Harvard Dining Workers to Make $35,000 Minimum Income

The union has achieved its main goals: a $35,000 income and stable healthcare costs. 

Students join workers in a rally outside Massachusetts Hall.Courtesy of UNITE HERE Local 26

Harvard university dining services workers (Huds) will earn a minimum income of $35,000 a year under the new agreement reached by Harvard and UNITE HERE Local 26, the union that represents 750 workers. If approved later today, the new contract will end a three-week-long strike and satisfy the union’s main demands for a $35,000 minimum income for full-time workers and stable healthcare costs. Workers who are laid off during the summer months will receive extra compensation of $3,000, Local 26 president Brian Lang announced before a crowd of workers this afternoon. Those who work part-time during the summer will receive compensation at a prorated rate. 

The agreement followed a negotiation session that went past 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, after hundreds of students had marched out of classes on Monday and occupied the lobby of 124 Mount Auburn Street, where the negotiations were taking place. Last Saturday, in what would be the union’s largest protest, about 1,000 union members and supporters rallied in Cambridge. 

“It’s a historic agreement. We’ve accomplished all the goals we set out to make,” Lang said. “The $35,000 income has been accomplished, and [the goal of] no increases in healthcare costs has been accomplished. A variety of other things that we were able to accomplish will be good for the members and for our relationship with the University.”

Due to summer and winter breaks, as previously reported, most HUDS workers are employed only seven and a half months of the year, and earn an average of less than $34,000 annually. A full-year income of at least $35,000 was thus a major sticking point in the negotiations.

Earlier during negotiations, Harvard had offered to pay workers modest summer stipends, but that proposal was rejected by the union. “What we ended up agreeing to was much better than anything that was discussed in the stipend discussions,” Lang said. “The University feels the same way about it. We feel it’s mutually beneficial.”   

The strike will continue until the agreement is ratified by HUDS workers on Wednesday afternoon. Presumably, contract details will become public then. Workers may return to work as early as Thursday. 

“I am pleased to report that Harvard has reached an agreement in principle with UNITE HERE Local 26, the union that represents Harvard’s dining services workers, on a new, five-year contract that represents a fair and reasonable resolution to negotiations,” University executive vice president Katie Lapp wrote in an email to the Harvard community on Tuesday. “Throughout this negotiation, the University has sought a resolution that maintains superior compensation for our dining workers, acknowledging their role as integral members of the Harvard community. We also sought an agreement that recognizes the importance of carefully stewarding University finances as we pursue our academic mission in a period of constrained resources,” she added.

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