Harvard Club Strike Remains in Place

Labor Strife Has Little Effect on Fundraising, But Union Says Members Have Left

After six months, the Harvard Club of New York remains locked in a fierce labor battle with unionized employees.

While there have been recent talks between the club and the union, no settlement is near, union officials said yesterday.

The union claims that about 300 members have left the club, and hundreds more have withheld their dues. But Harvard representatives said the ongoing picketing has not affected University fundraising for the ongoing $2.1 billion capital campaign.

Since April 3, members of Hotel, Restaurant and Club Employees Union Local 6 have protested 24 hours a day in front of the club, located on West 44th Street in New York City. All 118 union members remain on strike, said John F. Turchiano, a spokesperson for the union.

The workers are protesting proposed changes in their contracts which would require them to pay for health care, which was formerly fully covered. They also stand to lose paid vacation and sick days.

Union employees are living "very precariously" on unemployment benefits and $200 per week in strike pay from the union, Turchiano said.

Edward F. Truettner, who has worked in the club as a waiter for about 10 years, said he could not afford to visit his aged mother, who is on dialysis, this summer.

But despite workers' hardships on the picket line, the union has no plans to give in.

"It may get to the point where the future of the club is threatened," Turchiano said. "Surely management must have realized that these workers are just as determined now as they were six months ago."

Officials of the club and the University, however, don't see much grounds for worry.

Although "business is down somewhat," the club has hired "temporary replacements" for the striking employees and continues to offer meals and fitness facilities and host events, said Charlotte P. Armstrong '49, a club vice president and Harvard overseer.

"The club is still very much being used by Harvard for fundraising," Armstrong said.

Capital campaign committees still meet at the club, and the Harvard College Fund holds events there, said William H. Boardman Jr., Harvard's director of capital giving. Boardman said he spent two days last week at the club and goes there regularly on business.

Big donors aren't likely to be affected by the strike, Albert F. Gordon '59, a major Harvard donor and fundraiser, said yesterday.

"Nearly all the dough comes from the top two or three percent," he said. "These people, a lot of them probably aren't even aware that there's a strike."

"I was at the Harvard Club last night, and there was no problem at all," Gordon added. "They have a few people picketing, but there's no chanting, no noise. It doesn't make any difference at all."

The Yale Club of New York last spring resolved a similar labor dispute with a raise of $93 a week for all employees over the next several years.

But the Harvard Club has refused an identical offer from its workers. Club representatives said the issue is one of control.

"The issue from our standpoint is not one of wages. It's not one of health care. The issue is who is going to run the club--whether it's the union or management," Armstrong said. "The way it is now, the union has control over us. It's the union that's running the club."

For example, Armstrong said, union rules prevent dishwashers from washing pots and potwashers from washing dishes.

Armstrong said the club wants "to end the strike a soon as possible." But the club is also seeking "the flexibility in the contract to redefine the jobs and to eliminate the regulations."

The club has incurred large legal expenses because of the strike, but Armstrong said the club operates "on a more economical basis" because it has not had to obey union work and pay rules.