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Citing Harvard, Tufts Dining Workers Unionize

During the 2016 Harvard University Dining Services strike, workers and supporters marched in support of the union. Workers at Tufts said the strike inspired their decision to unionize.
During the 2016 Harvard University Dining Services strike, workers and supporters marched in support of the union. Workers at Tufts said the strike inspired their decision to unionize. By Helen Y. Wu
By Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writer

Citing the success of the Harvard University Dining Services workers’ 2016 strike, workers at Tufts University joined the regional union representing Harvard dining workers, UNITE HERE Local 26.

Local 26 announced the dining workers’ decision to unionize Tuesday morning. Though workers have filed for a unionization election through the National Labor Relations Board, they are asking Tufts to immediately recognize the union. In the event that the university agrees to recognize the union, the election will not be necessary.

“We would prefer to get down to a real conversation right away and without delay, and that's why workers have been making that demand on the administration,” Michael Kramer, the organizing director of the food service division of Local 26, said.

Though he could not provide exact numbers, Kramer said “an overwhelming majority” of dining workers supported the effort to unionize.

“We think the right thing for them to do would be to recognize the union, listen to the voice of the workers, and begin focusing on negotiating a contract,” Kramer said.

Both Kramer and Patricia O’Brien, a Tufts dining employee and union organizer, said that HUDS employees inspired Tufts workers’ efforts.

“After the Harvard strike, and what we saw there, and how they won everything, and how they worked together as a group, it really inspired me,” O’Brien said.

Kramer added that members of Local 26 on other campuses were inspired by Harvard’s solidarity with workers at Northeastern when they “were on the verge of the strike.”

“The local 26 members of Harvard were right there with them, because that experience resonated. They had been through it. And I think we're going to see the same thing at Tufts,” Kramer said.

In response to criticisms from dining workers, Tufts spokesperson Patrick Collins wrote in an emailed statement that the University values the “important work” of its dining employees.

“We respect the rights of employees to seek an election to decide for themselves whether unionization is in their best interests,” Collins wrote. “We think it’s fair that all workers have the opportunity to cast a vote regardless of their position on the question, and we will respect the election’s outcome.”

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