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Dining hall workers will decide tonight whether or not to grant top union officials permission to call a strike at any point in the workers’ upcoming contract negotiations.
Sources within the union expect the motion to pass.
Approval of the authorization vote will allow the negotiating committee of Local 26 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union to call a strike after the current contract with Harvard expires on June 19.
A clause in the current contract prevents dining hall workers from striking.
“A strike authorization will show the strength of the ranks in the kitchen,” Co-Chief Shop Steward and Adams House Chef Edward B. Childs said. “It will show that conditions are intolerable.
Childs sits on a large contract committee with 60 members from all the dining halls. They have been working since the summer to create a new contract.
The contract committee will also present to the members of the union the terms they will seek from the university.
“We have to bring it all to the workers to say: ‘Is that what we want to ask?’ We have to make sure that we’re representing the membership,” Childs said.
Manny Bairos works as a chef in Annenberg Dining Hall and said he intends to support a strike authorization.
“It’s something that we have to do to gain a good contract,” he said. “We need better wages since the cost of living is getting so high and I’m willing to strike to get it.”
But some workers are less enthusiastic about the idea of a strike.
“It makes me scared,” said an Adams House dining worker who asked that her name not be used. “When you say ‘strike,’ you don’t know what’s gonna happen. I hope nothing bad.”
The Havard union dining workers, who number more than 500 people, have only gone on strike once in their 63 year history. The 1983 strike lasted one day.
Although the union can’t strike until the summer, officials say that the recent actions of the Progressive Student Labor Movement help at the bargaining table.
“[Harvard] has us in a weaker position but the sit-in makes us stronger,” Childs said.
Some of the dining workers say that they will base their authorization strike vote on the ir co-workers.
“I’m going with the majority rule on this,” said Blondell Neddon, a par-time worker in Adams House. “I’m not afraid of a strike. But I have another job.”
—Staff writer Amit R. Paley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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