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Harvard Reaches Tentative Agreement with Clerical and Technical Union After 13 Months of Negotiations

Members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers started weekly pickets outside Massachusetts Hall in February amid contract negotiations that began in April 2022.
Members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers started weekly pickets outside Massachusetts Hall in February amid contract negotiations that began in April 2022. By Julian J. Giordano
By Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writer

After 13 months of negotiations and a protracted stalemate over compensation, Harvard’s clerical and technical union reached a tentative agreement with the University before noon May 11, six days before the union’s 35th birthday.

If ratified, members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers will receive four raises that, for a member earning the median salary of $64,000, would increase the member’s base salary by 19 percent.

A typical HUCTW member will see a 5.9 percent raise effective Oct. 1, 2022, and three raises of 4.7 percent, 3.8 percent, and 3.5 percent from July 1, 2023, through 2025.

“I think the whole package over four years provides us with very meaningful protection against the extraordinarily high inflation that we’ve seen and creates a strong possibility of progress beyond inflation over the life of the contract,” HUCTW Executive Director Bill Jaeger said.

Because the tentative agreement also retroactively covers the months since the last contract expired Sept. 30, members will receive a lump sum payment that covers the raise they would have received had the agreement been formally reached before the last contract expired.

Union members will also receive an additional $1,400 one-time bonus May 31.

According to a joint statement by the University and HUCTW, a ratification vote is expected by the end of the month.

The tentative deal comes after four months of picketing by union members, a March rally with more than 250 attendees, and a letter-writing campaign that saw hundreds of members write to deans and faculty members in support of the union.

“Thousands of our members have gotten engaged in helping to raise awareness in the community,” Jaeger said.

The union’s campaign had also been endorsed by many public figures including Massachusetts State Senator Pat Jehlen, Boston City Councilors Ruthzee Louijeune and Liz Breadon, and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.

The tentative deal also includes provisions to increase HUCTW assistance funds, which include child care, education, and transportation assistance.

While HUCTW and the University had previously been using an independent, third-party mediator to facilitate negotiations, they had recently employed Harvard Economics professor Lawrence F. Katz.

“Having an academic economist mediator was very helpful in the end,” Jaeger said. “I think our economist mediator played a very positive role.”

Katz declined to comment on his involvement in the negotiations.

The union had planned to hold a rally on May 24, a day before Harvard’s Commencement exercises. While organizers said this was not the only factor that contributed to the tentative agreement being reached, they said it played a role.

“We had the opportunity to plan Commencement week activities, and Harvard was very interested in reaching a deal before that time came so that they could prevent those activities from taking place,” said Danielle Boudrow, a member of HUCTW’s executive committee.

“It’s such a public moment for Harvard with so much attention on the campus, and they want it to be a happy event,” she added. “I think Harvard considers it a PR problem to have a labor dispute out front in public during such a public event.”

Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the University’s reasons for agreeing.

HUCTW organizer Jaime Pepper said the tentative agreement was “the best possible agreement that we could get.”

“We made sure that we exhausted every last dollar that we could possibly get at the negotiating table before we settled,” Pepper said.

Boudrow called the agreement “excellent,” saying that organizers believe its pay raises will beat inflation over the duration of the agreement based on consulting economists with “a rock solid consensus” that inflation will decline.

Despite the broad support, some members said they felt the tentative agreement does not adequately address inflationary pressures.

HUCTW member Genevieve Butler said she thought the raises included in the tentative agreement weren’t “nearly enough.”

Butler predicted the tentative agreement would most likely pass since she believes “people are desperate to get something.”

HUCTW President Carrie E. Barbash wrote in an email to The Crimson that it’s “fantastic” that lowest paid union members will receive raises of at least 7 percent in June and at least 6 percent in July.

“I understand why some folks might be frustrated it’s not more — people have been struggling and need every dollar HUCTW can get, but we also feel great about the fact that our average member is getting around 6% in June and then another 4.7% a few weeks later in July,” she wrote.

Members of union leadership, as well those who plan to vote against the tentative agreement, said they expect it to pass with overwhelming support.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cam_kettles.

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