Yale University administrators and workers have finally made peace after a four-mouth long dispute over benefits and wages, but the agreements reached in New Haven could mean a new twist in labor relation at Harvard, according to labor leaders.
After first striking late last September, Yale's Local' 34 settled a contract two weeks ago which will increase wages for the 2650 clerical and technical workers an average of 35 percent over the next three-and-a-half years and include the worker's first dental plan.
Harvard United Auto Workers (UAW) Organizer Kristene Rondeau, who has been working for the last several years to get the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to ratify a Harvard clerical and technical workers union, said the University cannot ignore the importance of the Yale workers' gains.
Rondeau traveled to the Yale's Center Church to witness Local 34's agreement. She said that in addition to increased wages and benefits, one of the major parts of the contract was the establishment of a liason committee between the administration and the workers that will be used when workers want to redefine job descriptions.
At Harvard, Rondeau said, the University can add tasks to jobs because most descriptions are followed by the phrase" and perform other duties as desired."
Besides increased bargaining rights. Rondeau said a Harvard union could improve the workers current pension plan and work for pay equity. Eighty-two percent of Harvard's roughly 4,000 clerical and technical workers are women according to Rondeau.
But while Rondeat stresses the positive effects of the Yale strike on a Harvard clerical and technical workers Union University official's disagreed with her optimistic stand.
Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54 said the Yale agreement was not a significant was for workers and that contract could not affect Harvard become it was "not a significant won for worker and that contract could not affect Harvard because it was "tailored to specific problems at Yale."
"The amount of money [line the contract] was not particularly different from what Yale was offering a few months before the long and bitter strike," Steiner said, adding that forming a Harvard clerical and technical union "is clearly up to the people that work here."
Harvard UAW is now circulating a questionnaire among workers, which asks them if they want to be unionized. After workers complete these cards, UAW must receive a majority vote in a worker election before the NLRB will consider their union status.
In 1982, medical area clerical and technical employees voted against unionization. UAW organizers appealed to the NLRB for another election, but the NLRB rejected the request, arguing that the medical workers do not represent an independent unit.
Currently Harvard workers, are divided into nine NLRB-recognized unions. Clerical and technical workers, who do not belong to unions, are difficult to organize because they have a yearly turnover rate that sometimes reaches close to 50 percent.
In another Ivy League labor dispute, officials of UAW District 65 decided not to rally Columbia University workers in a strike after threatening to strike today if the University did not recognize them as a union >
District 65 spokesman Kitty Krupat said the strike was averted when Columbia administrators agreed to recognize District 65 if NLRB ratified the union. That decision is still pending, but in the meantime Columbia University will consult the UAW before it changes worker benefits and allows District 65 to represent a worker when that employee reaches a negotiations deadlock with the administration.
Krupot said the Yale strike and student/faculty support forced Columbia to the bargaining table before the scheduled strike. She added that Yale and District 65's bargaining last week will strengthen Harvard worker's unionization drive.
"These are the beginnings of big things happening at Harvard and other American universities," Krupal said