Members of the Harvard Union of Clerical Workers demonstrated in the yard and outside of the science center early Wednesday afternoon at a Halloween-themed event that was designed to inform students and other community members about the union’s ongoing contract negotiations with the University, according to participants.
Around 30 workers, union officers, and supporters dressed in Halloween costumes stood in two groups, one along the pathway through the construction site outside the science center, and one inside the yard near its entrance next to Dudley House. Each group held a series of signs, the first of which read, “Harvard is investing in great things!” The next few listed some of the University’s ongoing projects, such as Harvard and MIT’s online education venture EdX and development in Allston. The last two signs read, “But isn’t Harvard forgetting something,” and, “Invest in staff—we make Harvard great!”
“The community needs to know where the University is investing its money,” said Rachel R. School, a union organizer who was at the event. “We can’t grow the University in buildings and structures without staffing them appropriately.”
The union and University, who have been negotiating since early April, were scheduled to ratify a new contract on July 1, but negotiators have still not reached an agreement. Particularly contentious issues include the size of a salary increase and health care, and the conversation surrounding them, at least in public, has centered around a disagreement over the financial health of the University and thus its capacity to pay for workers salaries and benefits.
Harvard Labor Relations Director Bill Murphy spoke with the Harvard Gazette, a University publication, in mid-October about the negotiations and said that the salary increases that the University was offering were fair.
“It’s important to note that we’re not pointing to the current economic climate and making an argument to reduce or suppress wages,” Murphy told the Gazette. “What we’re offering is competitive, no matter how you look at it.”
Margaret Moore de Chicojay, a program manager at the Graduate School of Design who was at the event, said that the event focused on the the University “exuberant and expansive spending, which we’re highlighting because it’s in direct contract to what the University is telling us [in negotiations].”
She added that Wednesday’s event might help people unfamiliar with the union’s situation become more knowledgeable.
“Folks tend to not think about these sorts of issues,” Moore de Chicojay said. “And obviously the goofy costumes are because it’s Halloween.”
HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said that he thought the event was a success.
“We had a lot of fun,” Jaeger said. “It’s been a grueling negotiations, so it’s nice to have a chance to do something that’s a little bit more relaxed...It was a good, lighthearted way to connect with students.”
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at email@example.com.