Tensions between the Harvard Club of Boston and its unionized employees intensified this weekend after representatives from the union delivered a collage of worker photos to the Club on Friday amidst prolonged contract negotiations. A petition from Harvard School of Public Health students in support of the union also circulated last week, exacerbating the disagreement.
The photo collage, delivered by members of UNITE HERE Local 26, featured photos of the workers affected by changes to their health benefits and retirement plans, which the Harvard Club enacted after their previous contract expired. Local 26 serves Boston's hotel and food services workers and represents staff of the Harvard Club.
This petition is the latest development in ongoing negotiations between the club and its employees, who have previously protested the changes to their health benefits, which they claim would raise out-of-pocket costs for affected staff. Separately, members of the union and the College’s Student Labor Action Movement rallied last fall for the removal of the Club’s rights to use Harvard’s name, saying that the organization does not fairly represent Harvard.
Harvard Club spokesperson Diana C. Pisciotta said she is aware of the worker photos, and claimed that some employees pictured were “very upset” because they did not know their photos would be used in that manner.
More generally, Pisciotta said Harvard Club managers were “deeply frustrated” the two parties had yet to resolve the contract.
Lila Goldstein, a Local 26 union organizer who helped create the photo collage, said some workers believed the Harvard Club “unilaterally” changed health care and retirement benefits after the expiration of their previous contract, an action she described as “illegal.” Pisciotta denied the changes were illegal, saying the Harvard Club had the right to change the health plan to “something comparable or better.”
A separate petition circulated last week among students at the School of Public Health asking that the Harvard Club continue negotiations with union workers “in good faith.”
Christine Mitchell, a student at the School of Public Health, said she originally created the petition because she viewed union working conditions and negotiations over health care packages as a public health problem. She has not yet delivered the petition—which as of Sunday had more than 70 signatures—to the Harvard Club but says she plans to present it to Club managers sometime this week.
Unlike the photo collage, which only includes photos of Harvard Club employees, Mitchell’s petition details specific grievances from members of the organization’s staff. These grievances include changes in health care and retirement plans, as well as contractual changes in funding for legal and political action funds.
Stephen Cummings, general manager of Harvard Club, responded to Mitchell and Local 26 organizers in a letter, writing that the petition’s claims were “untrue and misleading.”
Meanwhile, Harvard recently reached an agreement with its largest union, the Harvard University Clerical and Technical Workers Union. HUCTW members will vote on the contracts changes on Feb. 25.—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon
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