Unite Here Local 26, the Boston-area hospitality union which represents Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services workers, has kick-started its contract negotiations with the University, launching the fight for what they deem “sustainable jobs” for dining staff.
The current contract between the workers and the University expires on June 19.
The University and union members have had two meetings to date, which Local 26 President Brian Lang said primarily consisted of each side setting out and explaining its proposals for the new contract.
Lang emphasized the connection between Harvard’s sustainable foods initiative and maintaining good jobs for workers, which he said includes reversing a recent decline in pay for HUHDS staff.
He said that improvements in the various jobs of the dining hall workers would go hand in hand with improvements in Harvard’s sustainable food program.
“In spite of the green agenda, there has been an increase in pre-packaged food,” he said. “That [sustainable] program only works if it is coupled with a program of sustainable jobs—jobs we can continue to raise our families on.”
William P. Whitham ’14, who is a member of the Student Labor Action Movement, said he agreed with Lang’s sentiment.
“In a lot of ways, over the past ten to fifteen years, the quality of the food has actually declined,” Whitham said.
Whitham pointed to a number of specific policies that he said would help Harvard to improve the treatment of its workers while addressing the quality of its dining hall meals. He called for greater job security as well as a living wage and better retirement options for HUHDS employees.
Lang also called on the University to increase the hours of dining hall workers.
“We have to have jobs with enough hours to feed our families,” Lang said.
Lang added that dining hall workers are also requesting a higher level of financial transparency from the University.
“As workers, we feel that [HUHDS] can only work if we have the same information as the administration,” Lang said.
University spokesperson Kevin Galvin wrote in an emailed statement that the administration hopes to work out a contract that is beneficial for all parties involved.
“We are hopeful that an open and constructive dialogue will lead to an agreement that benefits both the Dining Services staff and the rest of the Harvard community,” he wrote.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.