Harvard Food Fight May End Soon, As Tentative Deal Reached

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By Tyrone Richardson

Oct. 25 — UNITE HERE-represented food service workers at Harvard University will vote Oct. 26 on a five-year labor contract, a proposal that could fully restore dining hall services at the Ivy League school.

Details of the proposed deal are being withheld pending results of the ratification vote, according to Local 26 President Brian Lang. The workers, who walked off the job Oct. 5, will remain on strike until completion of the vote, he added.

The deal, covering about 750 workers at the school, was reached early Oct. 25, a spokeswoman for the Cambridge, Mass., university told Bloomberg BNA. The contract negotiations started in May and were recently aided by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

University: Proposed Contract ‘Achieves’ Goals

Katie Lapp, executive vice president at Harvard, released a separate statement describing the tentative deal as “a fair and reasonable resolution to negotiations.”

The proposal “maintains superior compensation for our dining workers,” the statement said.

“We also sought an agreement that recognizes the importance of carefully stewarding University finances as we pursue our academic mission in a period of constrained resources,” she said. “We are confident that this agreement achieves both of these goals.”

Local 26 and university negotiators have been divided on wages and health insurance benefits. The union sought a contract offering affordable health insurance for workers and providing $35,000 minimum annual pay.

The university has defended its current pay scale and has proposed contract offers to share in more of the cost of health insurance. The concept would mirror coverage for about 5,000 other union-represented Harvard employees, the university has said.

Tentative Deal Follows Rejections

The union has previously rejected several contract proposals, including a heath insurance package that would cost about $104 monthly for an individual and $281 for a family. The union also rejected a proposal to raise wages to $24.08 per hour by the end of a five-year contract and to offer a $250 weekly stipend for workers during breaks when college classes aren’t offered. Food service workers currently earn an average of $21.89 an hour, according to the union.

Local 26 negotiators have demanded a roughly 22.5 percent wage increase, pushing hourly wages to nearly $27, or about $3 more than the university’s offer, over a four-year contract. They also wanted a stipend of up to $450 per week during the recesses.

The strike has forced disruptions of food service on campus. The university has tried to limit the impact by seeking volunteers from the school’s “exempt” employee rolls, including deans.

Students and alumni have staged a series of on-campus events supporting the striking workers. One of the latest included students walking out of classes Oct. 24 and orchestrating a sit-in at the administrative offices, a protest that lasted into the early morning hours Oct. 25, according to Local 26’s website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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