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Tufts Janitors Win Wage Hike

Union includes Harvard workers

By Ross A. Macdonald, Crimson Staff Writer

Janitors at Tufts University have approved a new three-year contract with the school’s custodial subcontractor that includes a wage floor of $11.45 per hour for all custodians and employer-supported family health insurance for full-time employees.

The votes of Tufts’ 200 janitors, tallied yesterday, approved a tentative agreement struck last Thursday between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26 workers bargaining committee and OneSource, the private company that Tufts hires for maintenance and janitorial services.

The new contract will begin a program of wage hikes in January 2002 and continue through the duration of the contract. According to the union, the $11.45 wage floor will take effect in January 2004.

According to Rocio Saenz, deputy trustee of Local 26, the goal of the union negotiators was “equal pay for equal work”—bringing up the wages of part-time custodians to match that of full-timers. The union expects the new contract will create more opportunities for employees to work full-time, she added.

In addition to the wage floor, the deal will also protect workers’ employment should Tufts change subcontractors again—Tufts switched to OneSource in 1997, after its 1994 contract with UNICCO, a private custodial company, expired. “Job security was a key,” Saenz said, because Tufts’ current contract with OneSource only lasts until 2003.

SEIU also represents Harvard’s 800 janitors—both those directly employed by the

University and by subcontractors.

According to data gathered by the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies (HCECP), approximately 290 Harvard custodians represented by SEIU currently make less than the $10.68 per hour the City of Cambridge defines as a local living wage.

Although the settlement at Tufts may halt the protests planned by Tufts’ Student Labor Action Movement, Saenz says “the step we took at Tufts is one of the first,” and that the union, which played a highly visible role during last spring’s Mass. Hall sit-in, will continue to “build partnerships” with students, faculty and community members.

“[The Tufts contract] definitely changes the way we’ll be operating at Harvard. It was not just about Tufts, it was about Harvard, and janitors downtown, for the fights we’ll be facing in the future,” Saenz said.

The terms of negotiations with Harvard are still unclear, as the University is currently waiting on the report of the HCECP. This group, charged by former President Neil L. Rudenstine with gathering data and making recommendations to President Lawrence H. Summers on Harvard’s labor issues, distributed preliminary data on Oct. 22 and will release its full report and findings on Dec. 19.

—Staff writer Ross A. Macdonald can be reached at jrmacdon@fas.harvard.edu.

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