AFTER 17 years of fighting a support staff union organizing effort, Harvard has made a prudent move.
The administration this month chose not to appeal a judge's decision upholding the union's victory. Harvard finally decided not to further distance workers from their employer, not to disrespect the majority's decision, not to embitter office relations, not to take advantage of any of the cheap dilatory effects that an appeal would have had.
By backing off from challenging the union in court, Harvard has wisely chosen to leave disputes with the workers to the bargaining table. While none of the workers' grievances have been addressed yet, at least they can be discussed in a more even-handed process.
AT long last, Harvard's 3400 support staff will have a union. The success of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) will empower these employees from now on--in contract negotiations, workplace relations and morale.
The most pressing concern at hand is negotiating the first contract. Disagreements over concerns such as health benefits, pensions, day care and job reclassification are bound to arise in future negotiations. Harvard should be receptive to the union's proposals--the work force ought to have an effective say in how its workplace is managed. Harvard's decision no to appeal shows a willingness to accommodate worker choice; hopefully that spirit will pervade the upcoming negotiations.
With the union's victory comes the responsibility. The union now has to ensure that it represents not only the slim majority of workers who voted for it, but all workers. HUCTW cannot afford to bask in its victory: to truly earn its representative status the union must organize as strongly as before.
The union and the University are now entering into a long-term relationship. While it's not expected to be any more cordial than the organizing campaign, at least the two parties are finally coming together.