UPDATED: September 6, 2016, at 12:44 a.m.
Harvard University Dining workers are preparing to go on strike after three months of stagnant contract negotiations with the University’s bargaining team on issues of health benefits and wage increases.
Spokesperson for Local 26—the union that represents HUDS—Tiffany Ten Eyck wrote in a press release Tuesday that the workers’ contract with Harvard is set to expire on Sept. 17, after which workers plan to strike should the University not comply with demands for an increased minimum salary and more affordable health benefits.
Ten Eyck wrote the workers will announce their intent to strike Wednesday afternoon at a rally at First Parish Church. At the rally, the workers will unveil a mural composed of photographs of 600 dining services workers who “are ready to strike,” according to the press release.
Their intent to strike comes just days after the University announced it raised more than $7 billion in its historic capital campaign—a point Ten Eyck emphasized in the release. The fundraising drive was publicly launched in 2013 and has aimed to raise money across the University for priorities including House renewal, financial aid, and a new building for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
In a statement Tuesday evening, Harvard spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga wrote that the wages and benefits of Harvard dining employees are competitive nationally.
“Harvard’s dining hall workers currently receive highly competitive wages that lead the local and national workforce for comparable positions in the food service industry,” deLuzuriaga wrote. “The fact that the average tenure of a Harvard dining hall worker is 12 years is a testament to the quality of work opportunities here.”
According to deLuzuriaga, the average dining hall worker at Harvard earns a $21.89 per hour salary. HUDS employees’ work corresponds with the academic calendar; they do not work during school recesses. Still, according to deLuzuriaga, the University offers HUDS workers health benefits during the stretches of time they are not actively employed at Harvard.
HUDS workers have been in negotiations with Harvard administrators since late May, and have sat through at least 13 bargaining sessions. Their contract, last ratified in 2013, was set to expire in June but was extended to mid September as negotiations continued past the deadline. According to the press release, the current contract includes a “no-strike” clause that will expire on Sept. 17, after which HUDS may begin a strike.
Employees have called for a $35,000 minimum salary for all employees, regardless of hours worked, and a 22 percent wage increase over the next five years, according to deLuzuriaga.
Tuesday evening, the Student Labor Action Movement—an undergraduate organization that has supported HUDS in the past—released a statement on Facebook in support of the workers’ decision to strike, charging Harvard with a “moral obligation” to provide their employees with more affordable health care plans.
“The Harvard administration has failed to address employees’ concerns regarding affordable healthcare and a sufficient yearly income,” the group wrote. “The money required to maintain current health-care plans and ensure a sustainable annual income is inconsequential to the University but of utmost consequence to workers.”
SLAM is currently circulating a petition amongst undergraduates to support the workers’ planned strike.
Last spring, more than 200 Harvard affiliates gathered in front of Massachusetts Hall to express their support for HUDS workers ahead of the start of their negotiations
—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.
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