Students Should Think Of Workers' Welfare
I was deeply disturbed to read the comments of students concerning the decision of Harvard Dining Services to lift its union-sponsored boycott on table grapes in the misleadingly-titled Oct. 31 article "Students Object to Serving Grapes." Their basic attitude was along the lines of "I don't know much about this issue, but it certainly can't be as important as my desire to eat grapes." This utter disinterest in the welfare and quality of life of others speaks terribly of the student body.
Students are very busy; not everyone can be expected to devote much of their time fighting these injustices, but the idea that it is acceptable to economically support the perpetrators simply because of our fondness for a particular food is appalling. I do not know enough about the situation to make a genuinely informed decision, but the information presented so far makes it utterly clear that at the very least, more thought should be given before changing the policy. If nothing else, it is not clear what circumstances have changed to warrant this new policy. In a Crimson article of Oct. 28, Mark Grossman, the director of the United Farm Worker's press division and Cesar Chavez's press secretary from 1975-'93, was quoted as saying, "Nothing has changed. Grape workers who have organized under the UFW have been intimidated, physically attacked, and harassed [by] grape growers who refuse to bargain in good faith for union contracts."
Whatever the specifics of this case may be, it is certainly true that labor organizations have already been pushed too far toward the margins of the modern American economic landscape. Businesses have become stronger, larger and more organized and the influence of the worker has dwindled. It has become more and more difficult for members of disadvantaged socioeconomic groups to fight for economic--or political--power. As a result, there has been an increase in the gap between the classes, and we seem to be heading toward a society in which only those who are already privileged have an opportunity to achieve economic success. The disinterest in these issues on the part of Harvard students reflects a tremendous callousness of a comparatively insulated collection of people, and confirms the worst stereotypes about the nature of our student body. Daniel K. Biss '98