Student activists and members of Harvard’s various unions gathered in front of Massachusetts Hall Tuesday to show their support for the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers during what have become the longest contract negotiations between the University and HUCTW in history.
Tuesday’s showing was the fifth time over the past three weeks that workers have amassed in front of the building that houses senior administrators like University President Drew G. Faust. Union members have said they will continue to stand in front of Mass. Hall every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. until the negotiations are resolved.
HUCTW represents more than 4,600 members of Harvard’s non-faculty staff. The previous contract between the union and the University expired July 1 of last year.
Although negotiations over a new contract began last spring, the two sides have yet to reach an agreement.
The current negotiations are the longest in HUCTW’s history. The second longest began in 1992, when the contract between HUCTW and Harvard expired on June 30 of that year and a new agreement was not ratified until January 1993.
HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said that he is optimistic about the potential impact of the demonstrations in front of Mass. Hall on current negotiations, and hopes they encourage the Harvard community to engage in the discussion.
“When Harvard changes in one direction or another, it’s usually, more than anything, because there is a strong will of a broad-based community to go in a new direction,” he said.
A University spokesperson wrote in an email that Harvard’s focus is currently on the ongoing contract negotiations.
“We certainly recognize the union’s right to public protest, but our focus at the moment is on seeking a fair and constructive resolution through mediation, a process mutually agreed upon and announced with the union,” wrote the spokesperson.
Salary increases have been the largest source of conflict in the negotiation. Some protesters have claimed that the proposed increases to their salaries do not meet the rising cost of living—a claim disputed by the University.
“We are confident that our wage proposals, which have consistently been well above local inflation, are both fair and competitive,” wrote the University spokesperson.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average inflation rate for all urban wage earners and clerical workers in Boston was 1.6 percent in 2012. In September, the University proposed a 2.8 percent increase to workers’ wages during the first year of a three-year offer, according to an email from Vice President for Human Resources Marilyn Hausammann published on Harvard’s Office of Labor and Employee Relations website. Under that plan, wages would then grow by 2.5 percent in the second year and 2 percent in the third.
Jaeger said he thinks that the changes in salary for the University’s workers that have been proposed thus far are not enough, despite Harvard’s claims that its wage increases are on par with national standards.
He said he hopes the “symbolic” location of the demonstrations in front of Mass. Hall will help the union convey its message.
“We’re having an interaction with senior administrators by being there,” said Jaeger. “It’s not more than a nod or a smile or a quick word, but for [those] who work there to be reminded consistently that there are important questions that a lot of people feel strongly about is important to us also.”
—Staff writer Christine Y. Cahill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cycahill16.