Hundreds of Harvard employees and supporters gathered Thursday afternoon for four “Stand-Out” events to show solidarity for the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers’ ongoing contract negotiations.
HUCTW, which represents more than 4,600 non-faculty Harvard staff, held outdoor demonstrations outside of the Museum of Natural History, the Holyoke Center, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman building, and the Countway Library in the Longwood Medical Area.
According to HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger, official union headcounts put total attendance at all four rallies at more than 1200 workers and supporters.
The union billed the event as a chance for staff to stand together, literally, rather than march, chant, or give speeches. Jaeger said that the demonstrations’ purpose was twofold: first, to give workers and supporters a chance to show their “spirited determination to have the negotiations go in a better direction” and second, to inform the community, including Harvard and its neighbors, and ask them to stand with HUCTW.
Jaeger said HUCTW members’ unity made standing an appropriate form of demonstration.
“Our members are really connected to each other and to the organization...so I think our goal today wasn’t to get our members fired up,” Jaeger said. “Our members are fairly fired up. I think what we did today is what our members wanted to do—which is to express themselves individually and collectively.”
The contract that currently governs the relationship between HUCTW members and the University was originally set to expire over the summer; however, union and University negotiators were unable to agree on new terms.
Jaeger said that there has been “no significant progress” with negotiations recently.
“We’re continuing to meet, but it’s not fruitful at this point,” he said.
The union and University have found themselves at odds over health care benefits and salary increases during contract negotiation sessions.
Susan M. Kinsella, an administrative coordinator in the Chemistry and Chemical Biology department who demonstrated outside of the Kennedy School on Thursday, said wages need to be adjusted sufficiently to keep pace with inflation.
“Everybody has an individual story of how the lack of a contract is affecting them,” Kinsella said. “One would think that only three months wouldn’t make that much difference, but I have to set aside more money to live, because prices are going up, if my salary is not increasing.”
In a statement released by the Harvard Gazette Thursday, the University stated that wage offers made by the University in negotiations with HUCTW were “clearly consistent with the internal and external job markets.”
In the statement, the University pointed to the nearly $2 billion it invests in employee compensation each year and stated that its pay to HUCTW members was “very competitive” according to benchmark comparisons with the external market.
The statement said that a volatile global economy contributed to increased pressure on University revenue sources which would have “long-lasting implications for the University’s finances.”
Justin F. Lefler, an IT field technician at Harvard Business School who participated in the action outside the Kennedy School, said that he hoped that the rallies would help yield fair health care benefits for the workers.
“We’re an important cog in the wheel that keeps this University going,” Lefler said. “We’re hoping this will help people realize how many people are being harmed by this.”
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