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As it Happened: Harvard Commencement 2023
A Harvard security worker filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board this month seeking to decertify the union that represents around 300 contracted security workers at the University, 32BJ Service Employees International Union.
Walter J. Terzano, who has served as a security officer at Harvard for 13 years, filed the petition on April 7.
Employees can file a petition with the NLRB requesting a representation election, which determines if a union can continue representing its workers in collective bargaining. If the effort has support from 30 percent of the bargaining unit, the NLRB is required to hold an election to determine whether the union will be decertified.
The petition comes following months of tension between 32BJ leadership and Harvard security workers, who are employed by Securitas, an international security services firm. Union leadership was at odds with the union’s bargaining committee for parts of its monthslong contract dispute with Securitas, which ended last month when members voted to ratify a contract.
“This is a terrible, terrible union, and the membership is howling for some way to get rid of them and get a proper union in here,” Terzano said of 32BJ in an interview on February 8, as he was preparing to file the petition.
Terzano, who serves as a union steward, said 32BJ has worked to subvert the interest of its members repeatedly throughout collective bargaining. Terzano said union leadership is often making “the company’s case to us rather than making our case to the company” in negotiations.
“They seem to be working on behalf of the company more than they are for us,” he said.
Harvard security workers rejected Securitas’ first contract offer in January, despite 32BJ backing of the deal. The union’s bargaining committee — tasked with representing general members in negotiations — called on workers to vote down the first offer, which ultimately failed, 127-84.
Terzano said he decided to draft the petition due to “the obvious disdain that the union leadership seems to demonstrate to the members — even the stewards.”
Terzano accused the union of rigging a 2016 contract ratification vote, though there is no direct proof of fraud. He said the union refused to conduct an audit of the election.
“It’s beyond rational dispute that there’s an enormous amount of questions about that vote,” he added.
Arun K. Malik, who serves on 32BJ’s bargaining committee, said he thought there was “election irregularity” in the 2016 vote.
“Both the custodians and the guards thought we had voted down our CBAs,” he said. “We were both stunned to find out it had passed.”
Malik also said the union did not issue an official communication about misinformation spread by a guard during the 2016 vote — “grounds for invalidating the election,” he said.
32BJ Executive Vice President Roxana Rivera did not respond to a request for comment about the allegations.
The NLRB is currently investigating whether the petition for decertification has received the necessary 30 percent support from union members.
William B. Gould IV, a professor at Stanford Law School, said a petition must be timely and garner sufficient interest within the appropriate units of a union in order to warrant an election. But measuring whether petitions have received the necessary 30 percent support from members can sometimes be complicated, he said.
“Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine whether that 30 percent is adequate because there may be some dispute about the scope of the unit,” he said. “You have to measure the 30 percent over the number of people who are in the appropriate bargaining unit.”
If sufficient interest is demonstrated, the NLRB will conduct an election through secret ballot.
Last year, there were 240 petitions to decertify filed with the NLRB, resulting in 125 elections — 55 of which were won by the union, and 75 of which were lost by the union according to the NLRB. Eighteen were dismissed and 91 were withdrawn.
32BJ spokesperson Amanda Torres-Price declined to comment on the petition, writing that the union “can’t comment on a pending legal matter.” Securitas and Harvard University spokesperson Jason A. Newton also declined to comment.
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