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With Tentative Agreement for Custodians, Harvard Narrowly Averts Campus Strike

Students join custodial staff protesting for wage increases and health care changes at the Harvard Against Hate rally Thursday afternoon.
Students join custodial staff protesting for wage increases and health care changes at the Harvard Against Hate rally Thursday afternoon.
By Brandon J. Dixon, Crimson Staff Writer

After a marathon bargaining session, Harvard and its custodial workers reached a tentative agreement around 1 a.m. Wednesday, narrowly averting what would have been the University’s second campus strike this semester.

The tentative agreement will increase employees’ salaries by 12.5 percent over the duration of the four-year contract. By the end of the contract, the average salary for janitors will increase from $21.89 to $24.61, according to a press release from 32BJ SEIU, the regional union that represents Harvard’s janitors. In addition, the contract “includes language to promote full-time work,” satisfying one of the union’s core bargaining goals. Currently, about 30 percent of the janitors work part-time.

Students join custodial staff protesting for wage increases and health care changes at the Harvard Against Hate rally earlier this month.
Students join custodial staff protesting for wage increases and health care changes at the Harvard Against Hate rally earlier this month. By Grace Z. Li

In the press release, Roxana Rivera, the vice president of 32BJ SEIU, wrote that the tentative agreement is a “win for families, communities, employers and the economy as a whole.”

“The service workers are rightfully proud of the work they do and are determined that these jobs remain strong jobs, with good wages and benefits that create an entry into the middle class,” Rivera wrote.

The press release also said that the agreement “secures employer-paid” health care, but did not clarify whether those benefits will differ from their current package. According to Rivera, SEIU’s workers do not currently receive their benefits directly from Harvard but rather from a fund SEIU maintains to which Harvard contributes.

University spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga praised the agreement.

“Harvard’s custodial colleagues play an important role in support of the University’s teaching and research mission, and we are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with SEIU,” deLuzuriaga wrote in an emailed statement. “We believe this is a fair deal for both sides, and we are hopeful for a ratification.”

Members of the union voted overwhelmingly last week in favor of authorizing a strike had the two parties not struck an accord before their contract expired Tuesday. The bargaining session ran an hour past that deadline.

Harvard and the union began bargaining on Oct. 7, amid the University dining services’ unprecedented 22-day strike.

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at brandon.dixon@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.

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