May 1, 2001

Labor Chief Buoys Protestors - Sweeny, Yancey Back Harvard Sit-In

By MAC DANIEL, The Boston Globe

CAMBRIDGE - AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and Boston City Council President Charles Yancey of Dorchester pledged their support to a student sit-in at Harvard University demanding higher wages for campus workers.

"There is no reason for this wealthy institution to pass along to its workers the burden of poverty," Sweeney told the raucous crowd, estimated at about 1,000.

But the rally came amid signs of waning support for the "living wage" issue and the occupation of Massachusetts Hall. And it came five days before the start of the university's reading period, leading to final exams on May 14.

Yesterday afternoon, Lynne Lyman ended 13 days of bathing in a 15-inch sink to study for finals.

"It's strange to be out here," said Lyman, 28, a Los Angeles native and student president at the Kennedy School of Government, who said she'd still protest with others outside.

A recent Harvard Crimson poll of 372 students showed a 16 percentage point decline in campus support over the "living wage" issue from a poll conducted in January 2000. The number of protesters inside the administration building since the sit-in began has dwindled from 50 to 30, according to protester Aaron Bartley, 25, a third-year law student who was among those inside.

The occupation of Massachusetts Hall is part of a three-year effort by students to force Harvard to pay its custodians, cooks, and laborers $10.25 an hour - the same minimum wage paid by the city of Cambridge.