Harvard Dining Employees Strike

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Connor Edwards's picture

University, Workers Unable to Reach Agreement

Members of the Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) went on strike after the university failed to negotiate a suitable agreement regarding their salary demands. 591 of 609 workers initially voted to strike and threatened to do so for several weeks, demanding a yearly salary of $35,000 for full-time employees. The university has offered a raise from $21.89 to $24.08 an hour, pay over summer break regardless of available shifts, $150 a week to workers employed for 5 to 20 years, and $250 a week to those serving for more than 20 years. The union has rejected this negotiation.

Among the total 750 members of HUDS, 48 percent receive less than what is considered a living wage. Currently, because employment is not full-time, the average HUDS worker receives less than $34,000 annually, which is insufficient to support most multi-person housing in the Boston area. Rather than a sufficient wage from their primary job, workers are instead forced to resort to overtime and additional positions in order to compensate for their scarce income. As of 2015, Harvard’s current endowment is $37.6 billion, making it the wealthiest university in the United States. With this in mind, the employees of HUDS expect more and feel they should not have to work more than 40 hours a week at a secondary job in order to make what they might consider to be a reasonable living.

The union’s goal is a total of 2,087 hours per year with no overtime necessary. This is the most significant labor battle the school has experienced in over a decade, the last protest occurring in 2002. Despite numerous attempts and minor improvements made in the past, an agreement of this magnitude has never been achieved. In a Harvard Magazine article, dated Sept 16, Local 26 President Brian Lang, an avid supporter of the protest, was asked why the workers chose this particular time to strike. In response, he expressed the frustrations of the employees concerning their working conditions, stating that “enough is enough.”

Looking at the impact made on the community by this protest, students and workers alike view it as a means to raise awareness of the struggling lower class and economic inequality, which since recent political movements has been acknowledged as one of the major issues in modern America. Throughout history, it has been proven that the most significant movements begin at a grassroots level. Regardless of opinions or results, this demonstration undoubtedly reflects a growing national conversation that in many aspects deserves recognition, and more importantly action. The audacity of the HUDS staff should be valued and emulated, and however their methods of achieving their goals, we as a community can only hope that they ultimately do so.

Comments

bevmire's picture

Thanks so much for this Connor...it's still going on, but let's hope the workers prevail.