Lynda Reid, her husband and her three children are "just getting by."
She knows she can't afford to go away on vacation or send her kids to college. Even basics, like groceries, must wait for the next paycheck.
"I'm really waiting for that check to go grocery shopping," says Reid, who tried working a second job until she fell asleep standing up and woke up flat on the floor.
Reid, who works as a lab technician for Harvard, is one of 3,600 members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. The union's contract expired June 30, and negotiations for a new one are stalled over the size of a pay increase for union members.
Harvard administrators like President Neil L. Rudenstine and Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs John H. Shattuck defend Harvard's pay raise offer of about four percent. They say Harvard already pays its workers well compared to other area institutions and has no problem attracting and keeping committed workers.
Administrators also say Harvard is financially pressed, and that their offer exceeds the rate of inflation and the size of average contract settlements in 1992.
But behind the open letters, demonstrations, bargaining sessions, offers and counter-offers are real people like Lynda Reid, who has worked for four years at University Health Services.
Reid, who has a chemistry degree from the University of Massachusetts, had seven years of experience before she came to Harvard. She makes $22,000 a year, and she's waiting for a raise.
"Food has gone up, fuel has gone up. Everything has gone up but my paycheck," Reid says. "My husband and I are just getting by. When the basics are done, my paycheck's done."
"We all really just deserve a raise and obviously none of us are rich," Reid says.
Shattuck blames the union for denying its members a raise by not accepting management's most recent offer. "It's disturbing that these increases cannot go into effect right away," he says.
But union members like Reid say administrators just don't get it. "It's just not a reality for them," Reid says.
While workers forego vacations because they can't spare any money at all, Reid says the closest administrators come to sympathizing is when they say, "I didn't take a vacation either this year because I bought a new Mercedes."
Reid, who lives in Brookline and takes the T to work, is concerned that her low pay leaves her with no financial security.
"If I got laid off today, I could not survive from now until the time that I would start receiving unemployment benefits. I would end up homeless," Reid says.