A lengthy negotiation process between Harvard and its largest employee union has come to a conclusion as union members voted to ratify the tentative agreement reached between the two parties exactly one month ago.
Bill Jaeger, the executive director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, said that while all of the votes have not been tallied yet, there was a “resounding yes vote” in favor of ratifying the tentative agreement. Jaeger added that nearly 2,000 ballots had been tallied thus far and that a significant percentage of the votes were in favor of ratification.
“The yes-vote percentage is going to be somewhere between 95 and 98 percent,” Jaeger said. “That’s an overwhelming margin, I think.”
In an emailed statement, Harvard Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp said Harvard was “very pleased” at the outcome of the vote, which she said “advances the interests of the University and the HUCTW.”
“Harvard values the many contributions that HUCTW members make to our community each day,” Lapp said. “We look forward to continuing to work together in making Harvard one of the best places to learn, work, and live.”
Voting took place at more than 25 different locations throughout the greater Massachusetts area on Thursday. Additionally, about 30 HUCTW members employed at research center Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C. completed their vote on-site, and will have their ballots transported to HUCTW’s offices within the next few days.
“The elections committee won’t be able to certify final results until tomorrow or Monday because we have a couple of ballot boxes from our remote locations that aren’t going to come in until tomorrow,” Jaeger said.
The ratification vote comes after a negotiation process that extended nearly four months past the expiration date of HUCTW’s previous contract, and included the intervention of outside mediators from Harvard and MIT. HUCTW members have been aware of the details of the agreement since early February. Since the announcement, the union has held information meetings and established a hotline to field any questions about contract details.
Members largely praised the contents of the agreement, citing the removal of deductibles and coinsurance payments from the contract as major improvements over the benefits Harvard’s non-union members receive. Additionally, the establishment of a new premium tier for members whose salaries fall under $55,000 was lauded by HUCTW leadership as a keystone of the new agreement.
Still, discussion surrounding the contract has not been completely positive. At an event in support of Harvard University Dining Services on Wednesday evening, HUCTW member Thompson Potter criticized the agreement and called for “militant union activism” to address what he perceived as deficiencies in the healthcare details, as well as to prevent members of HUDS from ending up with the same plan.
“This deal enshrines the very costs, the very fights that you are fighting for,” Potter said.—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon