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Cooks' Union Members Ratify New Contract, 50-Cent Raise

By Nicholas Lemann

More than 200 Harvard dining hall workers last night enthusiastically ratified a new one year contract that gives them a 50-cent-per hour across the board pay raise.

The raise exceeds the current rate of inflation. It ranges from 17.2 per cent for the lowest-paid dining hall workers to 10.5 per cent for the highest paid, the University's highest recent percentage pay increases.

Alan Balsam, a shop steward in the dining hall workers' union, local 26 of the Cooks and Pastry Cooks Association, called the new contract "the richest that has been offered to a union in the history of Harvard University."

The raise comes in two increments, the first, effective retroactively July 1, 1975 of 35 cents an hour and the second effective March 1, 1976 of 15 cents.

The contract also gives the union's shop stewards the right to do union work while on the job, and to be paid for working on employees' grievances.

The workers at the meeting were enthusiastic throughout, frequently standing to applaud.

Edward W. Powers, Harvard's director of employee relations, said yesterday that in negotiations over the summer the union "demonstrated to us the need for a substantial catch-up" in wages.

"They had fallen behind internally compared to other University workers," Powers said, "and they needed a very substantial raise."

The new contract is unusual because it represents a granting of the union's original wage demand. In most Harvard negotiating, the University and the union begin negotiations far apart on the wage issue and gradually move toward a compromise.

The raise will mean about $700 more pay a year for the average full-time Harvard dining hall worker.

Balsam and Sherman L. Holcombe, another union shop steward, both stressed the need for continued union activity among workers. "We can't be so satisfied with ourselves that we let things go back to the way they used to be," Holcombe said.

At the end of the meeting the union membership gave Balsam a check for $175 in appreciation of his organizing efforts. He responded by calling the contract ratification "the greatest moment of my life."

The cook's union has about 550 members, many of whom work part-time. It is Harvard's second largest union in terms of membership.

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