The Harvard Union for Clerical and Technical Workers announced Monday that employees at Dumbarton Oaks, a Harvard research library and museum in Washington, D.C., are eligible to join the union.
About 45 staff members at Dumbarton Oaks, who are considered Harvard employees, made the decision to be part of HUCTW on April 1 by a vote of 62 percent with a 90 percent turnout. Given this majority vote in favor of joining the union, the University agreed to recognize Dumbarton Oaks employees as members of HUCTW.
Nearly a year ago, several Dumbarton Oaks employees approached HUCTW, but the union’s bargaining unit did not include workers outside of Massachusetts. To incorporate the D.C. employees, HUCTW and the University negotiated with a neutral arbitrator and opted to allow Dumbarton Oaks workers to unionize if they received majority support.
HUCTW leaders and Harvard administrators cooperatively developed the voting process, and a secret ballot election was administered by the American Arbitration Association on the Georgetown University campus. HUCTW director Bill Jaeger said the process proceeded “quickly” and “smoothly.”
“It’s a good moment for our efforts at being collaborative with union management relationships,” Jaeger said.
Harvard’s Director of Labor Relations Bill Murphy also said he was pleased with the cooperation between the University and HUCTW.
“Harvard values it's relationship with HUCTW and looks forward to a mutually beneficial relationship,” Murphy wrote in an email.
Staff members at Dumbarton Oaks, a research center focusing on Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies, hold jobs similar to their Massachusetts counterparts, including researchers, financial and library assistants, coordinators, gardeners, and museum attendants. However, without the ability to join the union, some discrepancies existed between Dumbarton Oaks employees and HUCTW members.
“It appears that their rates of pay are a bit lower than for comparable jobs [in Massachusetts],” Jaeger said. “They haven’t had access to our child care or financial systems program, and they haven’t had access to some of our housing assistance programs or our improved educational benefits.”
Several employees at Dumbarton Oaks expressed excitement about the opportunity to join the union.
“Dumbarton Oaks is such a unique and incredible place to work, and I just think it can only get better with the union,” said Melissa Brizer, a greenhouse specialist at Dumbarton Oaks who joined HUCTW.
Jaeger agreed that many Dumbarton Oaks workers were enthusiastic about becoming more integrated with the rest of the Harvard community.
“For the people down there, more important than any of the economic benefits is the idea of having an equal voice and having the opportunity to participate in a respectful way in the workplace,” Jaeger said.
Although a number of employees voted against unionizing, Brizer said she thinks many will ultimately join HUCTW.
“We did get the majority, but I think there [are] always people who are hesitant for change and not exactly sure what the union is all about,” Brizer said.
—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.