Harvard Dining Services (HDS) employees will draw a line in the sand Wednesday evening, when workers are expected to approve a strike authorization clause during a special union meeting.
The agreement by the rank-and-file HDS union members would allow Hotel Workers Local 26 leaders to call a strike if the University does not meet the union's demands during ongoing contract negotiations.
Harvard's contract with HDS employees expires June 19.
The University and the union are debating about two dozen proposals, but the union especially opposes Harvard's plan to hire subcontractors to perform jobs once done by union employees, said Local 26 President Domenic M. Bozzotto.
Union workers fear they would lose their jobs under such a plan because non-union subcontractors are not given benefits and are paid much less than HDS employees.
The dining services union struck in 1983 and 1986 after Harvard tried to hire subcontractors.
"Obviously, [subcontracting] is a strike issue for us," Bozzotto said. "If they don't pull it off the table, there will be a strike. It's a serious issue."
Although a strike authorization does not mean a strike is imminent, it is a definite sign of the union's determination, according to Donene M. Williams, president of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, the University's largest labor organization.
One dining services employee in Quincy House, speaking on condition of anonymity, said morale would be hurt if non-local, non-union subcontractors were hired. Many current employees have worked together for years, she said.
"I'm concerned. At my age, I don't like downsizing and turmoil," said the employee. "I like my job and the people I work with."
Negotiations have apparently broken down only recently. At a rally outside the Faculty Club on April 17, union leaders characterized the negotiations as "a healthy process."
Even if the dining services union strikes, Bozzotto said, it will not attempt to disrupt any of this year's Commencement festivities--in contrast to Yale University employees, who are holding a massive demonstration in New Haven next week.
But Bozzotto pledged that Boston laborers would join with their Harvard brethren in "long-term disruptions and civil disobedience tactics" on campus if the University does not bargain in good faith.
"[The Boston members] are going to protect their union brothers and sisters," Bozzotto said. "They're all willing to cross the river into Cambridge and burn the joint down or turn it into Lebanon or Beirut."
The union also seeks concessions in several other areas, including disciplinary guidelines and the use of supervisors to perform workers' typical jobs, Bozzotto said. Wages are also a concern.
HDS employees, who are paid "I'm voting to strike; I'm through with this," said the employee, who requested anonymity. "People are really pissed off." The vote will be held at a Cambridge hotel Wednesday evening at 7 p.m
"I'm voting to strike; I'm through with this," said the employee, who requested anonymity. "People are really pissed off."
The vote will be held at a Cambridge hotel Wednesday evening at 7 p.m
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