How do you get the attention of the president of Harvard University? A full-page attack ad in a student newspaper will probably do it.
The American Postal Workers Union is taking out an advertisement in the Harvard Crimson later this week telling readers that president Drew Faust is “smearing Harvard’s good name” by sitting on the board of directors at Staples Inc.
Faust, who earned $250,000 as a director in 2013, has been caught up in the union’s campaign against the Framingham-based office supply retailer. The Crimson ran a similar ad from the union last fall.
Staples drew the ire of the union when it started offering United States Postal Service products and shipping capabilities in some of its stores two years ago. The union complains that low-wage Staples employees staff the postal counters and take away jobs from its members. It alleges that the deal is an attempt to privatize the post office.
The ad calls on Faust to use her influence to end the “dirty deal” or resign from the board.
“We’re trying to get Drew Faust to do the right thing,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the union. “It seems that [an ad] right at Harvard is the best place to do that. It also helps awaken the student body and the community around Harvard to what’s going on.”
Faust declined to comment through a Harvard spokesman. The union said she did not respond to the earlier ad.
Staples launched its pilot program to offer postal services in 82 stores in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts in 2013.
In a statement, the company said Tuesday it suspended the pilot last year and became a USPS approved shipper, which is “a long-established program currently available at 6,000 retail outlets across the country.”
The approved shipper program is similar to the pilot. It allows Staples to sell and ship Express, Priority, and First-Class mail, as well as offer other USPS products and services. More than 500 Staples stores now participate in the program.
Despite the change, postal workers have continued to boycott Staples stores. The union said nearly 40 other labor organizations, including the American Federation of Teachers, support its efforts and pledged not to buy office supplies from the company.
In its ad, the union argues that Staples clerks do not receive the same level of training as post office employees. It also notes that President Obama criticized the company for allegedly limiting the hours of part-time workers to avoid having to offer health care benefits.
The union is attempting to draw negative attention to Staples as the company seeks federal approval to merge with Office Depot Inc. The $6.3 billion deal, which must be approved by the Federal Trade Commission, would combine the country’s last two remaining big-box office supply chains.
Dimondstein said the union opposes the merger and would extend the boycott to Office Depot stores if the sale is approved.
The FTC blocked a similar merger of the two companies in 1997. Federal regulators asked the two companies for more information related to the current merger earlier this week.