Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feb 9 - Rally Against Layoffs!


5 PM, THURS, FEB 9, Holyoke Ctr.
1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 (next to Au Bon Pain). Redline to Harvard Square.

Who do they think they are?! Even in this bleak economy, Harvard University, a taxfree
‘non-profit’, has managed to retain $32 billion (in addition to other income), yet
it is putting people out of work and plans to lay off more. Layoffs are a burden to our
local economy where people are already struggling and where Harvard has not been
a good neighbor. Harvard is in a privileged financial position where laying off staff
is not necessity but greed. Stand with Harvard workers and community members
against these destructive plans which will devastate many families and hurt the entire
community. Rally to oppose layoffs!

5 PM, THURS, FEB 9, Holyoke Ctr.
1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 (next to Au Bon Pain). Redline to Harvard Square.

Contact harvardnolayoffs@gmail.com for more information.

If you oppose layoffs at Harvard University, please send an email protest.

--------------------------------------Email Harvard Labor Relations------------------------------------
Tell them that when Harvard doesn’t pay taxes and then puts people out of work they are hurting the local economy of your community! Tell them that you support everyone doing their fair share during difficult economic times. Harvard workers greatly appreciate this support. Thank you for sending emails to oppose the University’s plans!

Address emails to: bill_murphy@harvard.edu, (he is the Director of Labor Relations for Harvard University).
cc: harvardnolayoffs@gmail.com

Sample text: I oppose Layoffs in the Harvard Libraries. A University should be protecting these services, and especially one with the enormous resources of Harvard should not be turning people out on the street. Laying off workers when there is still so much money available (in part because of a special tax-free status) is damaging my local economy for no other reason than greed. Please do not do this. The community does not support it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Emergency No Layoffs Picket Called on One Day's Notice

Since Harvard University Library announced last week that its upcoming reorganization would include downsizing staff, workers have circulated several petitions against the layoffs and picketed on Wednesday outside of a regularly scheduled meeting for library staff members.

Roughly 20 people participated in Wednesday’s protest, which took place during a meeting that was meant to allow library workers to express their concerns, according to a University spokesperson.

“Today’s conversation provided an opportunity to address some misconceptions, and it was made clear that staff members are not being asked to reapply for their jobs,” the spokesperson said in an email, referring to a rumor that circulated among workers last week. “The remainder of the meeting focused on how Library staff can prepare to play a role in the new organization.”

Last Thursday, officials told library staff at three town hall meetings that the library’s planned restructuring may include voluntary and involuntary reductions in staff size. The library board met on Tuesday to consider a formal plan for the reorganization, but, despite requests, the University has not released details on whether any plan was approved. If the library board passed a proposal, it would be reviewed by University President Drew G. Faust in February.

Geoffrey “Geoff” Carens, a library employee and member of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, said that the timetable for the impending decisions demands a stronger response in addition to the union’s negotiations.

“We may not have a ton of time,” Carens said. “The cuts are supposed to come in July. We want to strike while the iron is hot.”

Aryt Alasti, a security guard who is a member of Service Employees International Union, said the library workers’ union was not doing enough to fight potential layoffs.

While SEIU represents security guards and custodians, HUCTW represents clerical and technical workers, including library staff.

“Unfortunately, the HUCTW leadership does not support such actions as this [protest], historically and philosophically,” Alasti said. “They prefer to, from my standpoint, negotiate until failure, and that’s the end of that.”

Desiree Goodwin, a library assistant at the Frances Loeb Library in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, has spearheaded the circulation of two petitions: one that urges general support for academic librarians and a second that demands an immediate firm stance by Bill Jaeger, the director of HUCTW, against layoffs. More than 120 people had signed the two petitions as of Wednesday evening.

Occupy Harvard members are currently drafting a third petition, targeting the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.

Goodwin, who has been employed by the University for 16 years, said the news of potential downsizing was “dropped on us like a bombshell.”

Goodwin said that despite regular meetings before the transition plan was announced, neither union leadership nor library supervisors had advance warning of the potential downsizing.

“We were all invited to these discussions as if we were part of the process,” she said. “It’s not that we object to modernization, streamlining procedure. It’s the structure being imposed on us—and the pace.”

The University spokesperson said that Harvard will work with HUCTW, in compliance with the union’s contract. She declined to specify when such a meeting would take place.

In Goodwin’s view, the purpose of the layoffs is “maximizing Harvard’s profit margin.”

“This is not about creating the best library system in the country,” she said.

—Staff writer Dan Dou can be reached at ddou@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at radhikajain@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Proposed Staff Cuts Anger Library Workers

Proposed Staff Cuts Anger Library Workers

By Samuel Y. Weinstock and Justin C. Worland , CRIMSON STAFF WRITERS
Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The University’s plans to reduce the size of the Harvard University Library workforce drew criticism Tuesday from library workers and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. Library officials informed employees of the University's exploration of a range of both voluntary and involuntary options in a series of town hall meetings last Thursday.

“The announcement that the library workforce ‘will be smaller than it is now’ and that some of these potential reductions will be involuntary, combined with the lack of answers to critical questions was alarming and ill-conceived,” read an email to members of HUCTW, which represents many library employees. “For many, the overall effect was panic-inducing.”

The union plans to address the issue by discussing the potential cuts in greater detail with library leaders and meeting with members to assess their reactions, according to the email.

HUCTW Director Bill Jaeger said that his union is concerned primarily with the lack of information provided by the University about the size and nature of the potential layoffs. The presentation of the plans, he said, was “extraordinarily clumsy” and left many major questions unanswered.

Library employees also expressed confusion over the details of the plan. The uncertainty has led many employees to begin speculating on the size of the cuts, according to Karen L. O’Brien, a library assistant.

“All of Harvard Library staff have just effectively been fired,” read one tweet that circulated on Thursday after the first town hall had begun.

Others suggested that the restructuring would require that all library employees reapply to keep their current positions.

The University strongly refuted this statement but recommended that all employees file an Employee Profile “to state job preferences, to articulate skills, and to provide a resume.”

Although he said that the University is currently only providing “vague” explanations, Jaeger is confident that HUCTW will be able to speak with transition leaders. As a part of the union’s contract, Harvard must consult with HUCTW and seriously consider alternative options before laying off a single member, he said.

But HUCTW’s response was insufficient for some union members who gathered on Tuesday afternoon to take a more aggressive stance against the plan for a smaller workforce.

The meeting, which included representatives from the Student Labor Action Movement and Occupy Harvard, concluded with a plan to picket University forums on library reform beginning Wednesday.
For this small, committed group of activists, preparing for a larger campaign would start with reaching out to other employees. Eventually, workers could resort to large demonstrations or another occupation of the campus, said Geoffrey “Geoff” Carens, an assistant librarian and HUCTW member.

“It’s going to get as big as it needs to be,” Carens said. “This is the seed, and we’re hoping for a mighty tree.”

Library employees who attended Tuesday’s meeting expressed frustration with both the plan to cut the workforce and how the University informed employees. At Thursday’s meeting, library officials were unable to answer many of the audience’s questions and did not provide details about the scale of the staff reductions. That information, employees were told, would come in February.

O’Brien said she believes that the University is purposefully stoking fear among the library employees in hopes that they will hurriedly accept unattractive retirement packages.

Regardless of their thoughts about the University’s intentions, many other employees expressed a fear of the upcoming changes.

“I can’t believe I feel as insecure in my job as I did before we had the union,” said Jeffrey Booth, a library assistant who said he has worked at Harvard for 25 years. “We’re already short-staffed. When my friends and coworkers get laid off, I get physically sick. That’s how it affects you.”

The Harvard Library Board, which is responsible for planning the library’s restructuring, met Tuesday to discuss the plan. If approved, it will be considered by University President Drew G. Faust.
The University did not return repeated requests for comment on this article. Harvard Library

Executive Director Helen Shenton did not respond through a spokesperson.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.
—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at jworland@college.harvard.edu.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Library System Seeks to Reduce Staff

Library System Seeks to Reduce Staff

Published: Monday, January 23, 2012 

The Harvard University Library system will seek to reduce the size of its approximately 930 person workforce as part of the ongoing restructuring of the world’s largest academic library, according to a transcript of remarks made by Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton at one of three town hall meetings held Thursday.

“The new organizational design has not yet been approved, but it is certain that it will be different from the current one,” said Shenton at one of the town hall meetings. “A key change: the Library workforce will be smaller than it is now.”

The University is considering both voluntary and involuntary options to reduce staff, but prefers voluntary methods, Shenton said. While Harvard has laid off employees in the past, the University has at times also offered some staff voluntary early retirement packages or waited for attrition to reduce staff.

Crimson Op-Ed: No Layoffs for Harvard Libraries

No Layoffs for Harvard Libraries
By Geoff Carens
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On January 19, Harvard University Library Executive Director Helen Shenton told stunned Harvard Library staff that their numbers were to shrink. She announced that the cuts would be accomplished by July, through voluntary and involuntary means. Officials would rewrite some job descriptions and eliminate other jobs completely, and staffers would have to apply for a smaller number of reconfigured positions.

In the wake of media attention to widely shared tweets about Shenton’s disclosures, a University spokesperson tried to downplay the anxieties of employees. Despite such efforts, Shenton’s remarks are sparking a new wave of worker-led protests on the Harvard campus.

When the University’s clerical staffers last faced mass layoffs in 2008, their Harvard No Layoffs Campaign drew the attention of national and international press. In collaboration with Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement, rank-and-filers in the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers joined forces with concerned local residents, faculty, non-union workers and members of other campus unions also hit hard by job losses. The coalition organized a sustained wave of demonstrations, which featured picketers blocking traffic in Harvard Square, as well as multiple actions during the University’s lavish Commencement exercises. Today, activists will meet to plan a revival of the Harvard No Layoffs Campaign.

During its last wave of mass layoffs, Harvard maintained, unpersuasively, that a drop in its huge endowment made job losses inevitable. After a 21.4 percent jump in the endowment during the last fiscal year, to $32 billion, Harvard cannot possibly make any such claims today. Union activists believe the University’s plans to cut costs come at the expense of local communities. In a particularly ominous development, 15 out of 22 employees at Harvard Health Publications learned on January 11 that they would lose their jobs in March. The devastated staffers of HHP must wonder how they will find new positions in the current bleak economy. As of last week, library workers must wonder the same thing.

However, since 2008, the ground has shifted. The Occupy Wall Street movement has pointed a glaring spotlight at social inequalities, the concentration of wealth, and widespread unemployment. Harvard’s workers have actively participated in Occupy Boston and Occupy Harvard. Important links have been built, and potentially powerful networks have risen up. Employees who stayed on the sidelines of past years’ pickets now boldly advocate direct action to fight the planned cuts. No Layoffs campaigners know they will have many more allies this time around.

They will also have student support. SLAM has supported Harvard’s workers for years. The pro-labor students in SLAM went on a hunger strike in 2007 to press for a fair contract for security officers. Its precursor, the Progressive Student Labor Movement, occupied Massachusetts Hall in 2001, demanding a living wage for all who worked at the University. SLAM’s current incarnation, as vibrant as ever, plays a vital auxiliary role in campus labor struggles.  As recently as December, scores of workers and SLAM members picketed for over an hour in the cold for Marvin Byrd. Byrd, a 61 year old, partially-disabled employee in Harvard University Mail Services, had his weekly hours cut and was compelled to work a mandatory six-day week, alone of all his co-workers. SLAM’s participation on Byrd’s behalf helped make the action one of the largest worker-led pickets for an individual Harvard employee in recent memory. If hundreds of library workers face the total loss of their livelihoods, they can expect a proportionate response from the students who have stood with them for so many years in their struggle for better working conditions.

Meanwhile, library workers continue to perform their duties, knowing that another year of job losses would certainly hurt scholarship on campus. More automation, increased outsourcing to non-Harvard vendors, and further erosion of institutional memory will throw countless roadblocks in the way of the students, faculty and researchers who use Harvard’s libraries. Harvard’s brand will suffer along with workplace morale.  The precious scholarly resources amassed by Harvard, including online databases, will grow less accessible. These unnecessary consequences are a source of great frustration to dedicated employees. If Shenton’s destructive plans go forward, campus workers will soon have myriad opportunities to vent that frustration in public.

Geoff Carens is a Union Representative in the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers and a member of the No Layoffs Campaign. He is a Library Assistant at Lamont Library.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Harvard Libraries Announce Unspecified Number of Layoffs

Libraries May Reduce Staff


Harvard University Library employees were informed Thursday at three town hall meetings that the ongoing restructuring of the world’s largest academic library system may result in a reduction in staff, according to people briefed on the meetings.

Prior to Thursday’s meetings, rumors abounded about the implications of the library restructuring on the size of the library staff.

Twitter was abuzz with speculation leading up to Thursday’s meetings and even during them. “All of Harvard library staff have just effectively been fired,” read one tweet.

The University announced in the fall that it would reorganize the libraries into affinity groups to bring together library units with similar missions.

“We are consolidating the libraries in a way that will save money, and that money saved will be plowed back into acquisitions and expanded services,” University Librarian Robert C. Darnton ’60 told The Crimson at the time. “It will make the library much stronger.”

Library leaders said that they were seeking a “smaller library” in Thursday’s meetings but left many questions unanswered, according to Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers.

“There were vague references made to reductions in the size of the staff,” Jaeger said. “Despite persistent questions from the audience, the [library] leaders were not able or willing to provide anything more specific than that.”

Afterward, the University sought to dispel the rumor that all library personnel would be affected by the likely downsizing.

“It is inaccurate to say that all Library staff will need to reapply for their positions,” a statement from the University said.

“Our contract with the University requires union-management consultation when a department is considering [such changes],” Jaeger said. “We’re pretty confident that as this goes forward we’ll continue to hear from them.”

According to a University statement, staff meetings in February will be held to explain the organizational changes in more detail.

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at jworland@college.harvard.edu.