Press Release 4/26/01

For immediate release April 26, 2001

Over two hundred Harvard dining hall workers marched to Massachusetts Hall at approximately 8:45 PM last night in support of a living wage for all workers at Harvard. The rally, led by local President Janice Loucks, was a moving and forceful display of solidarity between the workers of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 26 and the students and others who have staged a sit-in in Massachusetts Hall. It continued almost two hours without stop.

The rally moved into Harvard Square after about an hour of chanting in Harvard Yard. Over three hundred students, workers and community supporters cried "Living wages just can't wait!" at passing cars. Protesters viewed this action as expanding the physical space of the peaceful sit-in, which is entering its ninth day. They renewed calls to the administration to live up to its moral commitment as an institution of higher education and to negotiate with the protestors.

"We are part of the Harvard community and the workers and students are one," said Ed Childs, a Harvard dining hall worker. "It's a real Harvard community; [the students] have identified a real Harvard community. We come for every worker. But it affects our workers daily. A lot of our workers are not getting a living wage. We're going to support the students 100% because they are supporting us. Two hundred fifty workers dedicated themselves to do whatever it takes to struggle for this community."

The approximately forty students and community supporters began a peaceful sit-in nine days ago in Massachusetts Hall, which contains the office of Harvard President Neil Rudenstine. It supports a living wage of $10.25 an hour, exclusive of benefits, for all direct and subcontracted Harvard workers. The City of Cambridge adopted that figure as the living wage for its direct employees and workers on major subcontracts. At least 1500 workers at Harvard make less than the living wage, some as little as $6.50 an hour.

The Living Wage Campaign had met with the administration and held rallies for over two years before beginning the sit-in. The university has "been listening to these guys and there's nothing done about it," said dining hall worker Manny Amaral. Amaral added that workers at Harvard live in homeless shelters as a result of Harvard's wages.

Protesters, workers, faculty and community supporters have been calling for dialogue with the administration and the Harvard Corporation, the University's governing body. The crowd last night hopes the rally will send a message that workers and students are united in their goals. "Workers can't express the difference you will make to workers at Harvard University for a long, long time to come," declared Local 26 President Janice Loucks in the middle of the rally. "We're going to be back time and time and time and time again. Three has to be economic justice for every worker at Harvard University." Loucks also announced that Local 26 will vote on May 2 about authorizing a strike.

The rally was preceded by prayer led by Rev. Tom Clark of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, which has endorsed the Living Wage Campaign. Earlier in the day, Harvard's Black Students Association held a teach-in in front of Massachusetts Hall. BSA members spoke against the disproportionate impact of Harvard's wage policies on people of color. They therefor described the living wage as a matter not only of economics, but also of racial justice.

Where: Massachusetts Hall, Harvard Yard (Mass. Ave. at Church), Cambridge, MA
Contacts: Paul Lekas 617-256-5779, Matthew Feigin 617-867-3028