News

The Path to Public Service at SEAS

News

Should Supreme Court Justices Have Term Limits? That ‘Would Be Fine,’ Breyer Says at Harvard IOP Forum

News

Harvard Right to Life Hosts Anti-Abortion Event With Students For Life President

News

Harvard Researchers Debunk Popular Sleep Myths in New Study

News

Journalists Discuss Trump’s Effect on the GOP at Harvard IOP Forum

Unions Protest Hiring Practices

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

More than 300 workers, part of a coalition of Harvard and local unions, gathered in front of William James Hall and Holyoke Center yesterday afternoon to rally against Harvard's employment practices.

Nervous Harvard administrators packed the Yard and adjacent areas with police, and security was tightened for most of the afternoon.

The rally, which was entirely orderly, was intended to pressure Harvard into adopting a University-wide "responsible employer code." Such a code would require Harvard's contractors to abide by labor laws and to provide certain benefits and services to employees.

Donene M. Williams, president of the University's largest union, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), said the rally is the next step after months of failed discussions with the University.

"We are not getting anywhere with them and it is an extremely important issue for all of us," she said.

According to Mark Erlich, business manager of Carpenters' Local 40, renovations to the ninth floor of William James Hall are being conducted by a non-union contractor participating in illegal labor practices.

Erlich said the unnamed contractor is illegally classifying workers as independent contractors, paying substandard wages and providing little or no benefits and insurance. He criticized Harvard for "buying hot goods."

Yesterday's rally began at William James Hall. While the workers waited there, a parade of more than 100 union workers marched from Harvard Stadium down Kirkland Street, blocking the road, to join in the rally.

Harvard police and administrators, including Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III and Police Chief Francis D. "Bud" Riley, stationed themselves across the street in front of the Church of New Jerusalem.

At William James, the workers listened to speeches by Erlich and Cambridge City Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves '72. The protesters then marched behind a Cambridge police escort through the Science Center gates. They circled around Massachusetts Hall and proceeded to Holyoke Center.

Police blocked off Mass. Ave. so protesters could cross to Holyoke Center. As they approached the building that houses most of the central administration, the protest became louder and more unified while employees and administrators watched the crowd from their office windows.

"Just in case [Harvard] hasn't heard us, we are going to ask Harvard one more time to agree to a University-wide policy agreement," said HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger. "We have drawn [a contract] up and signed it."

Jaeger and Faith Calhoun from Local 40 brought the contract to Timothy R. Manning, director of labor relations, for signing. According to Jaeger, Manning responded by saying, "Thank you very much; we have to think about it." Jaeger told Manning that the union would be right outside.

Subsequently, union workers began to chant, "Sign the Contract! Sign the Contract!"

After a few minutes, with no response apparent from administrators, Erlich shouted into the megaphone, "This is only the beginning.... We will be back."

The University was certainly prepared for the event. Police were stationed outside University Hall and at other Key points around campus, and several gates to the Yard were locked before and during the rally. A half-dozen Cambridge police officers on motorcycles and bikes tried to prevent protesters from blocking the street in front of William James Hall.

A total of 25 police officers were present for the event. Also present were several plain-clothed men with beige ear-plugs and walkie-talkies. It was unclear whether the men were law enforcement agents.

All police approached yesterday, including Riley, declined to comment.

The Issue

The primary reason for yesterday's rally was Harvard's hiring of contractors for renovation work who, according to the coalition, engage in unfair labor practices, said Erlich.

"The impact on [all the unions] is that Harvard is taking jobs with good pay and benefits and subsidizing them with jobs offering no benefits, lower pay and frequently illegally subsidizing the underground economy," Erlich said.

However, Harvard spokesperson Alex Huppe said Harvard has had a history of hiring primarily union contractors and requires all contractors to assure the University that they are abiding by legal labor practices.

Huppe said that the University has awarded to unions 85 percent of the $211 million spent on renovations over the last three years.

"We will continue to provide a level playing field for both union and non-union contractors," Huppe said.

The contract Jaeger presented yesterday made no mention of unions. Instead, it would have required Harvard to guarantee that it will only contract out to employees who abide by ethical and legal employing practices, according to Williams.

Huppe said he had not seen the contract and would not comment on reasons why it was not accepted yesterday.

Huppe defended allegations that the University is hiring contractors engaging in unethical and illegal practices.

But Huppe did admit that the cost difference between union and non-union contractors factors into the decision of employment.

He defended this distinction by saying that "we have to be very careful with the University's resources" when large cost differentials are at stake.

Erlich blasted Harvard for citing competitive prices as a reason for hiring non-union contractors.

"'Competitive' is becoming one of the most obscene words in the English language," Erlich said. "It means if you give up benefits then you will be competitive."

Reeves also showed his support for the Union members during the rally.

"Someone needs to be the public voice of conscience for the University," said Reeves. "My hope is that the University will find its moral compass and finds its way going forward instead of backwards."

Show of Support

Jaeger also passed around a bucket for donations for the workers' "brothers and sisters" in the Yale unions.

Flyers were distributed encouraging union members to attend a large rally at Yale during that university's commencement on May 27.

Williams also asked for support for a rally for HUCTW's eighth birthday in Harvard Yard on May 17. That rally will focus on full-time benefits for part-time workers

At William James, the workers listened to speeches by Erlich and Cambridge City Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves '72. The protesters then marched behind a Cambridge police escort through the Science Center gates. They circled around Massachusetts Hall and proceeded to Holyoke Center.

Police blocked off Mass. Ave. so protesters could cross to Holyoke Center. As they approached the building that houses most of the central administration, the protest became louder and more unified while employees and administrators watched the crowd from their office windows.

"Just in case [Harvard] hasn't heard us, we are going to ask Harvard one more time to agree to a University-wide policy agreement," said HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger. "We have drawn [a contract] up and signed it."

Jaeger and Faith Calhoun from Local 40 brought the contract to Timothy R. Manning, director of labor relations, for signing. According to Jaeger, Manning responded by saying, "Thank you very much; we have to think about it." Jaeger told Manning that the union would be right outside.

Subsequently, union workers began to chant, "Sign the Contract! Sign the Contract!"

After a few minutes, with no response apparent from administrators, Erlich shouted into the megaphone, "This is only the beginning.... We will be back."

The University was certainly prepared for the event. Police were stationed outside University Hall and at other Key points around campus, and several gates to the Yard were locked before and during the rally. A half-dozen Cambridge police officers on motorcycles and bikes tried to prevent protesters from blocking the street in front of William James Hall.

A total of 25 police officers were present for the event. Also present were several plain-clothed men with beige ear-plugs and walkie-talkies. It was unclear whether the men were law enforcement agents.

All police approached yesterday, including Riley, declined to comment.

The Issue

The primary reason for yesterday's rally was Harvard's hiring of contractors for renovation work who, according to the coalition, engage in unfair labor practices, said Erlich.

"The impact on [all the unions] is that Harvard is taking jobs with good pay and benefits and subsidizing them with jobs offering no benefits, lower pay and frequently illegally subsidizing the underground economy," Erlich said.

However, Harvard spokesperson Alex Huppe said Harvard has had a history of hiring primarily union contractors and requires all contractors to assure the University that they are abiding by legal labor practices.

Huppe said that the University has awarded to unions 85 percent of the $211 million spent on renovations over the last three years.

"We will continue to provide a level playing field for both union and non-union contractors," Huppe said.

The contract Jaeger presented yesterday made no mention of unions. Instead, it would have required Harvard to guarantee that it will only contract out to employees who abide by ethical and legal employing practices, according to Williams.

Huppe said he had not seen the contract and would not comment on reasons why it was not accepted yesterday.

Huppe defended allegations that the University is hiring contractors engaging in unethical and illegal practices.

But Huppe did admit that the cost difference between union and non-union contractors factors into the decision of employment.

He defended this distinction by saying that "we have to be very careful with the University's resources" when large cost differentials are at stake.

Erlich blasted Harvard for citing competitive prices as a reason for hiring non-union contractors.

"'Competitive' is becoming one of the most obscene words in the English language," Erlich said. "It means if you give up benefits then you will be competitive."

Reeves also showed his support for the Union members during the rally.

"Someone needs to be the public voice of conscience for the University," said Reeves. "My hope is that the University will find its moral compass and finds its way going forward instead of backwards."

Show of Support

Jaeger also passed around a bucket for donations for the workers' "brothers and sisters" in the Yale unions.

Flyers were distributed encouraging union members to attend a large rally at Yale during that university's commencement on May 27.

Williams also asked for support for a rally for HUCTW's eighth birthday in Harvard Yard on May 17. That rally will focus on full-time benefits for part-time workers

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags