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More than 3,500 Harvard clerical and technical workers signed onto a letter calling on the University to agree to wage increases this week amid contract negotiations between the school and their union.
The statement, which was sent to many of Harvard’s top administrators, comes as the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers is bargaining for a new contract. HUCTW, founded in 1989, represents roughly 5,000 Harvard employees.
“HUCTW members are struggling with severe pressures and painful choices in their family budgets as a result of rapidly increasing costs,” the letter said. “At present, proposals being put forward by University negotiators do not come close to providing that kind of financial security – on the contrary, management proposals would leave Harvard staff falling back significantly in their standard of living.”
In total, more than 4,300 people signed onto the letter, which features photographs of union members and supporters holding signs explaining why “we need a fair raise.”
Harvard’s vice president for human resources, Manuel Cuevas-Trisán, confirmed the school received the letter in a message to HUCTW’s executive director Bill Jaeger.
“We realize there are important issues at stake in our negotiations and look forward to resolving them in good faith in the near future with the support of the mediator,” Cuevas-Trisán wrote. “As always, we appreciate the contributions of HUCTW members to the Harvard community.”
Contract negotiations between HUCTW and the University have stalled in recent weeks over wage disagreements. After HUCTW’s contract with the University expired on Sept. 30, the two sides extended the current agreement until a new one is ratified.
“As vital community members who work to advance Harvard’s mission, we deserve salaries which allow us to keep up with the cost of living and make financial progress,” the union’s letter said.
The union held a pair of rallies calling for wage increases on Wednesday afternoon. Standing in the rain outside of the Science Center and the Harvard Kennedy School, union members displayed signs and passed out pamphlets advocating for increased pay.
“We’re having a lot of trouble understanding the University’s perspective,” said HUCTW President Carrie E. Barbash. “They seem to be focusing on how they compare with other employers.”
“People are really struggling, and it’s hard to understand why that wouldn’t take priority over their competitiveness with other universities,” she said.
Jaeger said the union will “have to be bold on both sides of the negotiating table.”
“This is a negotiation that’s running into some trouble,” Jaeger said. “We want to broaden the conversation and ask people of influence within the University to understand the issues in a bit more detail and help us try to find a way through it.”
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