Thursday, May 24, 2007
The fight is not won, yet. Let's make sure Harvard and AlliedBarton know that we will not accept an unfair contract. Living wage now! Affordable healthcare now!
Everyone who will be sticking around campus: familiarize yourself with this civil disobedience training - it will come in handy soon!
-Stand for Security Coalition
Thursday, May 17, 2007
They are still in bargaining with AlliedBarton, their direct employer, but have yet to see a wage proposal that adequately reflects that wages they deserve. If security officers are forced to strike to secure a fair and decent contract, we are prepared to stand behind them 100%.
Going on strike is a big risk for security officers and we are disappointed that Harvard and AlliedBarton have allowed the campaign to come to this point. We hope that the involved parties will make progress in negotiations in the upcoming days, and a strike can be avoided. However, we MUST prepare for a strike and we are asking for supporters to donate to the strike fund.
Ways to Support the Strike Fund
- Donate online!
- Securely donate via PBHA
- Please type "SLAM Strike Fund" under Specific Needs to make sure your money goes to the right place.
- Mail/Drop-Off Donations
- Student Labor Action Movement, Phillips Brooks House, Harvard Yard, 02138
- Or just drop off your donation in our mailbox!
- Donation Stations
- Look for notices for Donation Stations in your dining hall! or contact email@example.com and we can pick up your donation if you are in the Harvard-area.
We are also encouraging people to think of creative ways to raise money. You could...
- Donate proceeds from your senior sale
- Have a bake sale in your dining hall
- Donate your senior gift to the strike fund instead
- Send this to your family and friends
- Whatever else you can think of!!
If you are able to contribute, whatever amount, please consider doing so. Officers are risking a lot in this strike and will greatly appreciate your support.
As we prepare to gather for our 50th Reunion, we are saddened to learn that Harvard, once again, has failed the test of accommodation to a demand for social justice.
With the power and wealth Harvard has at its disposal, for the University to dismiss with a fine impartiality the demand of security guards for a living wage, for compensation comparable to Harvard's other service employees, is unconscionable. For the University to claim that it is not a party to the dispute because it involves a Harvard contractor and its employees is, to say the least, disingenuous.
Why do students have to go on a hunger strike to engage the University? Why is it that, on issue after issue, going back for years, Harvard's first response to an appeal for equity is to resist?
We have seen a long-term pattern of failure to protect the civil liberties of students and faculty, cooperation with government witchhunts, discrimination in faculty appointments on political, racial and sexual grounds, and failure to take a strong and moral position against those forces that perpetuate discrimination and injustice. Harvard too often pays lip service to humanistic values but aligns itself in practice with repressive forces.
It is long past time for the University to put its money where its mouth is.
Emile C. Chi
Chester W. Hartman
James N. Perlstein
Michael D. Tanzer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
the fight continues!
RALLY! RALLY! RALLY!
2pm @ Holyoke Ctr
Thurs, May 17th
thousands have signed onto the campaign.
hundreds have come out to our daily rallies.
we've set the stage for a fair & decent contract,
NOW we must continue the pressure until the papers are signed!
people from all across the city will be coming out to show their support for security officers and their impending strike. i know everyone is busy with finals, but we can't let this campaign go just yet. please come out and bring everyone you know!
Monday, May 14, 2007
I would like to express my firm support and admiration for your courageous actions in putting yourselves on the line to support the elementary rights of campus workers at Harvard, and wish you the greatest success in this honorable efforts.
- Noam Chomsky
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007
I am writing to support the Stand for Security Campaign and students who ask: Does not this great university have the fiscal, political, and moral resources to guarantee that the people who protect our students earn a decent wage? Legalistic or bureaucratic answers, evasions of responsibility, have not been (nor will be) convincing because the fundamental question is moral. Such moral questions are not abstract.
In the Jewish tradition, justice and compassion, not to be confused with the concept of justice or the concept of compassion, express our ability to recognize and respond to living people with whom we are connected. What is at stake is our response-ability, with heart and body, to enable the dignity of our fellow members of the Harvard community with whom students interact daily on a face-to-face basis.
Isaiah, a Jewish teacher who lived in the 7th century BCE, cried out to the people of Jerusalem: “You oppress all your workers!” and implored: “Share your bread with the hungry; take the poor into your home, and do not ignore your own kin.”
We at Harvard must take care of our own, of our people who care for the lives of our students.
Bernie Steinberg, Director, Harvard Hillel
Friday, May 11, 2007
Here are the concessions from today's talks, summarized.
1. A letter signed by Marilyn Hausammann, reaffirming the university's commitment to those of our demands that were in line with the Katz Committee's recommendations, pertaining to subcontractors, including
a: Wages and benefits: - not using outsourcing to lower wages and weaken unions.
- employment an contacting practices should reflect humane concern for all employees whether directly employed or not
- being a good employer is defined as providing wages benefits and other conditions of employment neccessary to attract, retain and motivate employees, and compensation levels that contribute to ensuring that workers and their families enjoy at least a minimally decent standard of living
b: Due grievance process and fair treatment
- Workers should be treated with dignity and respect by supervisors, fellow workers and other members of the Harvard community.
- No employees at Harvard should be subject to intimidation, retaliation, or abuse by supervisors or others in authority positions relative to them.
2. In the letter is also a provision regarding an audit of Allied Barton's compliance or non compliance with the Wages and Benefits Parity Policy. At our last meeting we won an expedited audit that will be complete by early next week (we were told Monday or Tuesday though this date is not on the letter; instead they state "the week of May 14").
In this letter coming out of this meeting, they promise to
- make the audit results public
- arrange a meeting with reps from SLAM and other members of the community (they agreed to worker and faculty representation at the meeting) as soon as possible after the audit
- more than one meeting to discuss these issues.
We stated at the meeting that we expect to deal with the specific ways in
which Allied-Barton is non-compliant with the Wages and Benefits Parity
Policy, but also with the ways in which Harvard has implemented the WBPP.
Onward into the next phase of struggle! This struggle is working, but what
we have done so far means nothing if we fizzle out and don't keep up the
pressure until the point in time when it will be most effective ie: when the
negotiations between Allied-Barton and the union come through. If the guards
end up with a bad contract, what we have so far counts for nothing. Its
value is only as groundwork moving towards a better contract.
At the 1 PM rally today, we heard from a couple of members of the guards' bargaining committee who thanked the hunger strikers for everything they'd done and asked them to keep their health in mind. Then Michael read parts of a public statement issued today after the strikers' meeting with Marilyn Hausammann, the University's vice president for human resources. It affirmed Harvard's commitment to a living wage (in sort of ambiguous terms - I believe the phrasing was that the wage should ensure a "minimally decent" standard of living) and stated that Harvard does not intend to use outsourcing as a means for busting unions or lowering wages. The University will publicize the results of its audit of AlliedBarton's compliance with the parity policy sometime next week, probably Monday, and meet with SLAM representatives and other community members shortly after.
As Kaveri, Michael, and a number of others said today, this is certainly a victory but the fight isn't over - Harvard can issue reassuring blanket statements without making any actual commitment to a living wage for security guards. So we have to keep up the pressure, and the union has to keep up the pressure. The fight is not over, and we still need your help.
But it was definitely good to see them eat again.
The Crimson's coverage is here.
Now, the media:
- Hunger strikers Jamila Martin and Benjamin Landau-Beispiel appear on DemocracyNow!;
- Inside Higher Education discusses the Harvard campaign as part of "A Hunger Strike Epidemic?";
- The Springfield News-Leader, Matt Opitz's hometown paper, talks about his health and his mom's support;
- And BostonNOW carries the story of Chuck Turner being, well, turned away from Mass Hall.
That's your news for this morning. Come out at 1 PM!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Video footage courtesy of Aaron Tanaka
Pictures are here:
Boston City Councilman Chuck Turner is barred from entering by HUPD
Boston City Councilman Chuck Turner after being turned away from delivering his letter, signed by eight Boston city councilmembers
Contact: Austin Guest (831-917-6400), Lucy MacKinnon (347-517-1885)
Harvard Stand for Security Coalition
HUNDREDS RALLY FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT DAY IN SUPPORT OF HARVARD SECURITY GUARDS
BOSTON CITY COUNCILMAN CHUCK TURNER SPEAKS IN SUPPORT OF HUNGER STRIKERS’ DEMANDS
Then everyone - by my (amateur) count at least a hundred people - lined up and went to the door of Mass Hall, one by one, to try to get an audience with President Bok. The police turned everyone away, one by one.
Bringing up the rear of that line was the honorable Chuck Turner, a Boston city councillor from Roxbury. He tried to hand-deliver a letter to Bok signed by eight members of the Boston City Council, but the police turned him away, too. In fact, they didn't even let him leave the letter.
I used to think they only let people in suits get into Mass Hall. Then I figured that since I own a suit, they must only let important people in suits get into Mass Hall. Now that Chuck Turner, an important person in a suit bearing a letter signed by seven other important people, has also been turned away, I have no idea who gets in anymore, since Derek Bok doesn't seem to be showing up to work either.
Anyway, RecKlez, the Harvard Klezmer Band, is playing outside the Science Center (or possibly under my window in Thayer?) right now, and I'm going to go out and hear them - drop by if you're reading RIGHT NOW.
Also, today is Union Solidarity Day, so come back out to the yard at 3:30 - double the fun!
US News and World Report's college newspaper blog links the Crimson story on the hunger strike.
And the Crimson covers the vigil at Bok's (unoccupied) house, as well as Javier and Matt.
- TV coverage: Harvard Students Going Hungry For Security Guards - 5/9/2007 - WBZ TV
- Harvard Students Hold Hunger Strike - 5/9/2007 - The Boston Channel (ABC 5)
- Harvard student hospitalized during hunger strike - 5/8/2007 - Boston Globe
- With an endowment of $29.2B, $15 an hour is more than reasonable - 5/9/2007 - Pandagon
- The Labor-Economics Thought of Professor N. Gregory Mankiw - 5/9/2007 - MaxSpeak, You Listen!
- Starving for Social Justice - 5/9/2007 - Josh Patashnik '07 on Campus Progress
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
After meeting with the other hunger strikers and security guards, they have told me that our struggle has received substantial attention. People are recognizing that the Harvard administration has not cooperated with us; they have not upheld the principles of truth which they claim to value. Given my medical condition, the recent victories that we have managed to achieve, and the broad support that we have been able to mobilize, I have decided to end my fast.
Still, the struggle continues. We, the coalition of workers and students, will not stop until security guards at Harvard earn a living wage and the Harvard administration acknowledges its responsibility to ensure that its workers are treated with dignity. The other fasters feel the hunger strike has been effective and they will continue to fast until they sense this issue can transition to the next phase. The struggle continues and the actions will escalate.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Austin Guest (831-917-6400), Lucy MacKinnon (347-517-1885)
Harvard Stand for Security Coalition
SECOND HARVARD HUNGER STRIKER TEMPORARILY HOSPITALIZED AS CASTRO ENDS FAST
Inter-Faith Community Leaders Bless Fasters as Hundreds March
Harvard claims neutrality in contract negotiations. Seven days without food and I’m not as coherent as I could be, but it is still painfully clear to me that Harvard University, in choosing to outsource campus workers, retained its responsibility and moral obligation to use contracted companies that treat their workers with respect and dignity, and ensure that such contracted companies pay Harvard workers decent wages. Harvard’s claims to neutrality do not negate this responsibility.
I will continue to hunger strike until Harvard accepts its responsibility for campus security guards and commits to their demands. There have been criticisms of this hunger strike as an insincere publicity stunt. People have questioned out commitment to this cause because because we have stated that we are not willing to starve ourselves to death. People have also questioned the hunger strike as a tactic, claiming that strikers are going to starve themselves to death. Am I willing to die for this campaign? No, I am not. Decidedly not. I am not willing to die for this campaign because I am not willing to loose this campaign. Does anyone know how long it takes a healthy person to starve to death? I don’t, but I do know that people fighting for causes all over the world have starved themselves for 60 to 90 days without dying. Now, if I starve myself for 90 days and Harvard University has still not accepted its responsibility to campus workers, then I have failed. And I am not willing to fail. I am not willing to fail myself and I am not willing to fail the workers who do not have the privilege of making their suffering visible and tangible to the students and administrators who have the privilege of ignoring such suffering every day. I am not willing to fail the security guards who do not have the privilege of making their suffering visceral, but who suffer nonetheless.
As a student fighting for justice for campus workers, I want to be effective, not dead. I have committed to using my body as a vessel to illustrate the suffering of campus security guards, and to strengthen their voices and demands. It has been seven days for me and 15 years for campus guards. We are still hungry for justice.
I will remain hungry until Harvard University ensures these workers a decent standard of living. I recognize my power and responsibility as a Harvard student and I am using my body to pressure this, the wealthiest and most prestigious university in the world, to stop gambling with the lives and bodies of its workers. My body is a wildcard and with it I’m telling Harvard University that all familiar bets are off. Workers and students will not stop until we win this for Harvard employees. I don't have to die to make my voice of solidarity heard on this campus... as a student here I have more power than that.
I encourage people at actually stop and talk to their security guards. Ask them if they have asked Harvard to recognize their rights. Ask them if that have fought and struggled for their rights. Ask them if Harvard University has listened, or cared. This hunger strike is about forcing Harvard to listen and to care and not only that, but to take its responsibility seriously. That the administration waited until a student was hospitalized before making an effort to listen to our demands is ridiculous and inexcusable. I want a Harvard that is more committed and more accountable to this community - to workers and students - that the current Harvard administration has proved itself to be. That is why I’m striking in solidarity with Harvard security guards, because we can only achieve this if we work together.
"Today, May 9, My husband Daniel and myself will be fasting in support of the students who are on a hunger strike at Harvard. Our daughter Jennifer (Claire) Provost is one of the 11 students participating in this strike, and she has brought to our attention the situation of security guard wages at Harvard. As Jenn's parents we stand in solidarity with the security officers who are also parents and have to struggle to provide for their children. We fast today in support of the students and the workers and hope that the situation will be quickly resolved.
Sincerely, Ruth Provost"
This is not the type of thing my parents normally do, and I am really proud of them, and all of our friends and family members that are coming out and showing their support for the campaign.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Javier is on Day 6 of the hunger strike. Although he has received saline through an IV, he has refused food and as of right now is continuing with the hunger strike.
We will visit him this afternoon after the rally. Our health coordinator is on her way right now to check up on him.
PLEASE, Come out and show your support today!
STAND FOR SECURITY! DON'T STAND FOR INJUSTICE!
1pm. Harvard Yard. Everyday.
HOWEVER, the SLAM hunger strike in support of security has actually GAINED TWO STRIKERS since it began on May 3.
One, Harvard undergraduate Claire Provost, made the following statement:
"My name is Claire. I stopped eating Saturday night. This [May 8] is Day 3 of my hunger strike. I have been involved in the Stand for Security campaign since September. I was sick last week and couldn't join the strike until the weekend. I am striking for the security officers I know, but also for the security officers I don't know. I am striking for the children of the officers I've met, for their families I've heard of, and for the friends and family members I do not know. I will not eat, until we all eat."
The other additional striker, Fabian Martinez of New Jersey, is not a Harvard affiliate, but recognizes the importance of the cause. Fabian began his strike on May 5 and is entering his 4th day of hunger today, May 8.
In short, we have 10 student strikers who have been striking for 6 days, 1 student for three days, and 1 unaffiliated for four - making 11 Harvard student strikers and 12 HUNGER STRIKERS IN TOTAL.
President Bok: 617-495-1502
Director Bill Murphy: 617-496-9193
AlliedBarton Security: 610-239-1100
Marilyn Hausammann: 617-495-8635
Making phone calls together is more fun! Look for us outside Science Center at noon, outside Lamont at 3pm, and in Annenberg during dinner (we'll fill up their voice mail).
Here are two sample scripts. Sample script #1:
Hello. My name is ______ and I am a student at _______. I am calling to express my support for Harvard security officers as they bargain for a better contract. They are members of the Harvard community and they should be rewarded fairly for the hard work they do. Security officers deserve wages as high as any other service workers on campus, safe and sanitary working conditions, full-time employment, fair procedures, and the right to organize! I am appalled that a university that purports to hold so much wisdom could be so ignorant of the basic needs and rights of people. It's time to stop denying your responsibility and start standing for security!Sample script #2:
Hello. My name is ______ and I am a student at _______. I am calling to express my outrage regarding your lack of commitment to workers rights on campus. I would also like to express my concern for the students who are on their 6th day of their hunger strike. I am appalled at the university's lack of concerns for the health of your workers and students. I urge you to support our security officers and ensure that they receive a fair contract with AlliedBarton that includes: Wage parity, fair procedures, the right to organize, and steady full time work. Thank you for your time and have a great day.
Benjamin Landau-Beispiel was born in 1988 and grew up in Philadelphia. He became politically active in the anti-war movement during the lead-up to the current war in Iraq. In high school, he organized with the Philadelphia Student Union, a youth-led organization that focuses on issues of education reform. Working with this organization made him believe that young people have a crucial role to play in building a movement to create a more just and rational world. He has been a member of the Student Labor Action Movement since he began his first year at Harvard in September.
My name isJosé Olivarez. I'm a freshman at Harvard from the south suburbs of Chicago. I plan on studying social studies or sociology while at college. My career plan is to become a writer of all trades, a teacher, an emcee, and to continue my efforts as an activist.
Matthew Opitz: I am a first-year student at Harvard College. I am 19 years old. Before coming to Harvard, I spent my entire life in Springfield, MO. I came to Harvard hoping to experience a type of city life rich in unique perspectives and cultural energy, to push the boundaries of my thought and experience, and to prepare myself for a career as possibly a teacher or professor of history and/or other areas of the social sciences. I do look forward, though, to spending time again during this upcoming summer with my mom, dad, two older brothers, older sister, friends, and my wonderful dog named Majesty.
My name is Jamila Martin and I am a senior Social Studies dropout. I am from JP, right in between Green St. and Stonybrook Stations. I love dogs and food. I spend a lot of my time right now thinking about what delicious things I will eat when this is all over. I am grateful to Harvard for the education I got here that it didn't know it was giving me. And I am really thankful for the support my roommates and parents have given me through this hunger strike. That's me on the right in the picture.
My name is Alyssa Aguilera, I'm 21 years old, and from San Antonio, TX. I have been involved in labor organizing at Harvard for the past three years and am incredibly happy about the outpouring of support this campaign has seen in recent weeks. People say you stop feeling hungry after day 3, that is a lie. Much love to my family that undoubtedly googles me daily and will find this bio, and to my friends that have been supportive throughout this campaign. VIVA LA RAZA!
Kelly Lee: I am a 21 year-old senior at Harvard University studying African American Studies with a focus in critical race theory and labor. I am a intercollegiate transfer student and spent 2 years studying at Simmons College in Boston before coming to Harvard. I grew up on the skirttails of rural Oregon in a little city called Springfield (yes, the Springfield where the Simpsons are based). My experiences growing up in a working-poor household in a blue-collar town have greatly influenced my motivations in becoming active in this campaign. It is painfully clear to me that working people deserve respect and dignity at work. They deserve a decent wage with which they can provide for their families, pay their rent, pay for medical expenses, send their children to school, to art lessons, to dance lessons, to summer camp... I grew up in a household where my parents worked harder than I ever imagined possible, but still couldn't afford these things. It is ridiculous that at one of the richest institutions in the world security guards work HARD and still don't have a decent standard of living. Harvard needs to stop playing games with workers' lives and take its responsibility seriously... and I'm not eating until it does.
Kaveri Rajaraman is a third year graduate student in neuroscience at Harvard. She is an activist for peace, labor justice, women's rights, immigrant rights and queer&trans rights. She also does South Asian community organizing as well as organizing against imperialism, racism and feudalism.
My name is Kyle A. Krahel and I was raised in Oceanside, CA, just north of San Diego. I am the oldest of six kids and the son of a stay-at-home mom and a working class dad. I was raised conservative and Republican. As I grew older and started reading the news more and learning more about the world, I started questioning the dogma I was raised on. The lead-up to the Iraq War crystallized my political views and put me squarely in the left. My time at Harvard has been spent in a lot of political communities, especially the Harvard College Democrats. I have been involved in-and-out in SLAM since freshmen year. I went to rallies and protests last semester for security guards and have talked a lot with my House security guard in Adams. I am fighting in this campaign for the security guards who play such an important part in my community here at Harvard.
On the 5th day of our hunger strike, more than 250 people came out to the rally today. Our biggest crowd yet! A big thanks to all those who took the time to show your support and please come back every day at 1pm in Harvard Yard.
Also, on Tuesday we will be holding call-ins to President Boks's office at the following locations...
- Outside the Science Center @ noon
- Outside Lamont @ 3pm
- During dinner in Annenberg
or call from wherever you are, 617-495-1502.
Monday, May 7, 2007
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Hunger Strike at Harvard
Elite students fast for the watchmen
by Franziska Badenschier, Cambridge
[translated by Alexandra Bush of SLAM]
They provide for security on the “Nobel-Campus”, but they are refused financial security: at the richest university in the world, the security staff receive only a starvation wage. Now Harvard students are protesting for them – with a hunger strike.
The “last meal” was anything but a heavenly repast: there were soggy bagels with egg salad, bean burritos and turkey sandwiches for the eleven Harvard students before they began the hunger strike. In the coming days they will get only water, tea, and juice. “We’ll eat nothing until the university’s leadership listens to us,” says Michael, a student of politics.
[PHOTO CAPTION: HARVARD REBELS: STARVING AGAINST STARVATION WAGES]
“Mister President, Mr. Bok, feed your workers, feed your students,” the students call as Derek Bok walks by the group; Bok is the interim president until Harvard’s first female president takes office in June. He remains silent and walks on – day one of the hunger strike.
Michael, Kyle, Matthew and co. want to get by without food for at least nine days. But the hunger strike could last even longer. The food-refusers want to keep going to their classes as long as possible. A doctor has given them the “okay”.
An equal earnings level – under the living wage
A week ago, members of the student campaign “Stand for Security” already went one day without eating, in order to advocate for Harvard’s security guards. “Ask me why I’m fasting” was written on a t-shirt printed for this day of protest. Other students held up empty paper plates or signs with the inscription “Security begins with justice”.
Acccording to the students’ statements, the security guards earn $12.67/hr – not even ten Euros. “That’s not enough to survive in Boston,” says Javier, who is protesting alongside his fellow students. Even so, Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the United States – if not the most expensive. In a letter to Derek Bok, the students demanded that the university guarantee five standards in all labor contracts: fair wages, secure full-time jobs, a safe and clean workplace, due process, and the right to organize.
But this is not so simple: the security officers are not directly employed by the university, but rather by AlliedBarton, one of the largest security personnel firms in the USA. According to Lary Rubin, the firm’s spokesperson, they are currently in negotiations with the recently established security officers’ union. There, it’s about the “whole package” with wages and benefits, such as health insurance, says Rubin. About 250 security guards are affected, all of whom provide for safety on Harvard’s property.
The University doesn’t consider itself responsible
“The negotiations are AlliedBarton’s business, not Harvard’s,” university spokesperson Jim Wrinn told SPIEGEL ONLINE. But at the same time, the university has a contract with the security firm and likes to refer to its Wage Parity Policy: people who work for the university, but are not directly employed by the university, are supposed to earn just as much as direct university employees.
According to Wrinn, in this case the policy concerns guards at Harvard-run museums. According to his own statement, Wrinn does not know how much the security officers from AlliedBarton earn, nor whether the company is fulfilling this obligation.
A few years ago, a union of internal Harvard security officers negotiated an hourly wage of $13-$14 per hour, says Austin Guest of “Stand for Security.” But he says even they didn’t get paid – with the veiled threat that it could be cheaper with AlliedBarton.
But with all of this, Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world. In spite of that fact, at the turn of the millenium everything that could be outsourced, was. Some custodial staff, dining hall workers, and other personnel didn’t even get $10 an hour.
“They should be working, not talking”
Already in 2001, these problems caused dozens of Harvard students to occupy the main administrative building and set up tents on campus. With their “Living Wage” campaign, the students (whom many otherwise like to malign as elite, snooty upstarts) put proper pressure on their university and received significant support from the ranks of unions and politicians. After three weeks the university made concessions and the students pulled back. It quickly became an example, as Stanford students also rebelled against social injustices at their own university.
Now Harvard students are fighting for their protectors, 12,000 [sic] people have already signed the petition. “We’re the first people in the buildings. As long as our jobs aren’t secure, we can’t effectively protect the university,” says a security officer as cited in the daily publication “Boston now”. He demands – like his colleagues and the participating students – higher wages and job security. Since the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton eight years ago and since 9/11, the situation on campus is tense. The massacre at Virginia Tech two weeks ago isn’t making the situation any better.
But the security officers at Harvard aren’t permitted to speak about the shooting, in which gunman Cho Seung Hui shot 32 people, seriously wounded many more and finally killed himself. “They should be working, not talking,” is the curt justification of the AlliedBarton spokesperson.
For more than five years, I have protected the greater Harvard University community as an AlliedBarton security officer. The most fulfilling part is the relationship I have with the students and watching them grow into the world’s future leaders.
At first, I felt pride and excitement about working at one of the most prominent and prestigious universities in the world, but now that my family is barely surviving on near-poverty wages, my feelings have changed.
After working 80 hours a week to afford an apartment in Billerica, I made the difficult decision to move my wife and three children to a Cambridge public housing complex. It is hard for me, a proud man, to live in public housing, but at least I have more time to spend with my family because the rent is subsidized.
I am actively involved in the union with my fellow officers at Harvard because I want to have an active voice in creating a better life for my family.
MORE TESTIMONIALS HERE
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Dear Derek Bok,
When my parents first
found out about my acceptance
to Harvard, neither of them
My mom told me
to stop screaming,
she had had a long day
at work cleaning up
after folks like
you and me.
I told her
I had gotten into Harvard,
and she looked at me
with the same blank face
she gives my brothers
when they ask for a new pair
of shoes we can't afford.
She asked me what it meant
to get into Harvard,
and I said, "Ma, it means
we don't ever gotta worry about
being hungry again."
my mom didn't want
to let me come to Harvard.
She didn't care about the world class
education you were offering,
or the career opportunities
you could promise me.
All she wanted was for me
to stay home so she knew
I was being taken care of.
It took me a month to convince her
that Harvard would take care of me.
Now, at the end of my freshman year,
I can't complain.
Your police department was there
to rush me to the hospital
when my pancreas burst
dripping bad decisions. Twice.
And I haven't been hungry
I know it may seem like
this is self inflicted hunger,
but back when i used to ask my mom
she couldn't afford to buy
for all of my brothers
she would say:
None of us eat unless we all eat.
We are a community
and if one of us is hungry
we are all hungry.
I hope you take care of me
as well as I promised my mom
See more photos.
In light of recent campus debate, we decided to hold an open, community meeting yesterday afternoon where anyone who had questions/concerns/complaints about our tactics could come and talk to us directly. It was a mix of new faces, old faces, and security officers. One of the questions raised was whether or not the security officers support our hunger strike and the officers in attendance vehemently voiced their support. They reiterated the same statement they have been saying, "When we speak they don't listen, but when the students speak that is when they listen."
At 9pm, we had our daily vigil, this time organized by the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA). A group gathered at Hillel and walked and sang in the streets towards Memorial Church. A substantial amount of students, workers, and Hillel staff were there to share a bit about the campaign and hunger strike, but also to sing and dance together and bring day 2 of the strike to a close. I think the PJA vigil was one of the best and most fun events we've had so far and I really thank everyone who came out and a bigger thanks to those that organized it. We will have pictures to share soon.
On to day 3...
Friday, May 4, 2007
Why We Are Hunger Striking
We anticipate that not everyone – not even everyone who supports our demands – will immediately support our hunger strike. We do not wish to overshadow the salience of our claims with controversy over our methods. This hunger strike is meant to unify, not divide; it is meant to improve, not vilify. We need allies, not enemies. In that spirit, we offer the following explanation for our actions.
We expect that this hunger strike will seem abrupt to some students and faculty. For guards, however, this strike is about fifteen years too late.
Harvard has been outsourcing security officers since 1992, lowering wages and denying responsibility. In 1998, students began to call this policy into question by beginning the Living Wage Campaign. In 2001, that campaign came to a head with the 21-day occupation of Massachusetts Hall. In 2001, the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies (HCECP), commissioned in the wake of the Living Wage Campaign, wrote the following:
“Harvard should not use outsourcing to undermine its obligations to be a good employer and to bargain in good faith with its unionized employees…Outsourcing should not be used to lower wages and weaken the unions representing Harvard’s employees.”
Harvard codified these prescriptions in its Wage and Benefits Parity Policy, specifically created to ensure that outsourcing was not being used to lower wages. In 2005, security guards began the struggle to join a union, to ensure that the goals of the Living Wage Campaign and of the Parity Policy could be implemented and enforced. In 2006, the guards won that union and – for the first time in fifteen years – were able to bargain for their own terms of employment.
The Living Wage Campaign forced the question, "Why does the richest university in the world pay poverty wages?" And Harvard answered by accepting its clear responsibility and agreeing to guarantee decent wages and conditions for all workers on this campus - directly hired and outsourced. The University would intervene in the negotiations of all the contractors on this campus and require minimum wage and benefits standards.
Now, Harvard is denying the responsibility it accepted five years ago because of a fight that began ten years ago in response to a problem that started fifteen years ago. We have been meeting with administrators for a year about this issue. We have sent letters, compiled facts and testimonials, gathered petitions and endorsements, held vigils and rallies.
In fifteen years, in ten years, in five years, even in one year, we believe that there is ample time for the Harvard administration to have dealt adequately and ethically with this situation. Instead, they have chosen to ignore and even exacerbate it.
We expect that this hunger strike will seem extreme or unreasonable to some students and faculty. For guards, however, the situation has been extreme for many years now.
We think that a guard being forced to choose between paying his rent and paying for his heart medication is extreme. We think that a guard spending four hours a day commuting rather than with his children because he cannot afford to live closer without moving into public project housing is extreme. We think that the richest university in the world pinching pennies from people who can least afford it is extreme.
Further, we find it unreasonable that members of the Harvard administration who do not subsist on the kinds of wages that security officers earn would presume to know better than they about what a just wage or fair working conditions might be. We find it unreasonable that members of the Harvard administration would claim that the university is not complicit in the practices of the labor contractor that it chooses to hire, and is not responsible for the conditions under which security officers protecting Harvard’s campus are forced to work.
We expect that this hunger strike will seem coercive and disruptive to some students and faculty. Ideally, we would engage with the university administration in a multi-stakeholder approach to campus decision-making that incorporates administrators, faculty, students, workers and other community members. Unfortunately, no such process exists. The only voices on this campus with the right to be heard are those of the President and the Corporation.
The choice that we face is not between, on the one hand, engaging in productive negotiations with the administration and, on the other hand, employing forceful tactics. The former is not an option. Instead, the choice is between, on the one hand, standing by silently as 250 of our friends and protectors are abused in our name, and, on the other hand, standing up loudly to take responsibility for creating a more just Harvard. We do not consider the former an option.
Now, when op-eds have failed, when meetings have failed, when petitions have failed, when rallies and marches have failed, now it is we who are coerced. And, given the choice of the administration to deny us the right to participate in the shaping of our own community, we have chosen the least disruptive or unnecessarily harmful means of “standing up loudly” possible.
We expect that this hunger strike will seem unrelated to our goals to some students and faculty. Through this hunger strike, we hope to physically manifest the severity of the treatment received by security officers. We hope to display on our bodies a pale representation of the pain experienced by a parent who cannot adequately provide for her children. We hope to bring this experience into the sight and into the minds of those here at Harvard who perpetrate and benefit from it. By publicly leveraging our own bodies and lives to make ignoring them impossible, we hope to awaken people to the daily ignorance of the private leveraging of the bodies and lives of officers.
We hope to express the humanity of security officers through our own human suffering. In doing so, we hope to expose the inhumanity of the disregard that we have shown for their suffering for so many years.