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Classroom Supplier Staples Provokes Ire of Teachers' Unions

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Updated

For teachers, the official end of summer may be that trip down the aisles of a giant office supply store, looking to score on back-to-school deals. But one of most recognizable office-supply chains might be losing a hefty amount of teacher business, after provoking the anger of the national teachers' unions.

At issue is a reported plan by Staples Inc. to install U.S. Postal Service counters at its stores. Those counters should, theoretically, be staffed by postal workers, just like a normal U.S. post office. But postal workers belong to a union that requires higher pay, and that means the company wants a cheaper option (e.g., its own employees).

That, naturally, did not sit well with the American Postal Workers Union. It's president, Mark Dimondstein, told USA Today:

"It absolutely represents a shift of living-wage jobs to low-wage, non-benefit jobs. It doesn't lower the cost of the product to the customer—it lowers wages."

Union solidarity has led members of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers to consider a boycott of Staples, which could be quickly approved: The NEA just started its national convention, and the AFT follows soon thereafter. A boycott could potentially cost Staples big money during a time of year that now generates over $70 billion.

"We have choices on where to buy school supplies. We may need to start shopping elsewhere," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (via USA Today).

A Staples executive has said the company doesn't want to get into the middle of a union dispute, and will weigh the price of backlash.

(It's been a big week for giant retailers, huh?)

You can follow coverage of the teachers' union conventions over at Teacher Beat.

UPDATE, July 7: After considering 100 other new business items, the National Education Association's Representative Assembly approved NBI 101: "In support of the American Postal Workers Union, the NEA, through a press release utilizing electronic media, will encourage its members to shop at stores other than Staples for their classroom supplies."

Good day for Office Max.

Staples has not yet issued an official response, although they did happen to donate $1 million to classroom supply charity DonorsChoose.org at the end of June.

Image credit: Ross Brenneman

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