Press Release 4/21/01

For immediate release April 21, 2001


The Living Wage Campaign drew endorsements Friday from Senator Edward Kennedy, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and Harvard custodial workers. Forty-six students and community supporters have been conducting a peaceful sit-in since Wednesday in support of a living wage of $10.25 per hour plus benefits for all workers at Harvard. Forty-two protesters remain inside Massachusetts Hall after four students exited yesterday to begin building a "tent city" in Harvard Yard.

Senator Kennedy, a 1956 graduate of Harvard, explained that a living wage is an issue not only for workers themselves but also for their families. He stressed the importance of living wages both at Harvard and nationally. Senator Kennedy compared the Living Wage Campaign to the push to establish Earth Day, which began with few people and is now recognized worldwide. After greeting and shaking hands with janitorial workers from SEIU Local 254, Senator Kennedy shook hands with protesters through the windows of Massachusetts Hall. Police prevented Senator Kennedy from entering the building.

Senator Kennedy, speaking to protestors through a window of the building, vowed to call President Neil Rudenstine of Harvard and ask him to settle with the protestors. They have called upon the University to negotiate, but Harvard has so far refused.

The Kennedy endorsement came after a strong day of community and worker support. Earlier in the morning top officials from the AFL-CIO expressed their support for the Living Wage Campaign. The Campaign is expecting a phone call from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney this evening.

At noon, four of the forty-six protesters exited the building to build a tent city in Harvard Yard. These four students and dozens of supporters spent the night in Harvard Yard, effectively broadening the territory of the sit-in.

Later in the afternoon, the newly appointed trustees of SEIU Local 254-which represents most janitorial workers at Harvard-held a meeting outside of Massachusetts Hall as a symbol of solidarity with those inside. In a moving display of worker-student harmony, workers and students marched and chanted in Spanish, "Si se puede!," meaning "It can happen!" Workers talked about their lives at Harvard, one telling the University, "We are workers but you treat us like garbage."

Where: Massachusetts Hall, Harvard Yard (Mass. Ave. at Church), Cambridge, MA
Contacts: Paul Lekas 617-256-5779, Emilou Maclean 617-596-8146
Video and still photos of Senator Kennedy’s appearance are available on request.