A strike against the Harvard Club of New York by 130 of its employees has turned ugly, with each side in the escalating labor dispute accusing the other of unruly behavior.
As the club goes to court in an attempt to make workers on the picket line more civil, union officials charge that club members have resorted to strong-arm tactics--even dumping water on strikers from an upstairs window.
With the strike entering its second month, both club officers and members of Local 6 of the Hotel Employees Union are bidding for public support. Recently, the club took the extraordinary step of hiring Howard Rubenstein and Associates, a high-priced public relations firm which has counted real estate mogul and playboy Donald J. Trump among its clients.
Robert J. Arnold, the club's general manager, says the public relations firm was hired "to help get our message across more effectively."
In this expensive war of words, the flashpointhas become the club's suit. A spokesperson for thestriking workers says the lawsuit is a way for theclub to divert attention from charges of unfairlabor practices leveled against it.
But Arnold said yesterday that the organizationfiled the suit because the picketers aredisrupting business and disturbing theneighborhood.
In a signed affidavit, Arnold claims thepicketers have "scream[ed] at anyone who passed bythe club, focusing most intensely on women,children and the elderly who happened to pass byor enter the club."
The club's attorney, Harlan J. Silverstein,says he has filed "a preliminary injunction toreduce the number of picketers outside the club tosix, and to restrain screaming and yelling and thebarrage of noise."
According to the Associated Press, courtpapers filed by the club say business is off 30percent in its dining room, down 15 percent in itsguest rooms, and about 10 percent of banquets havebeen canceled "as a direct result of the pickets'noisy and boisterous conduct."
In addition, owners of several nearbybusinesses have filed affidavits in support ofthe club. These entrepreneurs allege that theirestablishments have been adversely affected by theboisterous conduct of the picketers.
Silverstein says the club "respect[s] the rightof the employees to be on strike" and maintainsthat it is "not trying to prevent [the picketers]from communicating a peaceful and lawful message."
But John F. Turchiano, a spokesperson for Local6, calls the club's accusations false.
Turchiano says the club has made "fictitiouscomplaints about [the union's] activities".
"We've used no sound amplification devices, nowhistling. It's lies. It's nonsense," Turchianosays. "Besides, are picket lines supposed to bequiet?"
In addition, Turchiano claims that theaffidavits filed by the club's neighbors "say thesame thing--as if a lawyer wrote all of them."