Capitulation by the University to all the important demands of the A. F. of L. cannot be regarded as a bow to superior force. Although the demands of the Union appeared at first ill-considered and unreasonable, it soon became evident that actually they constituted merely a platform upon which to bargain. Dogmatic insistence upon "no compromise" was belied by reluctance to take the final plunge, to actually go on strike. Thus, especially when one considers the basically conciliatory attitude always assumed by the University, the agreement shapes up as a voluntary one, reached with as much harmony and good feeling as can be expected in such an employer-employee relationship.
At the same time, Harvard cannot consider her labor problem solved for good and all. For the present, a very liberal contract has been signed, and one which rectifies real injustices. Wage increases, a longer term of employment, and the all-important promise of an eventual closed shop can be justified by comparison with conditions of employment elsewhere, and by the fact that 85 per cent of the workers are already members of the Union. But concession today cannot be interpreted as indication of probable weakness tomorrow. It was only because of the basic willingness to modify unreasonable demands--for an $18 wage, an immediate closed shop, abolition of the pension plan, and provision for summer employment--that such an eminently satisfactory agreement could be reached.
For the future, only continued moderation from both parties can make this agreement the foundation of a lasting structure. Conceivably, if standards of living continue to rise in the next few years, the Union will be justified in asking further wage increases;--but it must be remembered that every increase will mean either drastic restriction of Temporary Student Employment, or increased dining hall prices, or both. Certainly if the Social Security law is not amended to include educational institutions, the University will be obliged to increase the return now provided by its pension plan and to grant the Union's demand that it be put on a voluntary basis. Perhaps an employment office to provide summer work can be instituted. But if there should be any attempt to use the bargaining power of the closed shop as a big stick with which to beat unreasonable concessions from the University, or by means of which to foist unsatisfactory workers on the dining halls, then the present harmonious agreement would be disrupted. To keep face in a socially-conscious community, Harvard must continue its liberal labor policy; to keep faith with Harvard, the Union must observe the spirit as well as the letter of its contract.