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Union Negotiations Less Protracted

News Analysis

By Todd F. Braunstein

Harvard has never been a place where labor relations go smoothly.

Although the University doesn't have the same problems as Yale--whose strikes have been so bitter that they have drawn national media attention--Harvard has consistently failed to ink contracts without significant unrest. Consistently, that is, until the past two years.

These past two summers have witnessed a remarkable turnaround in the University's record in cutting deals with its biggest unions.

Last week, the dining services union, Local 26, agreed to an unprecedented five-year deal on the day before it was prepared to strike. Harvard's record with that union includes two strikes in the 1980s over the very issue that was the key sticking point in this year's negotiations.

Last summer, the Harvard Police Union signed a three-year contract a full month before the old deal was set to expire. The speed of the negotiations stood in marked contrast to the previous round, which resulted in a bitter two-year standoff before an agreement could be reached.

One week later, Harvard's largest union, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), agreed to a three-year deal just a month after the previous contract ran out. In 1992, HUCTW had worked for more than six months without a contract, and a number of bellicose demonstrations punctuated the negotiations.

Union leaders and University officials disagree about the reasons for the trend, although almost all those interviewed agree that the trend does exist.

Domenic M. Bozzotto, president of Local 26, attributes the success of his own union's negotiations to the skills of the University's new director of labor relations, Timothy R. Manning, who has been on the job for about two years.

"I've been president of the union since 1981, and I think you don't see too many new twists in negotiations," Bozzotto says. "But [Manning] brought this new dynamic to the table. I'd love to say it was me, that I was the new dyanmic. And maybe that's because he comes from a different background. Evidently he didn't have all the baggage all the previous labor relations people had at Harvard."

Bozzotto even goes so far as to credit Manning with averting a strike.

"We've had a couple of strikes at Harvard, because the labor relations people have been as confrontational as the union," Bozzotto says. "But he's been innovative when he's certainly in the position to be confrontational."

University officials also praise Manning.

"I think a large reason...is because there's someone in labor relations who's very good at this, and I think strikes a good balance between labor and management," said David A. Zewinski '76, associate dean for physical resources and planning in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

But HUCTW's president, Donene M. Williams, has a different explanation. Williams says that the recent collectivization of Harvard unions has proven a force for the administration to reckon with. Indeed, the University's three contract coups over the past two years have come from unions that belong to the coalition.

Williams attributes to the coalition whatever flexibility Manning has demonstrated.

"I would say that the credit for that belongs with the coalition," Williams said. "Tim is a smart enough negotiator to realize when he's dealing with a strong union, or strong unions.

"We've had a couple of strikes at Harvard, because the labor relations people have been as confrontational as the union," Bozzotto says. "But he's been innovative when he's certainly in the position to be confrontational."

University officials also praise Manning.

"I think a large reason...is because there's someone in labor relations who's very good at this, and I think strikes a good balance between labor and management," said David A. Zewinski '76, associate dean for physical resources and planning in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

But HUCTW's president, Donene M. Williams, has a different explanation. Williams says that the recent collectivization of Harvard unions has proven a force for the administration to reckon with. Indeed, the University's three contract coups over the past two years have come from unions that belong to the coalition.

Williams attributes to the coalition whatever flexibility Manning has demonstrated.

"I would say that the credit for that belongs with the coalition," Williams said. "Tim is a smart enough negotiator to realize when he's dealing with a strong union, or strong unions.

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