Union Demands More Jobs
About 50 janitors, students and organizers march through Yard
“There’s over $19 billion in this pot of gold, and I want to keep it all for Harvard,” the leprechaun, played by union organizer Geoff P. Carens, shouted satirically in reference to the University’s endowment.
About 50 protesters marched from the Science Center to Holyoke Center, where three representatives submitted 100 applications for full-time jobs to the Office of Labor and Employee Relations.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615 organizer Aaron Bartley, one of the three people submitting the applications, said that hiring more full-time employees would alleviate the long commutes and abnormal hours faced by workers who currently hold two or three part-time jobs at once.
“From the standpoint of our membership, it’s a high priority to normalize...daily routines,” Bartley said.
From Holyoke Center, the protesters proceeded to 1280 Mass. Ave., where they accused the University of renting space from a building cleaned by underpaid janitors.
Bartley said that the building—which houses Harvard University Library offices—is cleaned by Commercial Cleaning, whose workers make as little as $8 an hour, as opposed to the $12.50 that Harvard’s unionized janitors earn.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday, protesters carried a banner reading, “Commercial Cleaning: You Can Keep Your Pot O’ Gold, Just Give Us Enough To Eat.”
Bartley said yesterday that Harvard contractors are not meeting their obligation to ensure that 60 percent of custodial jobs are full-time positions.
Martinez, a UNICCO janitor who works at the Harvard Business School, said that he works 37-and-a-half hours each week, but needs to reach the 40-hour mark in order to save for the future.
“I always have enough to pay the rent,” said Martinez, speaking in Spanish. “But for the bank—nothing.”
Merry Touborg, director of communications in the University’s Office of Human Resources, said that Harvard has abided by the terms of a 2002 contract with SEIU.
“The contract language is that we will work towards the 60 percent goal through the use of attrition,” Touborg said. “But as we continue to say and as they well know, there has been very little turnover in the ranks of the custodians over the past year.”
“In some cases...we have a peculiar set of hours that need to be covered,” she added.
Bartley said, however, that some of the part-time positions have been added at the expense of full-time positions.
“Within the last month they’ve hired part-time workers on regular part-time shifts that are contiguous with current workers’ shifts,” he said.
Bartley said that the University should have instead combined the two shifts so a janitor could work for eight hours without traveling between different jobs.
Four uniformed Harvard University Police Department officers stood in front of the entrance to 1280 Mass. Ave., and another four were in the street and on the sidewalk, as protesters shook pebble-filled water bottles and drummed on water jugs.
“Yes justice, no peace,” they shouted in Spanish. “Businesses, listen, we are in the midst of the struggle.”
—Staff writer Joshua D. Gottlieb can be reached at email@example.com.