In a move to strengthen their clout at the bargaining table, Harvard's dining hall workers this week angrily voted to reject the University's latest contract offer, and authorized their union negotiators to call a strike if Harvard does not propose better terms.
At a stormy and emotional meeting Tuesday night, the members of Local 26 shouted their dissatisfaction with the contract offer. They stressed their belief, as one worker put it, that "Harvard's trying to make a profit and we're trying to make a living."
Although Edward W. Powers, associate general counsel for employee relations, said this week he believes the University's contract offers the workers exceptionally generous wages, many of the dining hall workers seem more concerned with obtaining a benefits package--higher pensions, Blue Cross and dental coverage.
The University insists it must negotiate these benefits with all Harvard's unions in order to insure a uniform benefits policy, but workers at the meeting indicated their skepticism of the University's promises. They say instead they want some written assurance they will receive a better benefits package.
Powers, in turn, calls the contract a "final offer." Earier this week he warned the union that he might reconsider some of the benefits already included in the contract if the union continues to balk.