City Council Flares Up Over Fired Janitor

University no saint in Saintely Paul’s firing, resolution says

Cambridge’s city council took on so-called corporate injustice at its meeting in City Hall last night.

The council passed a resolution in support of Saintely Paul, a Harvard janitor who was fired in June after his supervisor found him unconscious at work.

Paul claims he had previously told his supervisor about his fainting spells, for which he was seeking medical attention.

Paul addressed the council, recounting his story in his native Haitian Creole through an interpreter.

“My supervisor came in and took a picture of me while I was unconscious,” he said. “The next day when I came in, my boss told me I had no job. I was fired.”

Rebecca D. Rosenberg is a fifth-year psychology graduate student who works in William James Hall, where Paul worked for more than six years.

She read a letter from students, faculty, and staff: “None of us has ever seen Saintely take so much as a short break. We have never seen him sit down, let alone lie down.”

Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, a frequent Harvard critic, was more frank.

“Harvard is a corporation, and unfortunately what they teach in their classrooms is not what they put into practice in their corporate dealings,” she said.

The resolution, which passed unopposed, called on the University to rehire Paul and compensate him for back pay and medical bills incurred while he was unemployed and uninsured.

“We will be expecting a response from Harvard on what we’ve heard tonight,” added Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio.

Harvard News Office Director Joe Wrinn would not comment on the resolution because the case is in arbitration.

The council also made a gesture against global injustice with two resolutions condemning The Dow Chemical Company for an industrial disaster in Bhopal, India in 1984 which killed more than 15,000 people, according to Amnesty International. In a related resolution, the council proclaimed Dec. 3 as “Cambridge Day of Remembrance for Victims of Industrial Disasters and Pollution.”

The resolutions were formulated by the Greater Boston Coalition for Justice in Bhopal, a group of representatives from human rights and India-focused organizations.

One resolution calls for the city’s retirement funds to divest from Dow. The other requested the city manager to assess whether the city uses Dow products.

Kaveri Rajaraman, a third-year student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said Bhopal, where she has relatives, is still severely polluted from the spill of heavier-than-air toxic gas.

“This resolution will be much needed support for the disaster’s survivors,” she said. “They have not been forgotten.”

—Staff writer Virginia A. Fisher can be reached at vafisher@fas.harvard.edu.