April 26, 2001

Workers join students at Harvard demonstration


A nightly vigil in Harvard Square in support of Harvard University workers erupted last night into a joyous free-for-all as some 300 dining hall union workers joined the students.

"Suddenly we heard chanting coming from around the side of the building," said junior Roona Ray, 21, an organizer of the vigil. "I knew we were going to have some support from the workers but I underestimated the size of it."

For the past week, students have been lobbying on behalf of more than 1,000 employees they say earn less than the $ 10.25 per hour the city of Cambridge deemed a "living wage" for its employees in a 1999 ordinance.

Last night, supporters lined the sidewalks of Massachusetts Avenue chanting in the middle of the square after the dining hall workers joined the demonstration about 8:40 p.m.

Earlier yesterday, labor leaders joined a growing list of people backing the students' demand for a "living wage" for university employees. At a noon rally in Harvard Yard, the secretary-treasurer of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, which represents 400,000 Bay State workers, called on the university to raise the salaries of its janitors, kitchen workers and other employees.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to support the principle of the protest, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy urged Harvard President Neil Rudenstine to negotiate with some 40 students who have been holed up since last Wednesday in the building that houses the president's office.

Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said a university committee found Harvard wages were at or above industry standards, and the administration believes the best way to help people in low-paying jobs is through free English-as-a-second-language, high school equivalency and computer courses.