Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Harvard Club Workers Get New Contract

Harvard Club Workers Get New Contract 
By Dan Dou and Samuel Y. Weinstock, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERS

The membership of UNITE HERE! Local 26, the union that represents many of the employees at the Harvard Club of Boston, ratified its contract with the Club last week with over 95 percent member approval, Local 26 President Brian Lang said.

The Union Bargaining Committee and Club management reached an agreement on the contract on March 9, approximately 10 months after contract negotiations began.
“The agreement is a very good agreement,” Lang said. “The Harvard Club finally stepped up to the plate.”

The Harvard Club of Boston is not associated with Harvard University, but is open to Harvard graduates and graduates of “selected affiliate colleges and universities,” according to its website. A spokesperson for the Club did not return a request for comment.

Lang said that the new contract’s most important points include a distinction between casual workers and regular employees, a “fair and objective system for employees to advance” regarding seniority, and “good immigration language.”

The agreement included a new health care plan with lower co-payments and no reductions in holidays or sick leave for current employees, according to a summary of the contract released by the union.

Lang, union representative Dana Simon, and Harvard Club front desk staffer Emilio Guerra said that the agreement was in part a result of the workers uniting in the fight for a contract that they perceived as fair.

“They [Harvard Club management] can see that we are more united as a group of employees,” Guerra said. “That is important for us and for any company.”

Lang said that the contract negotiations have been “particularly challenging” for the workers and the
Club, with the contract’s new health care plan being one of the biggest sticking points.

“There’s been a lot of twists and turns,” Lang said.

Last October, the National Labor Relations Board cited the Club for negotiating “in bad faith” with its staff, and the union had planned and canceled pickets outside the club over the past few weeks.

In addition, the union complained to the NLRB that the Club had been threatening workers and conducting illegal surveillance to prevent their participation with the union. The wait staff has sued club management, claiming that it charged patrons a gratuity fee that was not passed along to its workers.

Lang said that now, however, he has to commend the Club for agreeing to a good contract.
“At the end of the day, we’ve all come together and we’re moving forward,” Lang said. “You won’t find a stronger promoter of the Harvard Club than the union.”

William P. Whitham ’14, a member of the Student Labor Action Movement who interned with the union over the summer and observed some of its negotiations with the Club, said that he reacted with joy when he heard about the new contract and was happy for the workers that an agreement had finally been reached.

“It’s about time,” Whitham said. “This struggle had gone on for long enough, and now it’s over. It just goes to show what kind of impact worker collaboration can have.”

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

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