Affleck, Damon Speak at Living Wage Rally

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Class of 1992, blasted Harvard for not paying its workers a living wage at a Saturday afternoon rally.

More than 400 people--ranging from labor activists to star-struck movie buffs--jammed the green in front of the Littauer Center to catch a glimpse of the Academy Award-winning actors and demand Harvard pay a minimum hourly wage of $10.25 to all of its employees.

Damon, welcomed as "one of Harvard's favorite sons" as host of Cultural Rhythms in February, said he was embarrassed his former university does not provide higher wages to its workers.

"I'm afraid this is one of those painful moments when it is morally incumbent on the son to turn around and reproach his parents for not living up to their own moral standards," Damon said. "This is the richest university in the world, and the fact that the people who keep this machine running--who feed the students, look out for their safety and clean their bathrooms and hallways--are not given a living wage is demeaning to us all."

Affleck spoke of first-hand experience with Harvard as an employer--both his parents worked at the University--and called Harvard's actions "inexcusable."

"This is not a lark for these people, it is not 'casual work,' it is their life and their livelihood," he said.

The rally--by far the largest on campus this year--also featured Cambridge Mayor Anthony D. Galluccio, City Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, Boston University Professor Emeritus Howard Zinn and a string of students, workers and community activists.

Members of the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM), the organization responsible for the living wage campaign, donned sandwich boards and canvassed the Square and the Yard to attract demonstrators, many of whom wandered over from Arts First events.

Zinn spoke after Damon and Affleck, towards the conclusion of the rally.

"Can I really follow that?" he quipped to the crowd as he took the stage.

In his speech, Zinn called on Harvard to lead its students by example and treat its workers fairly.

"The University teaches more by how it behaves it the world than by what it says in the classroom," he said. "Harvard must teach compassion and caring for other people."

Disc Jockey Daryl Sng, who is also a Crimson executive, provided the soundtrack to the event, warming up the crowd at the start of the rally and during breaks between speakers.

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