In 1983, the last time the University met with Harvard Dining Services (HDS) workers for contract negotiations at the Local 26 union headquarters in downtown Boston, talks broke down and ended in a strike.
Both sides will meet at that union hall again June 19 for the final scheduled round of the most recent series of negotiations.
Labor leaders are preparing for the worst and threatening another strike.
Workers are angered by the attempts of Timothy Manning, Harvard's chief negotiator and director of labor relations, to gain more flexibility in hiring non-union, non-local subcontractors.
Union leaders have responded that the use of subcontractors would erode jobs and reduce work opportunities for current employees.
"If they don't pull [subcontracting] off the table, there will be a strike," said Domenic M. Bozzotto, president of Hotel Workers Local 26, which represents Harvard's 554 dining services employees.
HDS workers went on strike in 1983 and 1986 in response to Harvard's attempts to hire subcontractors.
Three weeks ago, HDS employees granted their negotiating team permission to call a strike if a contract is not reached by June 19.
Office of Human Resources spokesperson Merry Touborg refused to discuss current negotiations, saying only that they are proceeding "timely and orderly."
Several union stewards, speaking on condition of anonymity, said workers are eyeing Manning with apprehension.
This contract is the first in which HDS workers will sit across the table from Manning, who has a background in industrial labor relations.
"I have respect for him, but I think he looks at us the way an executive at General Motors would--as means of production, not as people," said one steward.
Responding to a University spokesperson's comment that Harvard is committed to "a level playing field between union and non-union workers," the steward said HDS employees "have no illusions that Harvard is negotiating in good faith."
Fanning the Flames
Support from other local unions When 140 members of Harvard's seven unions traveled to Yale for a Memorial Day rally, they joined 3,500 other protesters from across the country.
When 140 members of Harvard's seven unions traveled to Yale for a Memorial Day rally, they joined 3,500 other protesters from across the country.