Harvard Reaches Tentative Deal With Striking Dining Workers

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Dining service workers picket outside Harvard's Memorial Hall earlier this month. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Dining service workers picket outside Harvard's Memorial Hall earlier this month. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Harvard University has reached a tentative agreement with striking dining service workers.

"We attained all of the goals that we set out at the beginning of bargaining," Brian Lang, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, the union that represents the workers, told WBUR in a telephone interview. "Those goals are to achieve a minimum annual income of $35,000 and to maintain health insurance without increased costs."

The workers -- who sought a pay bump and no increase in their health care costs -- went on strike three weeks ago. The university had said its workers already receive generous wages and benefits.

In an email to WBUR on Oct. 5, the day the strike began, Harvard spokeswoman Tania deLuzuriaga said it was asking for copays to increase by $10 for office visits, and from $40 to $100 for emergency-room visits.

Lang said under the new agreement, workers would not have to make those payments out of pocket.

Lang also said Harvard and the union had considered whether the university could pay unemployment compensation to its workers, many of whom do not work during Harvard's long holiday break or the summer. Both sides realized that legally, Harvard would not be able to pay unemployment, and so Harvard agreed to match unemployment compensation with a bonus payment. Lang called the compensation "substantial and unprecedented."

Harvard declined to comment.

Katie Lapp, Harvard's executive vice president, said in a statement to the school community Tuesday that the five-year contract "represents a fair and reasonable resolution to negotiations."

Lang said in a statement that it's an "agreement ... that our Bargaining Committee believes addresses all of the concerns of our more than 700 members on strike."

Union members are set to vote on the tentative deal Wednesday. Lang's statement said the union "will disclose details of the agreement after this vote on Wednesday."

In her statement, Harvard's Lapp thanked the school community for its patience during the strike and dining service managers for working "around the clock to meet the needs of our students."

She also thanked union members. "The University has been unequivocal in its belief that dining services workers are valued employees and vital members of the Harvard community. We look forward to welcoming them back to work as soon as possible."

This article was originally published on October 25, 2016.

This segment aired on October 25, 2016.


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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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