As the percentage of women in a workplace increases, the average wage decreases, said Kris Rondeau, the director of the union that is hoping to represent Harvard's 83 percent female support staff, in a speech last night.
"The average wage of a clerical worker at Harvard is $1000 less than the average city worker in Boston," Rondeau told the 20 students at the first meeting of the committee for Economic Change (CEC).
Rondeau, the director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), which for the past 17 years has been organizing Harvard's support staff around women's issues such as pay equity and child care, centered her discussion on the problems of forming a primarily female union.
Because women have become a permanent part of the work force, employers must recognize needs specific to female employees, said Rondeau, adding that women still have to fight to get that recognition.
"Employers don't just wake up one morning and say, 'Let's help these women,'" Rondeau said. "Whatever we have that's good for us in our jobs, someone has fought for."
The average wage of a woman is still just 59 cents to every dollar of the average male wage, said Rondeau.
"Harvard is not terrible. It's not a great employer, a benevolent, generous employer. It's right down the middle. It's the same as all other employers who hire predominantly women," said Rondeau. She did criticize the University, however, for its anti-union stance throughout HUCTW's campaign last spring.
Last spring, after HUCTW won a support staff election by a narrow 44-vote margin, the University contested the vote, accusing the union of illegal electioneering and asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to overturn the results and hold a second referendum.
Defending HUCTW's election-day activities to the group, Rondeau said she was confident that when the judge hands down his decision about the University's charges, which is expected in the next month, the May 17 election results will be upheld.
"If the judge goes against the union I will be completely shocked," Rondeau said.