mailing letters and shipping packages.

A Harvard spokesman declined comment and referred questions to Staples.

The union, which represents some 200,000 workers, took out a full-page advertisement Wednesday in the Harvard Crimson, the school’s student newspaper.

In its ad, the postal workers union said Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust should use her position on the board to push for an end to the arrangement Staples has with the Postal Service, or resign from the company board.

The paid ad suggests that Faust’s affiliation with Staples “sullies” the Ivy League school’s reputation.

The ad says the deal would help turn stable postal worker jobs into “high-turnover, poverty wage” jobs and might lead to closing some post offices and the privatization of the Postal Service, an independent agency of the federal government.

Faust earns at least $250,000 in compensation annually as a board member, according to documents provided by Staples.