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Harvard Clerical and Technical Workers Rally in Protest of Alleged ‘Anti-Union Tactics’ by University

People walk by the entrance of the Smith Campus Center on a cold Wednesday morning.
People walk by the entrance of the Smith Campus Center on a cold Wednesday morning. By Addison Y. Liu
By Sophia C. Scott and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

Members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers rallied outside Smith Campus Center Thursday in protest of what they allege are “anti-union tactics” by the University.

More than 30 people — including Harvard students and other local union members — attended the rally. In a Thursday press release, HUCTW representatives advocated for a “fair” contract and alleged the University retaliated against two union members.

Union leaders allege the University wrongfully terminated Kevin Harrington after he contracted long Covid-19 and demoted Karen O’Brien, cutting her pay by 10 percent, in retaliation for her work as a union representative.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the allegations of retaliation.

In a July interview, O’Brien told The Crimson the University retaliated against her after she advocated for improved workplace health and safety.

HUCTW representative Geoff Carens said in the July interview that O’Brien was “scolded by her boss in front of her co-workers” for working as a union representative. The University then allegedly “reneged on the promise to make her senior functional coordinator” and demoted her, according to Carens.

“It’s very clear retaliation for union activity, which is unlawful,” they said.

In an emailed statement, Harrington alleged he experienced discrimination from the University while sick with long Covid-19.

“I feel like I was targeted, singled out for my union activity and experienced even greater discrimination, retaliation, and harassment when I got sick and succumbed to long COVID,” Harrington wrote. “I think what it comes down to is that NO ONE should be fired or laid off for getting sick, and Harvard needs to do better [to] ensure this.”

Newton, the University spokesperson, declined to comment on Harrington’s allegations.

After HUCTW’s contract with the University expired on Sept. 30, the two parties agreed to extend the existing contract until a new deal could be brokered. Nearly a month later, the union and University have yet to reach an agreement on fair wage raises.

At Thursday’s rally, Carens, the union representative, called on the University to offer higher wages.

“A big sticking point is wages,” Carens said of the contract negotiations. “For myself, I demand wages that well exceed inflation.”

Newton wrote in an email that the University is “committed” to reaching a deal with HUCTW. To achieve that end, both sides have agreed to bring in a mediator, Newton added.

“We are committed to reaching an agreement with our valued members of HUCTW and have made significant progress on several key issues since negotiations began in May,” he wrote.

“To help us finalize the outstanding aspects of a deal, both HUCTW and the University have decided to bring in a mediator, mutually agreed to by the parties, who we believe will be an important factor in helping to resolve our remaining differences and reach a final contract that both sides can agree upon,” Newton continued.

—Sophia Scott can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ScottSophia_.

—Claire Yuan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.

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