Update 4/20/01 PMFor immediate release April 20, 2001 8:00 PM
Senator Edward Kennedy made an unexpected stop by Harvard to endorse the Living Wage Campaign on Friday afternoon in front of approximately one hundred supporters outside of Massachusetts Hall. Forty-six students and community supporters began the peaceful sit-in on Wednesday in support of a $10.25 per hour living wage plus benefits for all workers at Harvard. It is the first sit-in at a Harvard building in over a decade.
Senator Kennedy stressed the importance of a living wage, both at Harvard and as a national movement. He noted that a living wage is an issue not only about workers themselves but about workers and their families. 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 compared the Living Wage Campaign to the push to establish Earth Day. He noted that Earth Day began with far few people, and is now recognized worldwide. Leaning out a window, student Ari Weisbard asked Senator Kennedy at the conclusion of his remarks if he would call President Neil Rudenstine and ask Harvard to give Harvard workers a living wage. "I promise I’ll call him. Absolutely." responded Senator Kennedy.
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 will spend the night in Harvard Yard, effectively broadening the territory of the sit-in. The University refuses to negotiate with the Campaign, and members hope this move will encourage discussion.
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. The meeting also included worker testimonies about their experiences working at Harvard.
There will be a candlelight vigil at Massachusetts Hall tonight at 9 PM. Tomorrow at 1 PM there will be a rally in Harvard Yard to show solidarity with the Free Trade Area of the Americas protesters in Quebec City.
Where: Massachusetts Hall, Harvard Yard (Mass. Ave. at Church), Cambridge, MA
Contacts (photo & video available): Paul Lekas 256-5779, Emilou Maclean 596-8146
Information: www.livingwagenow.com www.hcs.harvard.edu/~pslm/livingwage