Two Hundred Rally For Living Wage
About 200 students braved chilly winds and near-freezing temperatures yesterday to rally for a living wage in the Yard and at Holyoke Center.
The rally, sponsored by the Living Wage Campaign of the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM), included speeches by Fletcher University Professor Cornel R. West '74 and Cambridge Vice Mayor Anthony D. Galluccio, a flag-raising ceremony at University Hall and an a cappella performance by union workers.
Protesters demanded the University pay its workers an hourly wage of at least $10.
"We need to reaffirm the dignity of all Harvard employees," West said. "When that dignity is not affirmed, there is something wrong with Harvard."
The Living Wage Campaign staged yesterday's rally after a month of labor activism. The rally was the third in three weeks for PSLM.
The event came one day after Champion Products, the University's largest licensed manufacturer, agreed to disclose the locations of all factories producing Harvard apparel. It occurred on the same day that custodial union Local 254 voted on a contract that included substantial wage increases.
"We definitely have momentum," said PSLM member Benjamin L. McKean '02. "Days like [Monday] show that we are having an effect."
Yesterday's rally began at noon at the Science Center, where master of ceremonies Roona Ray '02, a member of PSLM, briefed demonstrators about the Living Wage Campaign and led chants and cheers.
The protesters marched to University Hall and hoisted a white flag emblazoned "$10" in red over the statue of John Harvard.
West then urged the crowd to follow in the "great tradition" of advocacy at Harvard.
"We need to teach men and women, brothers and sisters of all colors, that it is possible to pass through this place still holding onto their integrity and sense of justice," he said.
After West spoke, the Pipettes--representatives of the a cappella division of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers--sang an original song entitled "McHarvard," with the refrain, "You deserve a break today."
The demonstrators then marched through the Yard and onto the sidewalk opposite Holyoke Center. The crowd then crossed Mass. Ave. single-file, stopping traffic for several minutes.
A series of speakers next addressed the crowd at Holyoke Center, including Galluccio, State Rep. Alice K. Wolf (D-Cambridge) and Lecturer on Women's Studies Juliet B. Schor.
Galluccio said the University should follow the lead of the Cambridge City Council, which passed a $10 living wage for city employees in the spring.
"If Harvard wants to be a social partner and not just an institutional presence, it should step up to the plate and send a message that they are as concerned as we are," he said.
Galluccio said it was outrageous that the students had to gather in November to demonstrate for a cause they had first championed last spring. He said the University should have agreed to pay a living wage when the issue originally surfaced last March.
Wolf praised the crowd for showing their support despite the cold weather.
"If we have to come here in the middle of the winter and the snow is high, then we'll be here," she said.
After Wolf spoke, a contingent of 50 protesters entered Holyoke Center to visit the seventh-floor office of Kim A. Roberts, Harvard's director of labor and employee relations.
Roberts refused to meet with the demonstrators--the door to her office was blocked by Harvard University Police Department officers--so the students chanted and marched inside the corridor for about 10 minutes.
"I'm always amused at the lengths that administrators will go to to avoid talking to students," McKean said.
While some students demonstrated on the seventh floor, Schor addressed the crowd still assembled outside.
Schor said implementing a living wage is one way to close the growing socioeconomic gap in America.
"The living wage is a wedge for a new economic movement for justice in our country," she said.
"We believe in a different economic principle [from Harvard]," she added, "one operating for the benefit of the majority of people."
After the rally, Schor said she was pleased with the student turnout. She said student activism does impact the administration.
"I think that the administration notices what students are doing, and there has been a lot of progress because of the living wage movement," she added.
West said he was confident that the University would agree to implement a living wage.
"The administration is going to come through," he said. "I think that [Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine] is deeply concerned about this issue."
Yesterday's rally took place as part of a national day of action by student labor groups. Activists held events at more than 20 colleges across the country.