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Hearings between the University and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) ended early last week, but a final ruling on whether to uphold last spring's union victory is still several months away.
The conclusion of the 10-day hearing moves the dispute only a few inches closer to a resolution. On Friday the union and the University will present the administrative law judge with further legal briefs and then await his ruling on the case--a wait labor experts said may last until the end of the year.
And both the union and the University have said that if the judge does not rule in their favor they will appeal the case to the five-member National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Both the union and the administration were confident at the close of the hearings that the evidence they had presented had sufficient precedent in NLRB cases that the judge would side with them.
After 17 years of organizing, HUCTW last May narrowly won the right to represent the University's 3400 staff members. But Harvard challenged the validity of the election, charging the union with illegal electioneering, and asked the NLRB to overturn the vote and hold a second election.
The University accused the union of intimidating voters on election day in several ways, including providing "discriminatory transportation" by flying in vacationing union supporters for the vote. The most important charge, union and Harvard officials said, is that HUCTW kept checklists of union supporters who had voted.
In a letter sent last week to support staff, Anne H. Taylor, who heads the University's effort to defeat the union, said, "Having read the NLRB decisions on list-keeping, including the cases in which election results were set aside, we strongly believe that the union's 'get out the vote' effort on election day went well beyond what is permitted by longstanding NLRB rules."
"The NLRB has stated time and time again that it is prohibited for anyone to keep any list of persons who have voted, if the voters are aware of the lists," the letter continued.
HUCTW leader Kris Rondeau acknowledged that the union had kept lists of union supporters in the HUCTW offices. But she said the labor cases cited by Harvard as precedent for their argument are not applicable to the HUCTW election.
Labor experts said that past cases concerning list-keeping can be interpreted in several ways, making it impossible to predict the NLRB-appointed judge's decision.
After both parties submit briefs, Judge Joel A. Harmetz, who presided over the heaings, will write a report on his decision and send it to the five-member national board. Labor experts said that judges often take several months to make a decision, but Taylor and Rondeau both said they hope Harmetz will act swiftly on the case.
"He seems very concerned with moving things along quickly," Taylor said, adding that she hoped a decision might be made by the end of September.
If neither the University nor the union objects to the judge's findings, his report will become the final decision in the case. However, both parties have said they will appeal the case to the NLRB if the judge does not rule in their favor.
An appeal to the NLRB could prolong the legal dispute well into 1989, labor law experts said, because the NLRB must reevaluate all the evidence before reaching a decision.
"The board is swamped with cases right now. They do things very slowly," said Alan Hyde, a labor law professor at Rutgers University.
And even then the union or the University can take the case to the U.S.Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, suspending HUCTW's status in years of legal bureacracy.
"This case will definitely get to the courts," said Charles Heckscher, a Business School labor expert.
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