Approximately 120 students, union members, and Cantabrigians gathered Friday to rally in support of a Harvard janitor allegedly fired from his job in late June after his manager found him unconscious at work.
The protest, co-sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615 and the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), took place in front of the Holyoke Center, where Harvard’s Labor and Employee Relations Office is located.
Organizers hoped to pressure Harvard to rehire the worker, Saintely Paul, with back pay and coverage of the medical expenses he has incurred during his unemployment.
“We really just want Harvard to take responsibility for what it’s done,” SEIU Local 615 organizer Courtney Snegroff said.
According to Paul and Snegroff, Paul had been feeling unwell prior to his fainting at work on June 27, and had notified his manager of his condition.
Paul went to visit a doctor on June 23 and is still under medical care because the cause of his fainting has not yet been determined.
Attempts over the weekend to reach Harvard Labor and Employee Relations Director William Murphy and Custodial Manager Jason Luke ’94 were unsuccessful.
“We are currently engaged in a mutually agreed upon arbitration process in this case and further discussion would not be appropriate at this point,” wrote Rebecca Rollins, the associate director of the Harvard News Office, in an e-mail.
Professor of Psychology Marc D. Hauser said that he wrote a letter of support for Paul to the building manager of William James Hall.
“My comments spoke to Mr. Paul’s graciousness and his exceptionally good work on my floor,” Hauser wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson.
“I can’t speak to what happened, only to my dealings with him which were absolutely perfect.”
At the time of his alleged firing, Paul had worked for Harvard for six and a half years without incident.
Paul, a married Dorchester resident with five adult children and two grandchidren, says he needs his job “to take care of my family.”
“I have a lot of bills to pay,”
Friday’s rally included chants of “Si, se puede!” signs featuring “Justice for Janitors,” and addresses by Paul and rally supporters.
“How many of you are sick of coming to Harvard to speak about Harvard not doing the right thing?” Cambridge City Councillor Marjorie C. Decker asked the crowd.
Decker added that the City Council will take up Paul’s complaint with Harvard at today’s council meeting.
Following the protest in front of the Holyoke Center, participants walked over to Mass. Hall. The rally concluded in front of William James Hall, where Paul used to work.
SEIU’s Snegroff was hopeful that Harvard would re-hire Paul.
“We’ve definitely had our disagreements,” Snegroff said of Harvard and the SEIU, “but we’ve always been able to work them out.”
In addition to Friday’s rally, SLAM and the SEIU have organized a letter-writing campaign to Murphy and Interim University President Derek C. Bok.
—Staff writer Brittney L. Moraski can be reached at email@example.com.