The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) held its 15th anniversary celebration rally in Austin Hall’s Ames Courtroom yesterday, sharing plans, concerns and a tongue-in-cheek a cappella performance with approximately 300 of its members.
The 4,700-employee union represents 80 different types of employees, including librarians, secretaries and mechanics.
The hour-long presentation delivered by HUCTW officials and contract negotiators featured a summary of the union’s history, achievements and goals for the future.
HUCTW President Adrienne Landau reassured union members that although the University is facing budget cuts and potential staff reductions, an attitude of solidarity among members will carry them through contract renegotiations.
“There needs to be effective organization and a strong community and we need solidarity, and we need to hear all of our coworkers’ stories, and we need to care about all of each others’ issues,” said Bill Jaeger, director of HUCTW. “We need to live out the ideal that every person matters.”
The HUCTW rally comes in the midst of tight times across the University, where administrators are working to overcome serious budget deficits in a number of departments with cost-cutting measures including layoffs, job cuts by attrition and benefit reductions for workers. While some layoffs have already been made at the Hilles Library and the Harvard Faculty Club, some HUCTW members fear that the worst is yet to come.
“Some of us work in departments facing layoffs,” Jaeger said in his speech. “And we’re about job security more than anything. In the next couple of months we’re going to have to change some managers’ minds and challenge some prevailing priorities. That’s hard work but we are certainly ready for it.”
Members of the audience enthusiastically applauded throughout the speeches, many nodding in agreement and sympathy as testimonials from financially troubled Harvard workers were read out loud.
“Nobody is totally happy,” said Marcia Deihl, a 20-year employee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “But [HUCTW officials] are working very hard. They are respected by the administration which is fine, because you need to be somewhat of an adult for things to work.”
HUCTW was born out of a contentious battle with the University, which actively campaigned against its formation. In the ensuing years, however, union leaders have grown closer to University administrators, particularly former General Counsel Anne Taylor.
Other employees in the audience were simply there for updates on the state of the union.
“I’m just curious to see what they’re going to say,” said Ann Antonellis, a conservation technician at a Harvard library.
Still others avoided the actual rally, choosing instead to stay downstairs at the entrance of Austin Hall, handing out flyers lambasting both the University for playing “a shell game with its vast wealth” and the union itself for not being active enough in protecting the rights of its members.
A group of workers calling themselves the No Layoff Campaign used the opportunity to hand out campaign materials and discuss their anti-layoff platform and proposed policies with union members.
Campaign members Randy Fenstermacher and Tom Potter, who on Dec. 9 will attempt to capture HUCTW’s regional executive positions at FAS and the professional schools, respectively, advocate adding a “no layoffs” clause to the upcoming HUCTW contract.
“What gives this little group the right to screw over everyone like this, especially if their whole line is completely specious?” Potter said of the University administration earlier this week. “My problem with what is going on is that there hasn’t been a proactive campaign mounted by HUCTW demanding an end to these layoffs and defending the people who have been laid off. Our campaign is trying to light a fire under the union to get them going on this.”