The Harvard University Security, Parking, and Museum Guards Union ratified a new contract with the University Friday, maintaining healthcare benefits, securing bonuses, and codifying avenues to collaborate with the much larger clerical and technical workers union.
HUSPMGU — which represents approximately 80 staff members at Harvard — voted overwhelmingly for ratification, with 79 percent of the union participating in the vote and 98 percent of voters favoring the new contract. The new, short-term agreement, which expires Sept. 30, is largely an extension of the union’s 2016 contract that expired June 30, 2020.
The most notable changes to the contract include one-time bonuses, inclusion in zero-interest housing loan programs already established for Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers members, and the creation of a working group to discuss a possible merger between HUSPMGU and HUCTW, the largest union on campus.
“Given the circumstances, we’re satisfied, and obviously our membership seemed to be satisfied,” HUSPMGU Treasurer Sean F. McNally said. “It was very humbling that so many of our colleagues voted in favor of the ratification.”
Negotiations with Harvard began last summer and finished in December, according to McNally. HUSPMGU leadership invited HUCTW negotiators to participate in the negotiations, as they did in 2016.
The two unions first proposed a merger ahead of those negotiations in 2016, though the University rejected the plan due to what it says are legal restrictions against employees classified as “guards” being included in a union with non-guards. Harvard also cited the same reasoning in rejecting another attempt by the two unions to merge in 2019.
As the smallest union at Harvard, HUSPMGU favors merging with HUCTW for financial growth and stronger representation, McNally said. HUCTW represents more than 5,000 Harvard employees.
“We really wanted to bridge that gap between HUSPMGU members and pretty much everyone else in the University,” he said. “We appear to have fallen behind or not gained financially the same as our peers.”
HUCTW Executive Director Bill Jaeger said representatives from both unions have worked together closer over the past few years to form a “powerful partnership.”
“We were really happy to be able to play a more involved part in and work with the elected leaders of HUSPMGU to get more directly involved in the HUSPMGU negotiations,” Jaeger said.
In addition to maintaining healthcare benefits from their previous contract, HUSPMGU members will each receive a one-time “hardship” bonus of approximately $135. Members who work 40 hours per week will receive an additional bonus of $1,500 and another smaller bonus on July 1.
HUSPMGU members will also have access to zero-interest housing loan programs from the Harvard University Employees Credit Union facilitated by HUCTW.
“It just seemed like a really good opportunity to bring HUSPMGU more into the mainstream and to include HUSPMGU members in some really good programming that can really help people, especially lower-paid employees in certain kinds of stressful housing situations,” Jaeger said.
More broadly, the new working group under the contract will allow HUSPMGU, HUCTW, and the University to continue a dialogue about a merger between the two unions.
“That provision of the contract just represents hope and constructive determination to persevere on the part of HUSPMGU and HUCTW members,” Jaeger said. “We really wanted to ask the University to make a commitment to continue to engage in those kinds of discussions in good faith and continue trying to find a way that works for all the parties to accomplish that goal.”
University spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard has already discussed the relationship between the two unions, but will meet with HUSPMGU on the matter.
“As part of the new contract, the University has agreed to meet with HUSPMGU with regards to their relationship with HUCTW,” Newton wrote. “This is, however, a matter the University has addressed with HUSPMGU a few times over the last several years.”
—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.
—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.