Union Protests Benefits Changes

Making "happy noise" with drums, cowbells and French horns, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) rallied at a parade in the Yard yesterday to protest possible "unfair" cuts in their benefits.

Clutching signs that read "Bad Process = Bad Policy" and "Negotiate Something Fair," 250 people congregated in front of the John Harvard statue to hear HUCTW President Donene Williams and Chief Negotiator Bill Jaeger denounce the University for proposing cuts in health care benefits for full and part-time workers.

HUCTW members, who began their triannual contract renegotiation last month, are becoming increasingly vocal about what they say has been a flawed and unfair process from the start.

Last November, a task force of 10 University administrators voted a number of changes to employee and faculty benefits. The proposals were approved by the Harvard Corporation last month.

Several of Harvard's employee unions have already accepted the new benefits package, which includes altered pension plans, increased co-payments and a plan linking payments for medical plans to employee incomes, but HUCTW members have said they will have no part of changes which they did not play a role in developing.


When the University Task Force on Benefits began its work last summer, HUCTW leaders refused to form an advisory group, arguing that they should be allowed a seat on the task force itself.

"At this point, there are nine worrisome cuts in the University's package so we can expect to be out here at least eight more times," Jaeger told the sun-drenched crowd. "On behalf of the union I'm proud to say we promise weather like this every time."

Williams, chiding the University for creating600 new administrative positions, said "Harvard'sproblem isn't that they give part-time workers toomany benefits, their problem is that they can'tquit hiring administrators. And because this placeis so decentralized, they didn't even know it."

After a "Top Ten" list of why Harvard doesn'tthink that it needs part time workers, Williamsintroduced the Batucada Belles, a self-described"women's percussion band."

They played in front of John Harvard statuebriefly while members of the audience joined inwith French horns, clarinets and harmonicas.Children wearing "I'm with the Union " stickersdanced to the Belles' music while their parentsclapped along.

The Belles, whose name means "Rhythm of theStreets" in Portuguese, led the crowd in a noisy,syncopated march around the Yard.

Many of those in the procession expressedconcern over the University's proposed benefitscuts, especially in the area of health care. "I'mhere because I'm a part-time worker," saidVictoria Kent, an undergraduate coordinator in theSociology department. "There's a question in mymind as to whether or not I'II be able to keep myjob if my health benefits are cut."

Bill Santoro, a staff assistant at the Centerfor Behavioral Sciences, said the new $10co-payment per doctor visit hits especially closeto home."Since I have a new baby, I'm especiallyinterested in family leave and lower-co-payments.I go to the doctor about three times a week withmy month-old son."

The frustrations of the union negotiation teamseem to be tricking down to its members.

When asked how she thought the negotiationswere progressing, Susan Berstler, an academicassistant at Tozzer library said, "From what Ihear, they're not going that well. The $10co-payment is ridiculous and there are a lot ofpeople who can't afford that."

The current HUCTW contract expires June 30