Members of Cambridge's local painters union for the last week have been picketing several Harvard buildings because contractors hired by the University are using non-union laborers and paying them low wages, according to a union official.
About 20 members of Painters District Council 35, Local 577, began to picket a week ago at certain Harvard-owned locations, including the entrance to Lowell House, the sidewalk in front of Harvard Hillel and the Dana Palmer House where the non-union painters are working.
For now the union's chief argument is with the contractors and not the University, said Bill Murphy, agent for the Painters District Council 35. He said the contractors are paying wages so far below the union rate that it is impossible to compete.
However, Murphy said, the union plans to continue picketing until the wages are increased and adds that the union may soon begin a public relations campaign against Harvard if the situation does not change.
Harvard officials could not be reached for comment. Calls to the offices of Kiley and Associates, one of the contractors being picketed, were not returned.
"We're picketing the contractors," Muprhy said. "We're trying to address the non-union workers. Some of the non-union workers have spoken to us, but they're afraid to lose their jobs if they do talk to us."
"If they pay area rates, those pickets would go down tomorrow," Murphy said.
While Murphy stressed that for now the contractors are the cause of the protest, he added that Harvard has of late played a part in discouraging union workers.
Union members either work independently or are hired by ISS Energy Systems, which has a maintenance contract with Harvard.
Murphy said that several union members found that Harvard inspectors demand better work from them than they expect from non-union labor which has discouraged union members fromworking at Harvard.
"They're trying to disenfranchise union workersfrom getting a contract job for Harvard," Murphysaid. "They're making it impossible."
Contractors that employ cheaper non-union laborwill have more resources to bid for Harvardcontracts, Murphy said.
"We're not going to have our membersdisplaces," Murphy said. "We think it's veryirresponsible on Harvard's part. For some reason,they have developed a new policy.