HUDS’s new treaty and the strike that paved the way | opinion


There’s something to cheer on in Harvard’s dining rooms. After months of deliberation, Harvard and UNITE HERE Local 26, the union of Harvard University Dining Services employees, ratified a five-year contract that guaranteed pay increases, increased job security and the maintenance of the current health insurance that union members had. 99.45 percent – practically all union members entitled to vote – voted in favor.

This agreement comes after years of small struggles and broad-based actions that have combined to make this greater victory possible – including a campus-wide strike in 2016 that paralyzed food supplies in the dining rooms and new labor movements elsewhere in the Boston area inspired.

We are thrilled to have ratified this new treaty, which without the relentless efforts of UNITE HERE Local 26 would not have been possible to cut budget cuts to protect workers whom we have pleaded with Harvard to protect, even at the cost of the bottom line.

While we often applaud the work of our undergraduate activists – as we did earlier this month following the Harvard Management Corporation divestment of fossil fuels – the achievements of the campus workers are equally commendable. UNITE HERE Local 26 follows a coalition-based philosophy of work organization, represent Workers in hospitality sectors such as hotels, gaming, hospitality, laundry, and textiles in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This comprehensive model has proven powerful and makes sense: the struggles of workers everywhere are likely to mirror the struggles of workers everywhere. Colleges forming new unions, as MIT did late last month, should take inspiration from the UNITE model.

This agreement also takes place in the middle of a flashbulb moment for work on campus. 4 unions are currently negotiating new contracts with the university. The Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers’ has just overwhelmingly approved a strike, as the union did before the actual strike in Fall 2019. Just as we supported the HGSU-UAW strike back then and the HUDS strike in 2016, we support the HGSU-UAW with the use to fight for an improved worker protection.

UNITE HERE The local 26 and university negotiating a worker contract is an example of the key role unions (and for two centuries) have played in ensuring a more just America. Data from the Labor Statistics Office show that unionized workers are better paid and receive more benefits than their non-union counterparts. Unfortunately, the American unions have been around since Decades.

Many of the benefits and safeguards outlined in this new contract, which will shape the lives of Harvard workers for at least the next five years, were won after the 2016 HUDS strike. The 22-day affair blew up campus. The dining room system that many administrators refer to as the heart of campus life collapsed when only 14 out of 750 workers passed the picket lines (houses served frozen food). But it also prevented a new insurance plan that would have cut many workers out of their health care from prevailing – a seemingly permanent victory.

As we celebrate the successes of this union negotiation process and keep an eye on a possible HGSU-UAW strike on the horizon, we should remember the power unions (and yes, strikes) to improve people’s lives.

This lead editorial represents the majority opinion of the Crimson Editorial Board only. It is the result of discussions at regular meetings of the drafting committee. To ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who give their opinion and vote at these meetings are not involved in reporting articles on similar subjects.

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