Agents for Cambridge's local painters union met with Harvard officials last week and agreed to temporarily end a three-week long picket of several campus buildings in protest of the practices of University-hired contractors, according to an agent for the union.
Approximately 20 members of Painters District Council 35, Local 577, began to picket certain Harvard-owned buildings on July 22. The union claimed that contractors hired by the University were using nonunion laborers, of which some were illegal aliens, and paying them wages well below the union level.
Bill Murphy, an agent for the union, said that Harvard officials agreed at the meeting to investigate the charges. "They agreed to police contractors who are allegedly using illegal aliens and paying them under the table," Murphy said.
Murphy said the Harvard officials who attended the meeting were: Administrative Director of Operations Thomas E. Vautin, Associate Director of Facilities and Maintenance Robert E. Lyng and Vivienne A. Rubeski, who works for the Office of Human Resources.
The University referred all questions yesterday on the meeting to Vautin, who was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
While Harvard agreed to observe the hiring practices of the contractors, it did not say that it would replace thenon-union painters with union workers, Murphysaid.
"They indicated to us that they're looking atthe hiring practices of the contractors and willput our folks on a bid list," Murphy said. "Theyoffered no assurance of offering jobs to areaworkers."
Murphy said that the decision to end thepicketing was "to show some good faith" as aresult of the meeting. "As long as Harvard iskeeping dialogue open, we'll keep the picketsdown."
Union workers at Harvard either workindependently or are hired by ISS Energy Systems,which has a maintenance contract with Harvard.
The union has maintained throughout the lastthree weeks that the target of their protest wasthe contractors and not the University. But Murphysaid yesterday that the union will turn itsattention to Harvard and picket again if nofavorable results emerge by mid-September, whenthe next meeting is scheduled.
"Our next step is to have handout leaflets toshow that Harvard is culpable even though theyaren't directly hiring [non-union] workers,"Murphy said. "If the status quo remains, we'll goback to the line with the leaflets. I know[Harvard] doesn't want that to happen.