Dining Hall Distemper


Last week marked the University's first victory in a contest of wills with Harvard dining hall workers. Members of Local 26 of the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Employees Union voted Tuesday night to accept the University's contract offer, reversing an earlier union decision to reject the pact.

In a meeting repeatedly interrupted by angry debate, union officials urged the workers to accept the contract, citing statements by University negotiators that Harvard would withdraw concessions in the contract if the union delayed the ratification.

Union officials called the meeting after the University rejected the workers' request for a contract containing a written commitment of increase in pension plans and the introduction of a dental coverage plan.

The kitchen workers voted, 148 to 95, to accept the contract, but most workers say only their reluctance to strike prompted the ratification vote.

Dining hall workers interviewed last week said that although the contract contains no provisions for increased pension plans and dental health coverage, they believe they could not win a strike against the University. Nor, they added, do they want to risk the financial instability or possible loss of jobs a strike brings.


Nevertheless, most workers said last week they remain gravely dissatisfied with the contract: and with their union leadership. Many workers interviewed said they believe the union leadership overemphasized the inflexibility of the University's position in an attempt to discourage a strike vote.

Edward W. Powers, associate general counsel for employee relations, said last week he does not believe the workers had to real cause to strike, as the University is now conducting a review of employee benefits for all Harvard unions.

The present contract expires in June 1980. Given the workers level of dissatisfaction with the resolution of this contract, the University may not fare so well next time around.