Dining Service Workers Defeat Mighty Harvard
by Stephen Lendman
A previous article discussed strike action by Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) workers, their only walkout ever during an academic year.
I explained my special interest in their struggle. In my junior and senior years, as a member of Harvard’s class of 1956, I worked part-time in my Lowell House dining hall – one of various jobs I had, including summers throughout four years of college, to earn money for tuition, room, board and other expenses.
In one of my other jobs before finishing graduate school, I was a card-carrying union member. I stand in solidarity with all working men, women and youths at home and abroad.
Mighty Harvard is long on endowment super-wealth, exceeding $37 billion at yearend 2015 – short on fairness to its workers.
It took three weeks of marches, pickets, civil disobedience, dogged determination, and support from hundreds of students, likely missing classes, standing in solidarity for equity and justice to triumph.
On Thursday morning, HUDS employees returned to work, students no longer scrambling for where to eat – though it may take a few days for things to return to normal.
An October 27 UNITE HERE LOCAL 26 press release announced the good news as follows, saying:
“Early in the morning of October 25th, the Harvard University dining hall workers reached a tentative agreement with the university administration.”
“The victory came after the dining service workers struck for twenty-one days. Workers picketed, marched, rallied and took arrests in acts of civil disobedience. The strike came to a close after a massive student walk out and an 8 hour sit-in of the human resources building.”
“On Wednesday, workers overwhelmingly voted yes on the collective bargaining agreement, and their final demands have been met.”
“Workers will not be forced to bear the burden of increased health care costs. They will maintain high quality, affordable health insurance.”
“All workers willing to work full time will be guaranteed $35,000 per year. This includes guaranteed income during the summer months when many workers are without work and do not have access to unemployment.”
“(W)e achieved every goal without exception,” Local 26 president Brian Long said. “It’s a testament to when working-class people make a decision to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Enough is enough, and we’re not gonna take it anymore.’ “
The five-year contract includes creation of a Diversity and Equality Committee to “address concerns regarding diversity and equal treatment of Harvard dining hall employees,” along with retroactive 2.5% wage increases and other benefits – including reimbursing HUDS workers for medical, insurance and transportation costs incurred during weeks of strike action.
Worker rights in America eroded significantly since passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, letting them bargain collectively on a level playing field with management for the first time in US history.
No longer. Employers are greatly empowered at their expense, a deplorable situation exacerbated by neoliberal harshness – force-fed austerity replacing fairness.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
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