Hunger Strikers End Nine-Day Fast

Security guards call for end to strike after protesters meet with Mass. Hall officials

The nine students staging a hunger strike in protest of the wages paid to Harvard’s security guards ended their nine-day fast on Friday afternoon.

Protesters met with top Mass. Hall administrators Friday morning. After that meeting, security guards asked students to end the strike, according to a statement from the group sponsoring the protests, Stand for Security Coalition.

The statement added that the University agreed to honor “two key student demands” at the Friday meeting.

The students demanded that the University issue a statement affirming its commitment to its workers, and asked for the formation of an independent committee of workers, students, faculty, and administrators to provide a short-term assessment of AlliedBarton's wages and benefits on campus, according to hunger striker J. Claire Provost ’07.

The University announced earlier this week that it had asked for an expedited audit of AlliedBarton , the subcontractor that employs Harvard's guards, to ensure that the company is following Harvard's Wage and Benefits Parity Policy which requires outside contractors to pay their employees wages similar to those received by in-house unionized employees who perform the same work.

According to a letter released Friday to the Student Action Labor Movement by Vice President for Human Resources Marilyn Hausammann, the audit is expected to be completed this upcoming week.

"We will share the results of the audit broadly," the letter says. "We will meet as soon as possible after the audit is complete."

The parity policy was adopted in 2002 at the recommendation of the Katz Committee, which was formed in to address the issue of wages and working conditions for service workers at the University.

Provost said the new committee will build upon the Katz Committee, which she said lacked good implementation mechanisms.

“It's another step forward to have institutional accountability,” she said.

"We remain committed to the principles of the Katz Committee, and will continue to use the implementing recommendations as the appropriate standard against which to measure our vendors' employment practices," Hausammann wrote in an e-mailed statement. "As we have consistently made clear, the University will not intervene in the on-going collective bargaining negotiations between AlliedBarton and its employees."

After the strike came to a close, about 100 protesters gathered outside of Mass. Hall chanting slogans including “Si, se puede” as light rain drizzled on Harvard Yard.

“Harvard from this day forward will never be able to say again ‘This is not our responsibility,’” said Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky ’07.

Wartofsky and Provost are also Crimson staff members.

—Check thecrimson.com for updates throughout the day.

FOR MORE INFO:
VPs Agree to Meet with Strikers (May 11, 2007): High-level University officials agree to a meeting with students to discuss the issue. Representatives from SEIU 615 also reject AlliedBarton’s offer of a 32-cent raise during negotiations, and as a second hunger striker is hospitalized, student protesters threaten an “escalation in tactics” if Harvard does not intervene in the negotiations.

University To Meet with SLAM (May 9, 2007): The University agrees to meet with student protesters to discuss their demands the same day that one of the students participating in the hunger strike is hospitalized for dangerously low sodium and electrolyte levels. The University also announces an independent firm will review the security guards’ contracts and ensure they meet Harvard’s parity standards for direct and indirect hires.

Students Launch Fast for Guards (May 4, 2007): Around 20 people—including students and other members of the Harvard community—protest in front of Mass. Hall, marking the kickoff of a widely publicized hunger strike aimed at convincing the University to support better working conditions for security guards.

Students Fast for Guards (April 27, 2007): Around 75 student activists begin a day-long fast in an attempt to sway the contract negotiations.  The day was marked with a protest in front of Massachusetts Hall in which students attempted to hand deliver a letter to Interim President Derek C. Bok.

SLAM To Fast for Security Guards
(April 24, 2007): SLAM announces that its members will begin a fast—which could escalate into a hunger strike of “indefinite lengths and proportions”—in an attempt to influence the negotiations of Harvard’s security guards with their employer AlliedBarton.

For Guards, A Union in Sight (Nov. 16, 2006): AlliedBarton and the Service Employees International Union reach an agreement permitting the guards to organize for the first time since the University outsourced their jobs two years prior, a change that signaled a hard-fought victory for the guards and student activists.