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Backed by Local Officials, Harvard Unions Revive Push to Merge

Harvard's Office of Labor and Employee Relations represents the University in the administration of its contracts and broader union relations.
Harvard's Office of Labor and Employee Relations represents the University in the administration of its contracts and broader union relations. By Angela Dela Cruz
By Sophia C. Scott and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

Backed by a pair of local politicians, two Harvard unions are redoubling longstanding efforts to push for a merger, which have failed three times before.

The roughly 80-member Harvard University Security, Parking and Museum Guards Union and the 5,000-person Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers have long sought to merge under the umbrella of HUCTW. Now, they hope support from a pair of local elected officials — Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and Boston City Councilor Elizabeth A. “Liz” Breadon — will help put pressure on the University to support the change.

The unions released statements of support from Siddiqui and Breadon last week after more than 136 members signed onto a petition calling for HUSPMGU to be included as part of HUCTW.

HUSPMGU represents Harvard security, parking, and museum guards, while HUCTW represents clerical and technical workers across campus.

HUSPMGU is currently negotiating for a new contract with the University, with HUCTW bargaining on its behalf, according to Danielle R. Boudrow, HUCTW’s recording secretary.

The unions plan to hold campaigns in Harvard Square in the coming weeks.

“These people are saying what union they want to be in, and the University ought to respect it,” Boudrow said. “HUCTW is here, ready to be completely flexible in what that looks like.”

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the renewed push.

The unions first tried to merge in 2016. In response to the original proposal, Harvard Director of Labor Relations Paul R. Curran raised legal questions about the plan, citing a provision in the National Labor Relations Act that does not allow “guards” and non-guards to join under one bargaining unit.

The petition — signed by more than 130 union members — said HUSPMGU members “deserve the same opportunities, benefits, and protections that all other employee groups at Harvard enjoy.”

“We strongly support the rights of HUSPMGU members to choose the union that represents them — to be included in HUCTW and covered under the HUCTW Agreement,” the statement said.

The petition called on Harvard leaders to work “constructively and expeditiously” to establish a plan that would include HUSPMGU members in HUCTW “in the very near future.”

According to Boudrow, members of HUSPMGU are the lowest paid workers at the University at $17.69 per hour.

“It will cost slightly more to have HUSPMGU in HUCTW than to have them on their own,” Boudrow said. “Their wages and their benefits are so substandard that to bring them up to an appropriate level will have a cost associated with it.”

In statements last week, Siddiqui and Breadon called on Harvard to allow the unions to merge.

“This disparity among Harvard service workers doesn’t make sense, and is clearly unfair to the dedicated members of the long-established HUSPMGU union,” wrote Breadon, who represents Allston-Brighton on the Boston City Council.

Siddiqui wrote that HUSPMGU members “have clearly and repeatedly expressed their desire to be included in HUCTW.”

“After six years of negotiation on this topic it is past time for Harvard to stop standing in their way,” she wrote.

—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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