Strumming a banjo and guitar, two Harvard undergraduates led a band of 30 through Harvard Yard yesterday afternoon, stopping at various landmarks to air employee concerns and honor University staff.
The group—which included Harvard students, faculty, and staff—aimed to remind the Harvard community of the impact of last year’s layoffs on current employees, such as heavier work loads, said Neal J. Meyer ’11, a Crimson photographer and a member of the Harvard Student Labor Action Movement, which organized the event.
Starting at Mass. Hall, the demonstrators first delivered a letter to University President Drew G. Faust requesting a meeting with 10 Harvard employees before making their way to Annenberg Dining Hall, the Center for Government and International Studies, Widener Library, and University Hall.
At each stop, the group left thank-you posters and several red long stem roses—a nod to the 1912 Bread and Roses strike of immigrant textile workers in Lawrence, Mass.—to show their respect for University staff.
“Harvard needs to not only give world-class treatment to only its students, but also its workers,” SLAM member Jane W. Williams ’13 said.
Group members also voiced concerns specific to employees working at each location.
For example, subcontracted janitors working at CGIS are currently without health insurance. The subcontractor, Eurest Services, has not found a new provider since discontinuing its current services, according to Service Employees International Union Local 615 organizer Daniel Brasil Becker.
On the steps of Widener, Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers representative Geoffrey Carens spoke out against what he called “the abuse of temporary employees,” claiming that the University is relying too heavily on temporary workers who do not receive the benefits that union workers are guaranteed.
Several students who were not affiliated with SLAM also marched with the group to show their support and appreciation for University staff.
“I felt like I needed to be here because I don’t really do much in my daily life to honor the workers here, who are the ones that keep this institution running,” Jonathan M. L. Rosenthal ’13 said.
To conclude the event, Reverend Jonathan C. Page, an Epps Fellow in Memorial Church, led the group in breaking bread outside University Hall to symbolize the basic sustenance that everyone needs.
“I think it’s important to support and show solidarity with the workers of this University,” Page said. “We need to advocate for those who tend to get hit the hardest—those at the bottom of the pay scale.”
—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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