Harvard workers want increases in health care coverage, according to an open letter released by the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers on Feb. 14.
The letter outlines HUCTW’s goals for upcoming negotiations with the University, including increases in health care coverage, more worker involvement in councils involved in staffing decisions, and a reevaluation of Harvard’s adherence to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which outlines acceptable exemptions from overtime pay.
The previous agreement between HUCTW and the University was made in June and covered only a two-year period, a decision based partly on the University’s strapped financial situation at the time of the negotiations. At the time, the union and University disagreed about the likelihood that the University’s financial situation would continue to improve.
Health care was a prominent concern in the letter, despite the recent passage of President Obama’s health care bill that seeks to provide coverage to all Americans.
“The bill is more meaningful to people who are only marginally covered,” said HUCTW director Bill Jaeger.
Jaeger said the most important aspect of any health care plan for union workers is eliminating co-payments on preventative visits. “The challenge for our union is the problem of brutally increasing health care costs,” Jaeger said.
Jaeger said that union members are not yet at their crisis point in terms of health care costs, but they are “not inclined to sit around and wait.”
HUCTW is also seeking increased accessibility to Joint Councils, groups which allow HUCTW members to be represented in the decision-making process in their divisions.
The availability of Joint Councils was stipulated in the June agreement between HUCTW and the University.
The recent letter calls Joint Councils a “cornerstone” of the HUCTW-Harvard partnership, emphasizing the importance of union members having their voices heard during periods of department reorganization.
The letter also addresses Harvard’s adherence to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and Jaeger said that HUCTW is determined to make sure workers are classified accurately, which will help ensure they receive correct overtime pay.
University spokesperson Kevin Galvin declined to comment for this article.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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