DURING the support staff union organizing campaign, the Harvard administration never threatened not to work with the union if it were elected.
Fortunately, the University has held to its unspoken promise. Harvard has so far taken extra steps to work with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) before it is required to during contract negotiations. Earlier this month the University and HUCTW resolved to work together on a grievances committee. And for the past two months the two groups have been getting to know one another in a series of transition meetings.
These efforts should pave the way to a smoother rapport between the parties, which is key to setting the right tone for future talks. The upcoming contract negotiations are bound to address a number of strong points of contention, from job reclassification to pay scales, and it is unlikely that these pre-negotiation efforts will settle the differences between workers and the administration on these controversial issues.
What the meetings can do, however, is create an atmosphere of respect and cooperation. If both sides acknowledge that improving the workplace at Harvard is a common interest, then they can work together for common goals, in solving individual grievances and addressing broader concerns such as campus security and improved child care. With this tone, there will be much less interest in confrontational encounters, such as strikes or refusing to come to the table.
The fact that the union and University have begun working together is a sign to workers that the divisions of the campaign need not pervade the workplace anymore.
Last May, support staff decided on a union, and after challenging that decision once, the administration has finally learned to respect it.
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