Graduate Analyzes Harvard Club Strike
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The contract between the Harvard Club of New York and the Hotel and Club Employees Union (an affiliate of the Hotel Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, A. F. of L.) expired on the 29th of February, 1948. For two weeks preceding the expiration date, the union and the Club met in almost continuous conference in an attempt to reach a settlement; for 18 days after the expiration date, bargaining continued while the employees remained at work under the conditions provided by the old contract. The maximum offer made by the Club was the extension of the expired contract.
On March 18, the employees of the Harvard Club staged a demonstration in protest against what they considered stalling tactics by the management. At 12:55 P.M. the kitchen staff, porters, bartenders, bellboys, doormen, and cleaning staff left their posts and congregated in the locker rooms for an exhibition of solidarity. Fifteen minutes later management representatives came down to the locker rooms and informed the demonstrators that they were no longer employed by the Harvard Club. When the employees refused to leave the building, they were ejected by the police.
Since that time, a strike or lockout, depending upon which side is heard, has been in progress at the Harvard Club of New York. In its attempt to break the strike, the Harvard Club has hired non-union help at rates as high as $8 a meal; in trying to arouse the sympathy of the public and the members of the Harvard Club, the union has staged mass demonstrations of employees and employees' children. The police have on several occasions been called in at the request of the Club.
Even by the extremely low standards of the hotel and club industry, the working conditions provided by the recently expired contract are considerably below par.
The union has asked pay increases averaging slightly over 10 percent for those employed on a 40-hour week basis and has asked that those employed on a 48-hour basis be placed on a 40-hour basis at the same pay. It seems little enough. These terms have been met by the Columbia Club of New York, the Princeton Club of New York, the Metropolitan Club and others. Several of the other clubs are waiting around to see what happens at the Harvard Club before making a definite answer to the union's demand.
These clubs form an anti-union group in the hotel and club industry and the tactics of the Harvard Club in the current dispute leave little question that an attempt is being made to break the union. It seems to me a disgrace to the College that an organization affiliated with it should act as spearhead in such a movement or should insist on its God-given right to pay as little as 60 cents an hour for human labor in a city where wage rates and the cost of living are the highest in the nation.
The union itself is subject to considerable Communist influence and I have been informed that there are plans afoot to bring a Communist-influenced group of students down from Cambridge to march in support of the strike. Because of this I have refused to become associated personally with the proposed demonstrations; but it does not seem to me that the issues of the strike are in any way political. The wages paid at the Harvard Club are shamefully low; the strikers' case is eloquent. Martin P. Mayer '47