A favorite motto among Harvard clerical union organizers is "dignity, democracy and a dental plan." But beginning next year, this motto may have to be revised because of a University decision this week to provide an estimated $1-million a year dental insurance coverage for Harvard faculty and staff members.
Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54, who drafted the plan's explanatory letter sent to the 11,000 employees affected by the program, said the decision to enact the insurance came after nine months of planning and conversation among Corporation members.
Only non-union personnel, 4 000 of which are faculty members, will receive the new plan, Steiner said.
Unionized employees at Harvard will not be affected by the new coverage because, under labor law changes in benefits for union members can occur only through collective bargaining between the union and employer.
United Auto Workers (UAW) organizers, who are currently trying to garner the support of some 3 500 University clerical and technical workers for a 1986 union election, said the new dental plan--which will benefit all 3 500 workers--was a response to their unionization campaign.
"Once you get a strong organizing drive going, the gifts start pouring in," said UAW Organizer Krisine A. Rondeau, adding that she thought the plan was an attempt by Harvard to "buy off" employees "Everybody is saying the University is scared of the union drive."
However, Steiner said the plan had no relation to UAW's organizing activities.
"I think a would be foolish of us to create a program that would be available to all 11,000 faculty and staff just because some people among a portion of the support staff are trying to form a union." Steiner said.
But despite Steiner's claim, many University secretaries interviewed yesterday said they thought UAW pressure did preempt the new dental plan.
"I really think that's [Harvard's] of trying to avert a union," said a four-year Harvard secretary who asked not to be identified.
The UAW "has been getting Harvard to move a lot lately," said another clerical worker who asked not to be identified. "They have a lot of power."
Rondeau said the new dents services will not affect the union membership drive: "Nobody is organizing at Harvard for economic reasons alone. People are organizing to participate as equals."
In the past, UAW organizers has charged Harvard with stalling unionization efforts for such moves as wage increases and the implementation of a tuition assistance program.
University administrators has said they are opposed to a clerics union because they believe the Harvard wages and benefits are strong and because such a union has the potential for disrupting the academic atmosphere.
They have cited last fall's strike by 2 600 clerical and technical worker at Yale University--which forced the closure of dining halls and relocation of classes--as an example of such disruption.
Rondeau said she was happy with the plan, but added that she though Harvard should cover a higher percentage of monthly insurance premiums.