In the first major show of student support for a Harvard clerical and technical worker's union, the Lowell House Committee last week formally endorsed efforts to unionize the employees.
Ten days ago, the committee voted 40-23-1 to approve a resolution supporting efforts by the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) to organize university employees.
The HUCTW is not yet officially recognized by the university. It must receive the support of a majority of Harvard's clerical and technical workers before it becomes the workers' official representative.
The resolution to support the union resulted from efforts by Phillips Brooks House members to increase awareness of the union among students and workers.
The Lowell vote represents a step forward for the union organizing efforts, union officials said. The union's leaders have spent the last 10 years trying to organize the university's 3800 clerical and technical workers, 83 percent of whom are women. These workers remain the only group of Harvard employees not represented by a certified union.
HUCTW has been involved in an intensive grass-roots battle to win the support of the workers since its organizers broke away from the United Auto Workers union last September.
Student advocates of the resolution at Monday's meeting said they hoped union organization would give workers a greater voice in university affairs.
"It would be hypocritical for us as students to say that we have a right to put forward our opinions, but not encourage workers to organize and express their opinions," said Lowell resident Raymond V. Vasvari Jr. '86.
The house committee's resolution voices support for all union organizing efforts, not just for the efforts of HUCTW, said committee chairman Samuel Klepper '87. Klepper said that the distinction led to "confusion about exactly what we were supporting."
Before the committee could proceed with the Union issue, it had to decide that it could take a stand on political issues, committee members said. Though the resolution to take political stands was finally passed, there was much division among house committee members.
"A house committee has no business taking a stand on an issue that was basically a political one," said resolution opponent Michael S. Grossman '86. "It has no business taking a stand when there was a lot of divisiveness on the issue."
Union officials welcomed the resolution. "The help of the students is extremely vital," HUCTW organizer Kristine A. Rondeau said, "especially fighting Harvard."
Organizers of the Harvard UAW, which continues a separate organizing effort, also voiced their support. "I think it's terrific that a group of students would understand and recognize the needs of the workforce," said UAW organizer Barbara D. Rahke.
While the Harvard UAW and the HUCTW are both vying for workers support, the UAW has not courts "formal motions of support" from undergraduate student groups, Rahke said.
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