Students Fast for Guards

Around two dozen student activists began a day-long fast yesterday morning in an attempt to sway the contract negotiations of Harvard’s security guards with their employer AlliedBarton. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

The day was marked with a protest in front of Massachusetts Hall in which members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), joined by members of Black Mens Forum (BMF) and other undergraduates, attempted to hand deliver a letter to Interim President Derek C. Bok.

SLAM’s letter urged Bok to intervene on behalf of Harvard’s security guards, labelling the situation a “human rights crisis.” The letter demanded that the University guarantee five standards in the worker’s contracts­: fair wages, steady full-time work, a safe and sanitary workplace, fair procedures, and the right to organize.

“We’re asking for Harvard to come out in support of our demands and to make sure security guards get a fair contract,” said Alyssa M. Aguilera ’08-’09, one of the protest’s organizers, who is also a Crimson editorial editor.

The security guards and AlliedBarton are currently undergoing contract negotiations after the employees were allowed to unionize in November of last year.

AlliedBarton is an independent contractor, and the University has maintained that it has no role in the contract negotiations.

Harvard University spokesman Joe Wrinn said last night that the University believed in the “fair and equitable treatment of workers,” but added that “we believe it’s a matter between AlliedBarton and their employees.”

AlliedBarton’s spokesman, Larry Rubin, said in a statement yesterday that the company is “in a relatively early stage of negotiating with the union, but we are pleased with the progress we have made so far.”

He added that “we are confident and hopeful that we will reach a conclusion that is mutually satisfactory.”

Harvard Law School security guard Najeeb Hussein thanked the students for their support, before presenting them with a bouquet of flowers.

Many students at yesterday’s protest also had cloth patches pinned to their shirts displaying the question, “Ask me why I’m fasting.” Another student held a large sign that read, “Security Starts With Justice.” Other students held empty paper plates as a symbol of their actions.

Nworah B. Ayogu ’10, the political action chair for the BMF, said that he was hopeful that the protest and fast would persuade Harvard to influence AlliedBarton in rewriting its contracts to make them more respectful of the “basic rights any workers deserve.”

Despite yesterday’s protest and fast, SLAM members vowed to continue their lobbying efforts.

“We might need to put more pressure on the administration before we get a response,” said Jessica G. Ranucci ’10.

CORRECTION: The April 27 news article "Students Fast for Guards" misstated the number of students who held a day-long fast to sway contract negotiations for Harvard's security guards. While the article said that about two dozen students participated in the fast, that figure actually referred to the number of students protesting outside the office of University President Derek C. Bok. In fact, a total of about 75 students participated in the fast on Thursday, according to an organizer, Jessica G. Ranucci '10.