A dispute over the voting eligibility of 65 support staff workers between the University and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) remained unresolved yesterday after the two sides met before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Proceedings in downtown Boston were halted yesterday after an NLRB examiner sent Harvard lawyers back to Cambridge to clarify their position on the 65 workers. A ruling is expected today on whether these employees will be eligible to vote on a referendum which would give them, and roughly 4000 others, union representation.
Resolution of the eligibility issue would remove a potentially significant stumbling block in the unionizing process. The HUCTW, which is seeking a quick election this spring, has accused the University of using the eligibility issue to stall for time, a charge University officials have denied.
University lawyers yesterday opened the proceedings by proposing the exclusion of 156 employees from voting on the union referendum and called into question the eligibility of 65 others, who are scattered around the University.
HUCTW attorneys immediately accepted the exclusion of 133 of the 156 workers in what they said was an attempt to speed the proceedings.
"We're willing to exclude the [disputed] votes," HUCTW Director Kris Rondeau said in an interview. "But the University won't take a position [on the other 65]."
The 65 votes which the University did not directly challenge remain a sticking point in the mediation scheduled to continue this morning. Because the University has neither accepted nor rejected the validity of their votes, litigation may be necessary before a vote on union representation can be held, Rondeau said. She said each worker could have to testify in person before the NLRB about the exact nature of their jobs.
An employee's eligibility to vote depends on the worker's being a member of the University support staff and not a supervisor.
At the close of yesterday's hearing, presiding NLRB officer Burt Rosenthal asked University lawyers to have their classification of Harvard employees finished in time for today's hearing. But Harvard Attorney Nelson Ross said that his staff could not promise to have the task completed.
"I can't give you a commitment that we're going to complete the list," Ross told Rosenthal.
Craig Becker, a lawyer for HUCTW, said he would move for a motion "to preclude any dispute," if the University arrived at today's hearing without a position on the eligibility of the remaining workers.
HUCTW attorneys have said that the University's action was not actually prompted by a concern for the 220 votes in question.
"All they're doing is playing for time,"Rondeau said in an interview yesterday. "These arebogus issues they've raised."
But University lawyer Diane Patrick said thecharges of intentional delay were unfounded. "It'sabsolutely untrue," Patrick said. "We are tryingin good faith properly to classify our staffmembers as eligible or not eligible to vote."
Patrick said the process of determining theeligibility of 4000 employees takes time. "We'vedone nothing except act to expedite the process,"the lawyer said