Union Letter Rebuts University's Charges

In a letter to University support staff released yesterday, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) called for a panel of Harvard labor experts to decide whether the union's victory in last May's election should stand or be overturned.

The letter, signed by HUCTW organizers Kris Rondeau and Marie Manna, argues that the union and the University should agree together to have the validity of the election decided in-house, instead of waiting for a decision on the case from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB has scheduled a hearing on the case for August 15, when an administrative law judge will hear evidence from both sides about Harvard's charges.

The union letter, which is the latest in an ongoing paper war between the administration and HUCTW, provides the first public discussion of how the union plans to defend itself against University charges that it violated election day guidelines.

Anne H. Taylor, the architect of the University's anti-union strategy, and other Harvard officials could not be reached for comment on the proposal.


Rondeau said she did not expect the University administration to withdraw its objections to the union's election-day conduct and agree to the union's proposed panel hearing.

The union won the May election, in which 90 percent of Harvard's 3500 support staff voted, by a slim 44-vote margin. In a complaint filed the week after the election, Harvard charged that the union's victory was invalid because it engaged in improper election-day practices, including keeping lists of who voted and how and transporting workers to and from the polls.

The union argues in the letter, however, that it was engaged in legitimate get-out-the-vote efforts and says that the list-keeping charge is the primary question to be resolved at the hearing. The union letter maintains that on election day it only polled workers--away from the voting places--with previously expressed union sympathies and were a standard part of union elections.

HUCTW attorney Craig Becker wrote in a brief filed with the NLRB in June that the board has never before overturned election results addition, the brief, which The Crimson obtained yesterday, seeks to make the ruling on the Harvard election a test case.

The brief argues that if Harvard's objections are sustained, the ruling would establish a new precedent that would bias elections in the employer's favor. It argues that employers have access to voters' opinions through supervisors, while unions have no other means than polling to elicit such information.

The process of resolving the case is expected to take months; after the administrative law judge makes a recommendation, the case is expected to go to the five-member NRLB national office in Washington for resolution.

Because of the probable delay in deciding whether HUCTW's election victory will stand, the letter says Harvard should agree to move from an external to an internal solution. "We have a proposal that would bring the question of this election back down to earth, saving wasted months and thousands of dollars, as well as allowing employees to be more closely involved in the process," the letter reads.

"They should agree to this if they're serious about wanting the proceedings to be done swiftly, if they have confidence in their own people's judgement, if they're really concerned about fairness," Rondeau said in an interview yesterday. She added that the union had not yet discussed the idea with any labor experts at Harvard who might serve on the proposed panel

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