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Workers in the Medical Area voted Wednesday to reject the bid of District 65, Distributive Workers of America, to represent them in their future dealings with Harvard, temporarily halting the union's three-year campaign to organize the Med Area.
The final vote showed 436 workers opposed the union and 346 favored it, with 66 contested ballots and two ruled void. There were not enough challenges to anti-union ballots to affect the outcome of the balloting, an official of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which supervised the election, said Wednesday night.
Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, yesterday called the University's victory--which capped a lengthy battle in the NLRB to block the election and a more recent publicity campaign against the union--"a tribute to a large number of people thinking about the issues and then going on and voting their wishes."
Steiner said he had expected a close vote yesterday. "I thought that the union would not win a majority but I was far from certain," he added.
Leslie A. Sullivan, a District 65 Medical Area organizer, said Wednesday that the union lost because Harvard "put on such an amazing anti-union campaign."
"They didn't tell the truth and they scared people. And if they didn't convince people they were telling the truth they at least scared people enough so they stayed back," she said.
Sullivan added that "we'll be back again next year." Under NLRB rules the union can file for a new election, but no new vote may take place for another year.
Wednesday's election followed an NLRB ruling last month granting District 65 the right to hold the election after almost three years of legal opposition from Harvard. The May ruling reversed an earlier regional NLRB decision upholding Harvard's position that clerical and technical workers in the Med Area could only seek representation in a University-wide bargaining unit, rather than through District 65.
Harvard followed that setback with an extensive campaign to inform the Med Area workers of its reasons for opposing the union. Steiner and Daniel D. Cantor, director of personnel administration, organized the publicity campaign, which included frequent meetings with Med Area workers and the distribution of 12 leaflets questioning the effectiveness of the union and its motives for seeking to organize the Med Area.
Steiner said he is not sure how effective the information campaign was in swaying workers' votes. "No doubt it was helpful to have some of the arguments on the other side brought out for a change--up until then, District 65 had the field to itself," he said.
Steiner would not estimate how much the campaign cost the University. "We worked very hard and put in a lot of time, no doubt--but we did everything as inexpensively as possible. The dollar expenditure was low," he said.
Though Wednesday's vote apparently halted District 65's effort for at least a year, the union has until Thursday to contest the results on the ground of unfair labor practices.
Kathy Kautzer, a District 65 organizer, said yesterday that although the union believes "there were unfair labor practices committed," it has not yet decided if it will contest the results. That decision is up to the union's Medical Area organizing committee, Kautzer said.
Karen M. Fischer, a member of that committee, said yesterday the group is "still getting reports in from all our areas" to determine if it has grounds for a legal challenge. The committee will decide on the matter next week, she said.
"Harvard has not heard the last from us, that's for certain," Fischer said
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