Press Release 5/3

Contact: Liz Vladeck, 646-361-1606,
Alex Laskey, 917-769-6760,


May 3, 2001

Thirty-five Harvard alumni staged a timed teach-in at the Harvard Club of New York at 5:40 PM in support of a living wage for all workers at Harvard, while dozens of supporters lined the street outside. The group occupied the lobby of the Harvard Club, where six alumni sat down and read a statement and the other participants lined the room, engaging Club members in dialogue. "We chose the club for the site of this action in order to engage our fellow graduates in this effort; to show that no part of the extended Harvard family is untouched by this campaign" said Dorothee Benz, Harvard class of '87.

"We are here today as part of the larger Harvard community to add our voices to the growing outrage over Harvard's refusal to treat its workers with dignity and fairness" said Katha Pollitt, Harvard class of '71 and a columnist at The Nation magazine.

Forty-six Harvard students began occupying Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of President Neil Rudenstine, on April 18. The students are sitting-in for a living wage for all workers at Harvard. At least 1500 direct, casual and subcontracted workers make less than $10.25 an hour, some as little as $7 an hour. The campaign, which began over two and a half years ago, has gained in the last two weeks broad national and local support from thousands of students, faculty members, unions and workers, public figures, scholars, journalists and others.

Over two years ago the City of Cambridge committed to pay all municipal workers a minimum living wage of $10.25 an hour. "That Harvard has refused to make a similar commitment - despite being the largest employer in Cambridge, and the wealthiest university in the world - is shameful," said Dan Hennefeld, Harvard class of '99. Hennefeld continued: "though the Harvard administration has shown some signs of movement, they have yet to propose a transparent, accountable process for improving wages and benefits."

The group that occupied the Harvard club today ranged from graduates from the last few years who participated in the early stages of the Living Wage campaign, to older alumni, and included parents of students in Massachusetts Hall. A woman whose son has been inside Mass Hall since April 18, said "my son is getting an education that Harvard never expected to provide: he's learning how to stand up for justice. Actually," she added wryly, "I guess he's learned how to sit."