Balloons transformed Harvard Yard on May 17, 1988, the day the "servants of the university," as workers were originally called, voted on whether to join the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), an affiliate of AFSCME. "Ballooning" lightened the tension, but Kristine Rondeau, lead union organizer, had a grim warning for her staff: "You did a wonderful job. But we don't have it…It's very likely we didn't win." In fact, by a slim margin, they did have it. One of the most influential universities in the world had been outsmarted by some of its unknown employees, mostly women.
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