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Roughly 50 Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) employees protested outside City Hall yesterday evening before the weekly city council meeting, demanding the council’s help in obtaining a fair contract with their employer.
Members of the CHA Teamsters Local 122 Union said they have been without a contract since April because of what they termed “anti-worker stipulations” in proposed contracts.
The CHA develops and manages affordable housing for low-income residents.
Harry Anderson, an area supervisor for the CHA, accused the City of “taking away the rights of workers.” Anderson, who was carrying a sign, said he was rallying against policies like forced overtime and the elimination of negotiated wages.
Without negotiated wages, “if your boss doesn’t like you, you won’t get a wage raise,” said Brenda Downing, a senior property manager for the CHA. “We want fair wages for everyone, not favoritism.”
Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 and city councillors addressed protestors on the steps of City Hall, promising to support them.
“I’m here because I don’t want to be a silent friend,” Reeves said.
“We’re going to stand by your fight...It’s unacceptable for you to go for a year without a contract,” former mayor and Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio told the protesters, who withstood chilling 20 degree temperatures.
Billye Thomas, a principal shop steward for the CHA, blamed the CHA for the failure of contract negotiations. “We’ve been negotiating for a year, but they haven’t listened,” she said. “No one really wants to protest.”
The council later passed a resolution to “go on record in support of Teamsters Local 122.”
Also during the meeting, councillors officially renewed City Manager Robert W. Healy’s contract for three years after a month-long evaluation process.
Healy, who has held the position since 1981, serves as Cambridge’s top executive. The elected city council hires the city manager to run the day-to-day operations of local government and oversees his work.
Councillor Craig A. Kelley—the only non-incumbent elected in November’s election—was the only councillor to vote against the renewal of Healy’s contract.
“I don’t share a lot of the positive experiences they’ve had with the manager,” Kelley said. “People like me have experienced a lot of frustration in getting the City...to appear to be listening to them.”
Several Cambridge residents who came to last night’s meeting also said Healy’s contract should not be renewed, echoing the overwhelming sentiment of residents at a public hearing last week.
But most councillors praised Healy extensively last night, thanking him for his years of leadership and lauding his role in helping the City achieve an AAA bond rating.
Councillor Henrietta Davis said the bond rating “puts our city in such incredibly good shape...It is a credit to the city manager that we have this kind of fiscal situation.”
Also at the meeting last night, councillors responded to residents’ complaints that workers hired for Harvard’s construction of graduate student and faculty housing on Memorial Drive use too many parking spots, making it impossible for residents to park their cars.
“Harvard has an obligation to put the people working on their projects somewhere else,” Kelley said.
Healy reported that improvements to the pedestrian crossing on Mass. Ave. outside Johnston Gate are slated to begin this spring. The City will install a signal to assist pedestrians in crossing the street, and will also widen the sidewalk. The Harvard shuttle stop will eventually be moved. Construction is scheduled to last for 18 months.
The council agenda also included a ceremonial resolution that thanked outgoing Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers, who will leave his post at the end of June, for his “service to the Cambridge community” and “[wishes] him well in his future endeavors.”
—Staff writer Anna M. Friedman can be reached at email@example.com.
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