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About 60 members of Harvard's largest union held a candlelight vigil outside President Neil L. Rudenstine's home last night to protest the benefits reductions for part-time workers that are scheduled to take effect Jan.1.
Union leaders said the vigil was meant as a symbolic request for Rudenstine to intervene in benefits negotiations, which they claim have been stalled by Provost Albert Carnesale.
Rudenstine's windows at his 33 Elmwood Ave. were dark for the duration of the 40-minutes vigil. Protesters speculated that he was attending a holiday party held by Dean of Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles.
But that didn't stop the union members and several student supporters from marching around Rudenstine's front yard and singing protest ballads such as "Worker's Wonderland" (to the tune of the traditional "Winter Wonderland."), as well as renditions of "We Shall Not Be Moved," "Union Maids" and "Solidarity."
Yesterday's vigil was only the latest in a long string of union demonstrations against the pending benefits cuts. Union members have spent 24 days protesting in front of Mass. Hall, and yesterday's vigil was the union's fourth since Halloween.
The series of protests is intended to pressure the University to roll back benefits cuts that HUCTW agreed to in 1995.
Carnesale has been the University's point person in negotiations for restoring benefits, and the union has lambasted him for ignoring their proposals.
The protests will continue if the January deadline comes and the benefit cuts go into effect, so Carnesale will achieve nothing by stalling on the issue, said union President Donene M. Williams.
"At times it feels like the University doesn't want to resolve the issue," said Williams, "and sometimes they do want to in order to prevent unrest. The University is beginning to act like Yale."
Still, Williams said that the committee has been "talking in a more productive way since we started picketing."
Neither Rudenstine nor Carnesale were available for comment yesterday.
But Merry D. Touborg, a spokesperson for the Office of Human Resources, disputed the union's claim that the University is picking on particular groups of workers.
She said the cuts specified in HUCTW's contract will bring the benefits of the union's workers into line with part-time workers throughout the University.
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