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Sitting-In at Harvard
On May 8 at 4:00 PM an exultant group of 35 Harvard students marched out of Massachusetts Hall, the building they had occupied since April 18, claiming partial victory in their campaign to get the university to pay campus workers a minimum living wage of $10.25 plus benefits. The sit-in was the culmination of a campaign initiated two and a half years ago by members of the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM), which sought to extend to Harvard University workers the benefits of the City of Cambridge Living Wage ordinance, passed by the Cambridge City Council in 1999. This ordinance establishes a wage standard for all city employees and for workers employed by mayor city contracts. In March 1999, the Campaign received an added boost when, recognizing that Harvard University is the city's largest and richest employer, the Cambridge City Council passed a resolution strongly urging Harvard to raise wages.
Conditions for campus workers, however, have not improved in the last two years, and are “worse even than they were just six months ago,” according to PSLM members Ben McKean and Amy Offner. In the Crimson of April 16, they claim that by “out-sourcing jobs to firms that pay poverty-level wages and benefits, Harvard administrators consciously caused conditions to deteriorate.” Consuelo Tizón, an emerging leader of SEIU Local 254, which represents custodians and janitors, outlined the reason for those worsening conditions. “Half the janitorial services have been sold to UNICCO [a private company], as part of the cost-cutting out-sourcing,” she said, “[but] our salaries have been frozen for the last seven years.”
A flier put out at the beginning of the sit-in clearly outlines this situation. “Directly-hired janitors are paid as little as $7.50 per hour, and some subcontracted dining hall workers earn only $6.50 per hour. Hundreds of employees are forced to work two and even three jobs and still struggle to support themselves and their families. There are Harvard janitors who regularly eat in soup kitchens and sleep in shelters.”
It is important to note that the agreement conceded by the university, and mediated by AFL-CIO lawyers because the Adminis- tration refused to negotiate with the students, came up short from the stated goal of obtaining minimum living wages for all campus workers. It was nevertheless perceived as a victory for the students because it places a six-month moratorium on the outsourcing of jobs; immediately considers health benefits for low-wage workers; and renegotiates the contract of 650 janitors making retroactive any agreement to May 1.
The agreement establishes the formation of a committee to “discuss, debate, and make recommendations” regarding issues of wages at the university. This is something President Rudenstine considered “too time consuming” before the sit-in. This committee led by economics professor Lawrence Katz, includes ten handpicked faculty members, two undergraduate and two graduate students to be selected by the student body, two senior administrators, and three union employees. The union employees represent the custodians and janitors of SEIU Local 254, the dining service workers of HERE Local 26, and the clerical workers of HUCTW. Although the recommendations of the committee are non-binding, the students feel that the inclusion of workers is a decisive step forward and one that could not have been reached without the sit-in.
From the beginning students understood the significance of workers' inclusions in negotiations. Paul Lekas, a law student working with the PSLM and the Workers Center, clearly articulated the issue a week before the Administration consented to negotiate. “What's at the heart of the issue is that during the last 10 years Harvard has been increasingly out- sourcing. That allows the university to cut benefits and wages, and to depersonalize the labor they are using and commodify people even more. If before workers couldn't get to the table, now there is no table in sight, they are in the next room and can't get out.”
The Living Wage Campaign started in the fall of 1998 with PSLM students interviewing the workers with whom they came into daily contact and some union members. Their aim was to disseminate this information and educate the larger university community about the plight of campus workers, many of whom are forced to work as many as 80 hours per week, just to make ends meet. In February 1999, after Harvard President Neil Rudenstine refused to meet with students to discuss the implementation of a living wage at Harvard, the Campaign held its first rally. Over 200 students, faculty, campus workers, and union representatives marched to Massachusetts Hall to set up a meeting with President Ruden- stine, but were turned away. The students were undeterred and organized a series of rallies and demonstrations. In March 1999, 400 people participated in a Rally for Justice, organized jointly with Harvard Students Against Sweatshops and the Harvard Coalition Against Sexual Violence. In April 1999 students joined Harvard Security, Parking, and Museum Guards to highlight the plight of the guards, who had worked four years without a contract and had filed a complaint against Harvard with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
President Rudenstine's response to all these activities was to appoint a faculty task force to study the issue. The Ad Hoc Committee on Employment Policies, as the faculty committee was called, worked over a year evaluating Harvard's wage criteria and released its report in May 2000, rejecting the implementation of a living wage, but recommending the expansion of the benefits package, which the Administration promised to implement. While the Ad Hoc Committee was conducting its study the university was practically forcing the security guards to accept a buy-out package in the closing of contract negotiations, and using its power to keep a living wage out of its contract with SEIU 254. As a result all but 25 guards accepted the package and left. Although many were re-hired through a non-union subcontractor to do the same job for less pay, hundreds of janitors still earn wages below living standards and none of the part-time janitors receive health benefits.
President Rudenstine refused to meet with students to address the issue of living wages at Harvard and only agreed to a meeting in November 2000, after Campaign members discovered that even the meager benefits the university had granted were not being implemented. At the meeting Ruden- stine argued that his handpicked committee represented the entire Harvard community and that the Living Wage issue was dead. This was a slap in the face to the 115 faculty who endorsed the Campaign, the 100 alumni who pledged never to give money to Harvard until a living wage was implemented, and the hundreds of workers and students who had rallied for the Campaign. To make matters worse, the university continued its relentless attack on workers' wages.
In February 2001 the Harvard Business School reclassified dining workers in order to reduce their wages but kept their duties constant. The same month the medical school announced that it was outsourcing the jobs of 112 custodians. In response the PSLM targeted the Harvard Corporation, the highest power at the university and in March organized a series of demonstrations in New York city in front of their offices to demand a meeting to discuss living wages at Harvard, which corporation members refused to do. Meetings at Harvard with Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Polly Price, proved less than satisfactory. She falsely claimed that it would be illegal to establish a board composed of faculty, students, workers, union representatives, and administrators to oversee implementation of the Ad Hoc Committee recommendations, as the PSLM students suggested.
Meetings with President Ruden- stine in April proved similarly unproductive. He defended the actions of his Administration, although a year after the Ad Hoc Committee released its recommendations they were still to be implemented, and he refused to initiate any further research into a living wage policy alleging it would be “too time consuming.” This latter refusal seemed even more onerous when the university had just announced that its endowment had reached an all time high of $19 billion, the largest endowment of any university in the world, according to the May 4 issue of Lingua Franca. Students, in turn, had calculated that it would take $6 million to pay 2,000 workers $10.25, the same amount that, as reported by the Harvard Magazine, the university paid Jonathon Jacobson, one of its equity managers.
When the Ad Hoc Committee on Employment Policies released its report in May 2000, opposing any wage increases, the Harvard administration considered that the issue was settled. On April 18 Harvard flak Joe Wrinn told the Boston Globe, “We will not be adopting a living wage. We believe the decision has been made.”
On April 18, 50 students stormed Massachusetts Hall carrying food, water, and laptop computers. After securing the bathrooms, students linked arms to block the police and handed a letter to police officers announcing that they would be occupying the offices indefinitely. The Yale Daily characterized the sit-in as “The culmination of three years of frustrating efforts to encourage the university to pay all its workers a fair wage.” Aaron Bartley, a law student occupying the building declared to the Boston Globe on April 19, “This is anything but a rash move. Our only recourse left has been civil disobedience.”
In a statement issued by the Campaign, students outlined the reasons for the sit-in: “We are sitting in because we have exhausted every other strategy when dialogue with the Administration has failed. We are sitting in because administrators have not only failed to improve wages and benefits, but have aggressively worked to slash them as support for a living wage policy has grown. Finally, we are sitting in because poverty on our campus is brutal and cannot wait any longer for remedy. [Those] of us who are forced to be complicit in [this] exploitation, cannot wait for the remote possibility that administrators will decide to reopen what they have called a ‘closed issue.' The human and social costs of Harvard's policies are immense, and require remedy now.”
This bold action earned the 50 students sitting-in the support of their classmates, who pitched about 50 tents in Harvard Yard and encamped in solidarity with them, held daily rallies at noon and candlelight vigils at night, and marched from their houses or schools to Massachusetts Hall. The Tent City was key to mobilizing support because, according to PSLM organizer Roona Ray, “[The Tent City] provides communication with the campus community, keeps up the morale of the people inside and distribute tasks to our many volunteers.”
Many faculty members expressed support for the students, 250 signed a public statement of support published in the Boston Globe, and some conducted lectures in front of Mass Hall. Thirteen House Masters wrote a letter of support and the AFL-CIO and the Cambridge City Council endorsed the campaign. Parents' support for the students became a feature of the May 1 issue of the Boston Herald. In that article parent Judi Laing explained, “You raise your children to do the right thing.” Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy visited the students on April 24. According to the Cambridge Chronicle, Cambridge Mayor Anthony Gallucio and Councilors Decker and Ken Reeves attended a candlelight vigil in Harvard Yard.
The campaign also received letters of support from the Massachusetts Democratic Party, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Jesse Jackson, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, NAACP chair Julian Bond, and Rage Against the Machine.
More importantly, the courageous action of the students inspired campus workers, in particular the janitors of SEIU Local 254 and HERE Local 26, to confront their fear of administrative intimidation and come out in support of the students. Many campus workers went to Massachusetts Hall to talk to the students. Dining hall workers brought them food, as did many people from the community. Some brought them clean union T-shirts to wear, hundreds rallied in solidarity, and the Local 26 president proposed making students honorary union members.
On April 26, a rally of 2,000 workers and students, who marched from Central Square to Harvard Square bringing news of the occupation to the surrounding community, energized the participants and established the potential of the campaign. On May 1, the National President of the AFL- CIO John Sweeney, addressed a crowd of 600 announcing, “We will stand with you.” On May 2, a group of 200 HERE Local 26 workers marched to Harvard Yard—after taking a strike authorization vote—to join the students in a candlelight vigil. After a solidarity speech by union president Janice Loux, over 300 workers and students marched out of the university to hold a rally in Harvard Square. On May 3, workers and students rallied at the Medical School to demand a living wage and, on May 4, a larger group marched to Harvard's Labor Relations office. The Campaign had gathered enough momentum for the editors of The American Prospect to proclaim, “Real leadership has finally emerged on the left,” and conclude, “No wonder the whole country is watching.”
On May 8, after the university accepted an agreement mediated by AFL-CIO lawyers, the students marched out of Massachusetts Hall to receive the warm cheers of friends and supporters. The crowd enthusiastically cheered speeches by PSLM member Ben McKean, HERE Local 26 shop steward Ed Chields, and SEIU spokesperson David Mejia. A Northeastern University student was also invited to speak about the month-long occupation of the John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute, which that university was planning to tear down.
The majority of students working in the Living Wage Campaign, particularly undergraduates, are members of the Progressive Student Labor Movement, a group that has been active for the last four years and is affiliated with the Phillips Brook House, a community service clearinghouse that is part of Harvard University. Many students are also members of the Workers Center, a relatively new organization that is part of the Labor Law Project, a 10-year-old entity based at the Harvard Law School. While the Workers Center has only been around for the last year and began organizing campus workers just a couple of months before the sit-in, the PSLM has been involved in a series of campaigns including Anti-Sweatshop organizing to pressure the university to join the Workers Right Consortium. Economics student Arin Dube traced inspiration for the campaign to the work of students at the University of Virginia and at John Hopkins University who organized similar Living Wage Campaigns. “At the University of Virginia students successfully negotiated the acceptance of a living wage for campus workers, while the campaign at John Hopkins more closely resembles what we have done here. At Hopkins 17 students occupied one of the administration buildings.” He thought that at Harvard, unlike what happened at Hopkins, there had been a larger participation of undergraduates and much more support from the campus community.
In addition, some students have benefited from their participation in Union Summer; a program sponsored by the AFL-CIO designed to train university students in organizing. Joe Power, the spokesperson for the carpenters' union Local 40, underscored this connection in his speech celebrating the students victory on May 8 when he said, “Those of you who participated in Union Summer, you sure learned something.”
Before the sit-in the students had set in place a type of organization, which was expanded once the sit-in began. As the organization grew it became more diffuse, but overall it maintained a non-hierarchical approach. Before the sit-in, meetings were coordinated by a moderator, whose job it was to develop the agenda. The moderator sent the agenda around, via email, for people to comment and add topics to be discussed at the meeting. At the meetings the moderator posted the agenda on the wall and people raised their hands and asked questions, which everybody tried to answer. This structure was maintained during the sit-in, but included an outside team and an inside team. The outside team organized rallies, press support, and contact with the faculty. There were point people for each group to streamline the work, which led to the formation of a very fluid organization, one that shunned the idea of “a leader.” Since almost every school, from the Kennedy School, to the Law School, and the Divinity School had set up parallel organizations, all speaking as the Living Wage Campaign, there were times when there wasn't even a comprehensive roster of activities.
Overall, students are aware of the significance of their actions, not only locally but also at the national level. PSLM member Emilou MacLean explained her excitement about the sit-in in terms of its role as part of a larger movement. “The campaign has helped mobilize other campuses and has built alliances with groups of students and faculty on other campuses who are interested in buildings campaigns similar to ours.” Almost as if to prove her right, on May 7 University of Connecticut students occupied the president's office in Gully Hall to demand that the university pay janitors the prevailing wage set by the Connecticut General Assembly. This action was part of a protracted struggle launched as part of the SEIU Justice for Janitors Campaign, which, according to the students' press release, has been quite successful in Hartford and Stamford.
Harvard workers are represented by 11 separate unions, which negotiate contracts with the university at different times. SEIU Local 254 is the union representing janitors and custodians, and until the time of the students' sit-in was notoriously corrupt. According to Arin Dube, one of the students working with the Workers Center, “the union not only tolerated low wages, but also encouraged the breaking up of full time jobs into part time positions as a way to increase the number of dues paying members. Some janitors had not seen a shop steward on the main campus in ten years. We were trying to organize an unorganized union membership.” That changed when criminal charges were brought against the leadership and the local was placed under the trusteeship of the international union. Now the local must elect new leadership as it gets ready to negotiate a new contract with the university in July. SEIU member Consuelo Tizón was grateful that the students' actions had brought attention to the plight of the janitor but also acknowledged the hard road ahead. She felt that the union had to gear itself up for contract negotiations to demand higher wages and benefits lost in the last seven years. “We have 400 members but people are still too hesitant to get involved,” she said, explaining that past union corruption and acquiescence had sapped workers' militancy and built cynicism among her co-workers.
That hesitancy began to break during the sit-in. On May 3, 50 out of 80 custodians who worked at the Medical School and 50 students held a rally in front of the school administrative office, demanding in Haitian Creole, Spanish, and English a living wage and the elimination of subcontracting. They attempted to bring their demand to the Dean of the Medical School but were turned away by campus police. The following day, a large group of custodians from the main campus and from the Medical School marched to Holyoke Center in Harvard Square, where the university has its Labor Relations office, demanding a meeting with the administrators. One of the touted successes of the sit-in has been to force the Administration to re-negotiate its contract with the union one year ahead of schedule and to make the new agreement retroactive to the mid-point of the contract currently in effect.
The road back to trade union militancy, however, can be very long and hard, as Ed Child, a shop steward for HERE Local 26, which represents dining workers, can attest. A large part of the problem is that non-union subcontractors like Sodexho-Marriot employ many food service workers. In an interview with Lingua Franca Child acknowledged that “over the last ten years the university has attacked us with outsourcing. Even when we were able to win outsourced workers back into the union, we weren't able to win them back at the pay scale we had.”
The students' sit-in inspired these workers to fight the Harvard administration with renewed vigor and, on May 2, they met at the First Unitarian Church, across from the occupied buildings, for a strike authorization vote. An energized group of 200 workers and sympathizers unanimously authorized a strike as an option during the upcoming contract negotiations. Then union president Janice Loux urged workers to support the students occupying Mass Hall and drew cheers when she proposed making students honorary members of Local 26. After the meeting the entire group crossed the street to join the students holding a vigil in front of Mass Hall.
On May 17 Local 26 workers ratified a five-year contract with the university, which Local President Janice Loux called “a great victory for the workers.” A statement by the Living Wage Campaign indicates that the contract “produces substantive gains for low wage workers on this campus.” The agreement raises the wages of the lowest paid workers, and limits the hiring of casual employment to 10 percent. The pay raises, however, are not indexed to the cost of living and at least eight dining service workers will be making less than $10.25. The statement expressed disappointment that Harvard failed to extend a living wage to all workers, and Ben McKean, a member of the PSLM commented in a May 18 Associated Press article that “the university's refusal to pay eight workers a living wage is anything but stubborn pride.” This attitude of not giving the workers anything that “other universities could interpret as a victory for confrontational bargaining” has a long tradition at Harvard. This view was most clearly articulated by Assistant General Council for Labor Relations Edward Powers in 1983 in the context of demands by the same Local 26 union for higher wages.
Members of the largest union on campus, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), overwhelmingly supported the sit-in; many rank and file HUCTW members joined the students during daily noon rallies and wore buttons supporting the campaign to their offices. This union won certification in 1988 after a bitter fight with Harvard University that AFSCME President Gerald McEntee described as the “most violently anti-union campaign” he had ever seen. Even after the university lost the NLRB- supervised union election it tried to stall the certification by alleging “unfair electioneering,” and since then has continued to try to undermine union strength. Since then, according to How Harvard Rules, “the administration has created a large number of administrative and management positions in order to decrease the number of potential union members.” In spite of this, “even some administrators expressed sympathy for the students,” according to rank and file HUCTW member Ahmed Jebari. All through the students' sit-in, however, the union maintained a discrete silence, and on May 1, at the height of the students' occupation, it signed a three-year contract with the university, which Harvard President Rudenstine described as “an excellent agreement.” Pressured by the membership the union passed a vote of support for the students during their meeting to ratify the contract.
But according to Jebari, “There are very undemocratic trends in the union. We're supposed to have mass meetings and a newsletter, but that hasn't happened. There's a small group pushing for a more democratic union, but the university has been attempting to isolate them.” This union will have a representative on the committee created as a result of the students' sit-in, now know as the Katz Committee.
The Faculty Committee
One of the positive developments of the sit-in has been the support that Harvard faculty has given to the campaign; amply demonstrated by the ubiquitous presence of faculty at students' rallies. Several instructors held classes in front of Massachusetts Hall for the benefit of students sitting in as well as for those involved in daily vigils. The LA Times of May 3 illustrated faculty support for the campaign quoting senior Jane Martin, one of the students inside Mass Hall, indicating that “her professors have told her she can take incompletes and make her exams up later if she misses finals.” Similarly, Ben McKean, one of the undergraduates occupying Massachusetts Hall, mentioned that his review tutor had come by to bring him review notes, and that he could conceivably finish the semester.
More importantly, at the initiative of Women's Studies Department chair Juliet Schor and Kennedy School of Government professor Marshall Ganz, a group of faculty formed the Faculty Committee for the Living Wage. This committee then drafted a letter in support of the Living Wage Campaign and quickly gathered close to 400 signatures, which included the high profile names of Lani Guinier, Lawrence Tribe, and Cornel West. This letter stated, “If Harvard employees are not adequately compensated for making Harvard run as smoothly as it does, then the Harvard community as a whole should assume responsibility for correcting the situation.” While support for the campaign among faculty is hardly unanimous, several departments discussed endorsing the campaign, and according to Lingua Franca, the social anthropology wing of the anthropology department passed a resolution supporting the Living Wage Campaign.
The Harvard Corporation
Ultimately, the demands that students are raising explicitly challenge the way decisions are made at the university. “At the beginning of the occupation we were much more concerned with the issue of wages,” said PSLM student Matt Vogel. “As the occupation went on we began to think about the larger issue of power and the way power in the university is concentrated in very few hands.” Those few people who hold power at the university are all members of the Harvard Corporation.
The seven members of the Harvard Corporation, a self-electing and self-perpetuating corporate group that also selects the president of the university, secretly make all the important decisions at the university. The Presidents and Fellows, as the corporation is also known, can, and in practice have delegated much of its power, but at its own discretion. The power of the corporation is somewhat shielded from public scrutiny by the presence of the Board of Overseers, a body entrusted with overseeing the activities of the corporation, but that mostly rubber stamps decisions. In the words of former judge and Overseer George Leighton: “The Board of Overseers does not advise on policy. What it does is consent.”
The current members of the Harvard Corporation are the multi-billionaire directors of the largest corporations in America. James Houghton is the director of Exxon-Mobile, Chase J.P. Morgan, and MetLife. Robert Stone is the director of Coral Energy, Tejas Energy, and Kirby Corporation; the first two are large natural gas companies, while Kirby Corp. is a huge energy pipeline. He is also director of ABB Co., a company that engineers power plants worldwide and has $6 billion annual revenue.
Stone, who is married to a Rockefeller, became particularly notorious during the 1988-89 Pittston mining strike. Stone was in the governing board of Pittston that slashed the health benefits of workers vulnerable to black lung. Herbert Winokur, Jr. is director of Enron, a natural gas conglomerate and according to Fortune, the 17th largest American corporation. He is also the director of the WMF group, a real state investment company, and DynCorp, a $1.4 billion company ostensibly benefiting from government largesse. The fortune of the WMF group has been associated to the assets forfeiture and penalties resulting from the War on Drugs in neighborhoods subsidized by HUD. The enormous capital gains experienced by the Harvard endowment in 1997, the largest since 1986, is also linked to the operation and sale of WMF. On the other hand, DynCorp plays a more prominent role abroad.
According to Catherine Austin's The Money Lords of Harvard, “DynCorp has a $600 million government contract to provide support to the War on Drugs in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. As the military of these three Andean countries push people off the land, as part of the War on Drugs, a process of real state accumulation by private investors takes place.” According to a recent article in the New York Times (May 18, 2001) DynCorp is “the largest of the [U.S.] companies operating in Colombia [employing] 100 Americans, 100 Colombians and third- country nationals, according to the State Department.” This article explains that “as the drug war intensified in the 1990s [the US hired] pilots, radar operators, former Army Special Forces trainers and other former military personnel to carry out important missions.”
The other members of the Harvard Corporation are somewhat less prominent. Ronald Daniels is the chair of WRC media, which owns Newsweek and the Weekly Reader, but he is also the director of the Brooking Institute and Rockefeller University. Conrad Harper is the first African American head of the NYC Bar Association, and Hanna Gray is a former Morgan Director. More importantly however, is that, with the exception of Stone, they are all members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), as is incoming Harvard president Lawrence Summers. The CFR is the most influential think-tank in the U.S., guiding imperialist expansion abroad and the building of consensus at home.
According to Ferdinand Lund- berg's The Rockefeller Syndrome, “Members of the CFR have a closer and more specific connection with foreign relations. For it is, largely, their properties, branches, and affiliations abroad that are guarded by the State Department and the army, navy, and air force.”
Looking Backwards, Looking Forward
The Living Wage Campaign at Harvard must be seen in the context of renewed college activism. All through April and early May Northeastern University students occupied the African American Institute to prevent the university from tearing down the building, while at Penn State University a week-long students' sit-in forced the university to grant more opportunities for African American students and faculty. Living Wage campaigns, according to Lingua Franca, have become a hot issue on campuses, reflecting “a newfound emphasis on labor issues.” It reports that currently “there are living wage campaigns on 16 campuses.”
On April 18, the same day Harvard students began their sit-in, part-time professors at Emerson College voted overwhelmingly to form a labor union. According to the Boston Globe, “the vote represents the first success in a year long campaign to unionize all of the Boston area's private colleges.” The same month Temple University's graduate students joined the American Federation of Teachers, graduate students at Michigan State formed a union, and graduate students at Penn State initiated an unionization drive. They were all following the lead of graduate teaching and research assistants at NYU, who last October, joined the UAW. The unionization of graduate students will continue, since according to the May 15 New York Times, “graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and Brandeis have began unionization drives.” The unionization of graduate assistants could be significant in the Boston area, where there are more than 8,000 working at private universities, with Harvard and MIT topping the list with more than 2,000 and 3,000 graduate assistants working at each institution.
Meanwhile, PSLM students have vowed to continue the struggle for social justice to guarantee that every worker on campus gets paid a living wage. Already, janitors are getting ready to negotiate a new contract a year ahead of schedule, agreed as part of the negotiations that ended the students' sit-in. Immediately after the sit-in Harvard supervisors initiated a campaign of harassment against outspoken SEIU members Con- suelo Tizón and Wilson St. Clair, a Latina and a Haitian worker. Workers and students are now demanding an immediate end to this harassment. The new campaigns should get the support of the Workers Center, which, as a result of the publicity surrounding the Living Wage Campaign, received contributions of more than $10,000.
By now, it is no secret that education is a big business. Beyond that, however, the struggle over living wages at Harvard exposed the undemocratic nature of the Administration, which uses its decision making power to promote its political and economical interests, at their expense of campus workers, faculty and students. “For 21 days,” as PSLM student Ben McKean proclaimed on May 8, “The people who thought they could run this place without regard for students, for workers, for faculty, for alumni and for the Cambridge-area community—those people didn't have a clue. For 21 days it was not business as usual in the halls of power.”
It is now up to the Harvard community and its allies to expand the struggle for social justice at the university and to wrench the decision making attributes from the hands of the Harvard Corporation. Optimistically, it makes sense to remember that the sit-in at Harvard demonstrates the potential for a worker-student alliance, an alliance that can greatly contribute to the struggle to democratize the university and larger society. Z
Carlos Suárez-Boulangger is a political activist and writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1976 he was a member of Harvard dining service workers union HERE Local 26.