Some MIT workers are on strike over pay and benefits

Workers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are on strike after the school and their union have been unable to reach an agreement on a contract that involves a wide range of issues from health care costs to work rules.

About 65 information technology technicians and about 200 custodial staff joined the one-day strike Thursday to demonstrate their desire for a more transparent process for workplace safety and pay increases.

Called a “strike day,” the walkout is symbolic, but the workers decided to halt work to demonstrate their “determination to stand united and fight for our rights,” Bill Shuff, president of the MIT Professional Staff Union Local 360, said in a statement.

About 100 MIT IT technicians, including some graduate students, got into picket lines around campus Thursday afternoon. They’ve been walking their picket lines without pay since Monday.

Also participating in the strike are about 20 other custodial employees, according to Eric Nachmanoff, the union’s communications director.

The union and the school have been involved in negotiations with each other for about a year, and talks have been unsuccessful. The new contract covers about 1,400 MIT workers, many of whom are recent hires. The union and the school each have more than 6,000 employees.

“Despite these efforts, MIT and the union have been unable to reach an agreement on these and other issues which are separate from the primary subjects of discussion,” Amy Lawrence, vice president of human resources for MIT, said in a statement. “MIT does not foresee any temporary disruption to the delivery of quality service to our visitors and research.”

The current contract is set to expire Aug. 31. MIT has offered employees a 6 percent raise over the next three years.

The workers say the school’s health care policy and education policies do not require individualizing patient care and that a desire for transparency around hazardous workplace and worker safety standards have been missing from its written and oral contract proposals.

“This school, MIT, is a titan in STEM — and they take their Medicare and their insurance and they throw it away,” Ryan Bové, a 19-year-old senior who lives in Cambridge, Mass., told The Boston Globe.

The union said that occupational health standards are not clear and that when supervisors don’t follow them, workers feel their careers and reputations are on the line.

Such work rules can include changes in employee behavior in areas such as public speaking.

The strike continued as President Trump’s administration supports changes to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which focuses on regulation, oversight and enforcement. A proposal, which was released in June by the White House, would require employers to determine hazards in their workplaces and show that they met safety standards before it can be cited for violations.

During its work, the union suggested using technology that could reduce workload.

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