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Dining Hall Workers Vote in Support of Contract

By Mercer R. Cook, Crimson Staff Writer

Dining hall workers voted in a new five-year contract with the University on Monday night, after discord regarding workers at Harvard Business School caused the union to delay the contract vote from last Monday for fear that the workers would vote it down.

The tentative contract guarantees, among other things, a 2.73 percent annual wage increase for workers and the creation of a joint committee of University staff and union members to monitor workplace conditions in dining halls.

Both the University and UNITE HERE! Local 26, the union that represents dining hall workers on campus, were pleased with the contract.

But the vote was delayed because union members became angry that nine HBS dining hall workers were not receiving the same benefits as every other University dining hall worker.

The affected workers, all of whom have been employees in Harvard dining halls for over 30 years, said that they would vote down the contract until their issue was resolved, and many of the other dining hall workers rallied behind them.

Local 26 immediately began negotiations with Restaurant Associates, the contractor which employs Business School dining hall workers.

“They agreed to give the nine affected workers the same benefits as every other worker at Harvard,” said Local 26 President Brian Lang. “We were very pleased.”

Neither Restaurant Associates nor HBS could be reached for comment.

Lang said that after workers felt the HBS issue was resolved, they were very enthusiastic about the new contract, with 87 percent of dining hall workers voting to confirm it.

“We think that this is a great contract,” Lang said. “The membership clearly sees it that way.”

George Sabatino, one of the nine affected workers who previously said he would not vote for the contract until his issue was resolved, said that he was grateful for the support of his “union brothers and sisters.”

“For everyone to come together to get more rights for us [the nine workers], it’s really touching,” he said. “I’m so glad the University finally respected us long-time employees.”

He added that he voted to confirm the contract.

“I’m ecstatic about the new contract—this has been a long struggle,” Sabatino said. “We finally got the contract we deserve.”

Lang said that the most important point of the contract is the joint committee, which he feels will improve working conditions for dining hall workers. The committee will also focus on developing environmentally friendly dining practices.

“I think that what’s most important is the fact that we have successfully addressed the issue of sustainable foods and sustainable jobs through the best practices committee,” Lang said. “The fact that there are real decision makers at Harvard on this committee who will be working with us on a regular basis is ground-breaking.”

Adams House Chief Steward Edward B. Childs, a member of the Local 26 bargaining committee, said that he thinks the contract is beneficial for dining hall workers.

“I think it’s a good contract,” Childs said. “I think it’s got some really important steps.”

Lang agreed with Childs, saying that the contract is a great “first step” for University-union relations.

“We’re eager to start the work of the implementation of these changes,” Lang said. “We look forward to working with Harvard.”

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

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