Press Release 5/3

For immediate release May 3, 2001
HARVARD DINING HALL WORKERS AUTHORIZE STRIKE, RALLY FOR LIVING WAGES, EXPRESS SOLIDARITY WITH OTHER UNIONS AND WITH SIT-IN

Harvard workers tightened their bonds of solidarity with students today as dining hall workers pledges to support the ongoing peaceful sit-in in Massachusetts Hall and demanded living wages not only for themselves, but also for other workers at Harvard.

The workers, members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 26, had just voted unanimously to authorize their negotiating team to call a strike if they do not reach agreement with the university in the current round of contract negotiations. In what local President Janice Loux termed a vote for "economic justice," the local had just voted to demand a living wage for all its members in the course of contract negotiations.

Furthermore, HERE 26 pledged to support other Harvard unions in seeking renegotiation of their contracts to provide all their workers a living wage. The Cambridge living wage, which the city government guarantees to all its own workers, is $10.25 an hour plus health benefits. (The Boston Globe, in its lead editorial yesterday, suggested that Harvard reopen its maintenance workersÕ contract and grant them a living wage as part of a negotiated end to the sit-in.) All the unions representing Harvard workers have endorsed a living wage for all direct and subcontracted Harvard employees.

The union also pledged support for the students and community members sitting in in Massachusetts Hall in support of living wages for all workers at Harvard. HERE 26 vowed to treat attacks on the protestors like attacks on its own members during a strike. In particular, the union called on Harvard not to expel or otherwise academically sanction the protestors. The highly unusual move made the protestors in effect honorary members of the union. "They are part of our struggle," explained shop steward Ed Childs.

Over two hundred dining hall workers then extended their rally to Harvard Yard to salute. "The students in this hall are responsible for setting an example for students across the country," said Loux. The peaceful sit-in there is now in its sixteenth day.

The Progressive Student Labor Movement, which is sponsoring the sit-in, welcomed the dining hall workersÕ action as further proof that the living wage movement has united workers with faculty, students, and community members. PSLM pointed to a demonstration scheduled for 9:30 this morning by custodial workers at the Medical school as further evidence of workersÕ support for the living wage campaign.

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