May 1, 2001

Parents join chief of AFL-CIO in support of Harvard sit-in

By KAY LAZAR, The Boston Globe

The student sit-in to win a "living wage" for Harvard's blue-collar workers picked up powerful support yesterday, including the president of the nation's largest labor union and parents who vowed to withhold donations until their children's school resolved the issue.

"We will stand with you," AFL-CIO National President John Sweeney told a cheering crowd of about 600 in Harvard Yard, as the standoff entered its 13th day.

Some 40 students took over the building that houses the university president's office, demanding that janitors, kitchen workers and other employees earn at least $ 10.25 per hour - the rate the city of Cambridge deemed a "living wage" for its employees in 1999.

Several parents who attended yesterday's rally said they were proud of their children's takeover and have organized a campaign to get other parents to halt donations to Harvard.

"You raise your children to do the right thing," said Judi Laing, who flew in from Los Angeles to support her son, Ben, a junior who is one of the students staging the sit-in.

Parent Phyllis Holman Weisbard from Wisconsin said she has gone to her son's classes to take notes for him, so he won't fall behind during the sit-in. And several professors have been holding classes outside the occupied building so students inside can participate through the windows.

Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said the university is being "singled out" as a bad guy, and said the school's wages are "at or above the scale" other corporations pay for similar positions.